The Latinum Institute


Latinum is a language audio course provider.


with some Aramaic and Hebrew

Latinum's stand-alone audio courses and audio library for Latin and Greek is unique.
They have been described as 'Pimsleuresque'. The course system is modelled after the language teaching method developed by Jean Manesca and Henri Ollendorff, which were created in the early 1800s as audio, conversational teaching methods. These courses were impractical to implement in a classroom setting. They were written for audio presentation, but the language laboratory technology needed to make them effective had not yet been invented.
In addition to the formal audio courses, Latinum offers a catalogue of audio resources aimed to gradually develop your Latin, including materials such as scripted conversations and dialogues, fables, small novellas and Latin paraphrases of classical texts.



Latinum's audio catalogue is hosted at Patreon.

There are two subscription levels:

Longum iter est per praecepta, breve et efficax per exempla.

It is faster to learn by example than by trying to apply rules.

- Seneca


New additions to Latinum, and works in progress. (Note: recent uploads may not be catalogued until completed.)


All the audio here is carefully read in restored classical pronunciation.

Evan der Millner's pronunciation of Latin has been extensively peer reviewed, and conforms to the academic gold standard - W S Allen's 'Vox Latina', Sturtevant, and the Cambridge Philological Society guidelines.


Almost all the textbooks used by Latinum are available for free on,, or

There is no need for you to buy textbooks if you use this course.

Links to pdf textbooks are provided where available.


A selected number of items are still available in DVD format on Latinum's e-store at Kunaki.

If you would like an item from the digital catalogue issued in DVD, please let me know. You will also find these products listed in the Patreon catalogue, available for download.

Individual products from the old catalogue are also available for purchase as downloads on Latinum's Payloadz E-Store.


Videos and playlists on Latinum's extensive Latin collection YouTube Channel.

Your membership subscription of Latinum also supports Latinum's work on You Tube.

This includes introductory audio-visual Latin courses, and a vast number of subsidiary Latin resources to help you learn Latin.





Latin Language Chatroom / Locutoriumat TLK.IO

I recently stumbled across it, and have revived it, as it seems like it would still be useful.

The link is

Sign-up is by FB or Twitter


If you are not yet a member of a Latin study network, I recommend that you join either or both

1. Textkit (Latinum has its origins in a long thread at Textkit called 'Latin Audio', in the early 2000's)

2. LatinDiscussion

Both of these groups pre-date the Facebook era.

They have long-established and friendly communities of Latin scholars and students who can - and will only too happily - help you with your studies.

Why Study Latin?

by Evan der Millner

December 8 2009

"Today, every laptop with an internet connection contains more information than the Great Library of Alexandria. At its peak, that library contained 700,000 books, until the Christian Emperor Theodosius I ordered it burned down; today, Google Books has over seven million – and that's before you count everything else online. In 1941, Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story imagining a "total library" containing all written information. Seventy years later, it exists." Johann Hari, The Guardian, 8 December 2009.

The implications of Google books, and , giving everyone access to the of the vast universe of literature written in Latin over the centuries, previously hidden - even, in many instances, to specialists, should be sending a shudder through your world. There are millions of these works: the task of cataloguing them has only just begun; they are unlikely to be translated out of Latin in the immediate future (although one can imagine a more distant future where machine learning is up to the task).

For once, you have an honest answer to give, an answer you can shout from the rooftops - to the perennial question, "Of what use is Latin?"

The answer lies behind your search box on google books. Type in 'haec est" and a torrent of literature will pour forth to assault you. The cultural production of two thousand years, written in Latin, unread, unknown, there for the picking and reading. Type in 'in usum' and a flood of student textbooks written in Latin on subjects as disparate as military techniques and chemistry.

What do we have? Novels - both Roman remains, and renaissance fiction - science fiction written in Latin, even! Poetry - more than you could possibly imagine:- dialogues, plays, stories and fables, philosophy, science, mathematics.....the vast bulk of the intellectual production of Europe, from Roman times, until the early 1700's, was written in Latin. The most renowned poets in renaissance Europe wrote in Latin to continental acclaim.

Due to an ever shrinking pool of readers over the course of the 20th Century, this material is nowadays largely unknown, a vast terra incognita - much of it is still largely uncatalogued. The Latin works of Milton and Addison, Buchanan and Locke, go unread. There is also a vast, unread mountain of material in manuscript, some of it only now being published for the first time.

As one blogger online remarked recently, because of the wonderful thing that is Google, having thrown open the world's libraries - "we starve amidst a banquet". Never before in history, has anyone had access to the breadth and depth of Latin literature, that you personally have access to now, at the click of a mouse. The volume of material on Google increases by the day.

We see some signs of adjustment to this shift taking place in the teaching profession - "Latin for the New Millennium" - but old habits and old ideas persist. Teachers are reverting to renaissance teaching methods, that stressed an ability to read quickly, to speak and write Latin. Philological, pedantic methods of teaching, that will not equip our students to delve into this world, persist. For these books, there are no English translations. To read this material, you need fluency and command of the language - fluency to peruse quickly, and find the gold nuggets in the dross. Fluency to simply cover ground. Even if you pick a tiny area of knowledge, you could not hope to read all the texts written on the subject in Latin.

Some scholars claim they are only interested in reading 'Classical Latin', written by the very Romans themselves. These scholars cut themselves off from the 2000 years of literary criticism and commenting on Latin texts, written in Latin. The vast bulk of scholarship on Latin original texts, is only available in Latin. Most of this material is terra incognita, and professors of Latin have not yet adjusted to the paradigm shift that must necessarily take place. Most spend their time publishing in English, French and German, and reading the work of other scholars in English, French and German. Small surprise, then, that their skills in Latin remain stunted.

For a Classicist to ignore works written in Neo-Latin that discuss the poetics of Virgil, for instance, while happily reading modern critical material in Italian or German, is surpassing strange. Yet, that is our reality - as many of these pre-modern critical texts are unknown, and have sat on bookshelves, in vast repositories, unopened for centuries. Even their titles are often unrecorded in the literature, let alone discussion of their contents.

Now, more than ever, Latin teachers, and students of Latin, need to focus on fluency and an ability to read with fluidity - to give our students the tools to enter this sacrum sacrorum loaded with the wisdom of millennia. They need to show their students this vast depository, to demonstrate the usefulness of having a skill in reading this language.

If we do not transmit our wonder and amazement at this turn of events - then we will have failed to grasp an opportunity that no generation has ever had before.

The momentousness of this change is such, that it can be compared to the shift that took place in the world of letters after the invention of printing - leading to the wide dissemination of Classical texts, and to a burst of improved standards of Latin literacy. Once the preserve of a few monks in cloisters, anyone could now own Cicero, Virgil, and use these texts to improve their Latin. The result, the Neo-Latin Renaissance, that really only took off after the invention of printing.

Now, we face another paradigm shift - for us, as readers of Latin, we were more akin to the monks, with access to only a few valued tomes - the vast production of the renaissance was unavailable to us, even to the specialist - now, the floodgates have opened.

How will you respond?


The Latinum Course is an online multi-level and multi-media Latin Language audio course, that has been growing steadily since Evan started creating it in early 2007.

The core of the course is Adler's Practical Grammar of the Latin Language - which took Evan der Millner two years of full-time labour to produce as a stand-alone audio course - vastly expanding the material in an already comprehensive textbook of Latin. If you want to master Latin, Adler's course as presented by Latinum is all that you will require.

The course is also an excellent supplement to other natural language approach courses, such as "Lingua Latina".

Why an audio course for a dead language?

You need to 'fire on all cylinders' to master a language, and get a 'feel' for it. To speed up language learning, the dead language has to be treated - for learning purposes - as though it were indeed alive - to help you make as many neural connections as possible.

This must involve reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Few formal Latin courses spend much time on the latter two, which, to my mind, are the most important of the four, especially for a beginner. Also, classroom based language courses simply cannot provide the intensive exposure needed, and the hours of tuition required, to master a language quickly.

Why did I make Latinum?

I made the course, because I could find no modern-language type course with extensive audio materials for learning Classical Latin to an advanced level. I wanted to provide a course that students, or those with limited financial means, could access from anywhere in the world.

Adler's audio course started life as a podcast (and indeed, if you listen to the Adler sections of the audio course, you will still find references to the 'Latinum Podcast' in the audio files). I originally published the Adler Audio Course sequentially as a free course, relying massively on user feedback to improve it as I went along. Large parts of it were re-recorded more than once. My pronunciation was extensively peer reviewed.

The philosophies that underpin this course, the resources I have developed, are a result of the interventions recommended in The Green Book for Language Revitalization in Practice - a textbook that should be must-read for every 'dead-language' language teacher.

If you are a complete beginner, then the following materials are recommended:

1. Adler

2. Swallowing the Dictionary

3. Comenius' Vestibulum and Orbis

4. The free Latin readers on the Tar Heel Reader website

5. The Imaginum Vocabularium

6. Resources on Latinum's YouTube Channel

If you are intermediate or even very advanced, Adler and Comenius will still be very useful. Even if you have formally studied Latin before, it is extremely unlikely you will have developed the range of vocabulary dealt with by Comenius, or the flexibility of expression taught through Adler.

In addition, you might want to listen to the YouTube Videocast materials of the Student's Readings, Dialogues, and to read booklets on the Tarheel Reader site. To build your vocabulary, you might find it useful to listen to various Latin-English audio files, such as the historically important series of colloquia by Corderius, also available in Latin-English, and Latin only versions for revision.

If you still are more advanced, then original texts in Latin may be of interest, along with Adler , and Comenius' Grammatical works. Adler also introduces many fine points of grammar not covered in standard modern textbooks.

The introductory textbook by George Adler teaches Latin via conversational, colloquial Latin. The Adler Course will take you around 1 - 5 years to finish, maybe faster if you really work at it. It contains over 191 hours of audio.

The goal of Latinum is to give you fluency in reading and listening to Latin, which can eventually lead to skill in writing and speaking.

The main textbook is George Adler's " A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language for Speaking and Writing Latin", one of the most comprehensive textbooks for learning Latin ever written - and possibly one of the most advanced and practical Latin textbooks ever written. The approach of this textbook is conversational Latin, so the bulk of the examples are short question and answer sequences. The goal is proficiency. As the book advances, a complete old-fashioned formal Latin Syntax using thousands of examples from Classical texts, is introduced.

The Latinum Course is founded on the idea that language learning needs to be fun, as stress free as possible, and IMMERSIVE. You need to eat, sleep and breathe a language in order to master it. Where possible, you need to use it and interact with it as much as you can.

To help you use your Latin, after you have learned it, I have established a Latin language chatroom on Skype, the Locutorium Latinum.

This course demands an extensive amount of exposure - i.e. TIME - if you are as serious about being fluent in Latin as a Renaissance Scholar was, you will need 1 hour minimum per day, more if you can manage it, for a period of 3 - 5 years. True fluency may take as long as ten to fifteen years to achieve.

Every now and again, try to give yourself entire days of Latin, if you can manage it. Go to sleep with the Latin playing, and wake up with it. Walk with it when you can. Wash the dishes with it while you are able. Go to the gym with it for a unique Latin kick. You get the idea.....learning Latin - or any language - to fluency - is not hard, but it takes an amount of dedication.

It is essentially up to you how you structure your learning - but what is important with language learning, is quantity. You need to get as much Latin through your head every day as you can manage.

You may possibly also find it useful to engage in the following activities to be successful quickly using this course material.

  1. Writing and transcription of the Latin in each chapter: Read each Latin sentence aloud. Write it down slowly and neatly, repeating each word aloud as you do this. Read the completed sentence out loud a second time.
  2. Listening to the chapter's grammar section, both before and after you have done this.
  3. Reading and listening to recorded books in Latin.
  4. Grammatical study and practice.
  5. Shadowing = listening to the recorded material and repeating it out loud as soon as you hear it - speaking 'over the voice' you are listening to. Doing this while walking or moving about is good. It will be hard to do in the beginning.

There is a grave problem approaching - a looming shortage of Latin teachers across the world, as Latin is increasing in popularity, while most Latin teachers are "of a certain age". Even now, many schools cannot find teachers, and the problem will only get worse. So, in 3 or 5 years time, if you complete this course with due diligence, and can open your mouth and speak Latin and write it, and read it, you should be able to land a job teaching Latin. I have a large cohort of former students, who are currently teaching Latin. Indeed, many Latin teachers and university level Latin students have made use of my Adler course to refresh their Latin.

The sad reality is that very few Latin teachers at secondary and tertiary level can actually speak Latin at all, most cannot write in the language either, so you'll probably have a higher level of fluency than just about any Latin teacher you encounter, if you complete this course. The Latinum Videologue is in part trying to address this astonishing situation.

Simply google for " Adler A Practical Grammar of the Latin Language" and download the pdf.

Latinum only uses out of copyright materials, so usually a text can be found on one of Google books, or

Printed versions are now also available online.

All products are available for download on Latinum's Payloadz E-Store.

A selected number of items are still available in DVD format on my e-store at Kunaki.


Each Adler Lesson starts with a grammar discussion, 'Part A' . Then the examples are given in English and Latin, 'Part B' . They are repeated again in Latin only, 'Part C'.

Most chapters have between 60 - 120 minutes of audio.


Either begin with Comenius' Vestibulum, or with the Adler lessons, and begin from lesson one. Then work your way through the Adler lessons in order. You might want to read the chapter in the textbook, before you listen to the lesson for that chapter. In the first lessons I read very slowly, and greatly exaggerate the length of the long vowels, to help you learn correct quantity. Gradually, as the course progresses, my pace quickens.


If you are already a fluent reader, then you may find Adler of interest to get you up to speed on spoken Latin, and of more specific interest, our various readings from classical texts. If you are still 'hunting for the verb', the Adler course will cure of this, and give you a more natural way of accessing the language.

Even if you know a lot of Latin, Adler's discussions of Latin grammar are very comprehensive.


Latinum offers a unique audio vocabulary learning resource, "Swallowing the Dictionary" on DVD with the potential to add tens of thousands of words to your vocabulary. These are based on Walter Ripman's little known, but very useful, Classified Latin Vocabulary.

We also offer vocab flashcard movies on our You Tube site - these are geared towards conversational Latin.

The vocabulary building files need to be listened to many times - they are quite stressful to listen to initially, and the material runs by, seemingly too fast to catch - however, each time you listen, you will grab more and more words, and, eventually, the files will begin to sound too slow. Great care is taken with quantity in reading these files, so you will learn correct quantity at the same time as you learn your vocabulary.

There are tens of thousands of words in our classified vocabulary, (i.e. words are grouped by topic) and even very advanced students can benefit from studying these sounds files. The Classified Vocabulary is geared towards Classical texts.


Adler calls the chapters in the main textbook by the name of Pensum.

The English exercises in the main textbook, which go along with each chapter, are simply called exercises.

The Latin translations of these exercises, which are found in the smaller "Key to the Grammar", are called Dictata.


Yes, Adler's textbook is very thorough, and covers a wide range of Latin Grammar - far more than most student level grammar based textbooks.


Latinum uses the Restored Classical Pronunciation. This is a reconstruction of how Latin was spoken on the Palatine Hill, Rome, at the time of the Caesars. In the working class areas of Rome a different accent prevailed, and outside Rome, the rustic and provincial accents would have been different yet again. Regarding my pronunciation, the following points should be noted: I have made the decision to use the tonal accents.

I also frequently use the informal hicce, haecce, hocce, hujusce, etc when saying hic haec hoc and even hujus. I follow Allen's 'Vox Latina' by doubling the final consonant of hic and hoc before a word beginning with a vowel, e.g. hic est becomes hic-cest. This is the correct classical pronunciation of hic [hicc], which has a short vowel.

I have also sometimes for aesthetic reasons chosen a slightly ante-classical pronunciation of cui, and render it according to its earlier spelling, quoi in lessons prior to lesson 51 in Adler. After lesson 51, you will find I have adopted the pronunciation recommended by Sturtevant, where the word is pronounced more or less as it is spelled, with a decending grave accent.



Each lesson does have a grammar part, (Part A) but you can advance quite well by listening to part B and part C of each lesson, while avoiding the part A sections, which focus on grammar. You will never learn to speak Latin from learning grammar alone. Rather, you need to listen to Latin, and interact with it as much as possible, and try to write it.

The original methodology of Ollendorff and Jean Manesca, , which Adler uses, had almost no grammar, only lots and lots of sample sentences, which slowly built up grammatical knowledge intuitively. Adler added extensive grammar sections into the text, giving lots of illustrative examples. If you plan to approach the lessons in a 'grammar free' way, then you will need to become very familiar with the sample sentences.

If you are a primary school student, you might find the grammar parts too difficult - so just ignore them, and get on with learning the model sentences in part B and C of each Chapter. Once you notice that you have the language well and truly under your belt, so that it starts to feel natural to you, you should go back, and study the grammar sections.


The Latinum Videocast on YouTube is published by Evan Millner v.c. (Artium Baccalaureus, (Cantuar) et Artium Magister, (in Collegio Judaeorum Londinensi) , who lives in London, UK. Evan also produced the IMAGINUM VOCABULARIUM LATINUM and founded the Schola Latin language social networking site in 2008, which is now offline.

All products are available for download on Latinum's Payloadz E-Store.

A selected number of items are still available in DVD format on my e-store at Kunaki.


Evan der Millner, London, August 2007.

On Syllables:

Poetry in Latin is quantitative. This means that it depends for its effect on the length of syllables relative to one another, and only secondarily, if at all, on actual word stress. By contrast, English poetry depends for its effect almost exclusively on word stress.

There are two types of syllables in Latin, those that end in a vowel, and those that do not. A “third group” may be one or the other, depending on the need of the poet, and these either-or syllables are called ‘common’.

Those that end in a vowel are called open syllables.

Those that end in a consonant are called closed syllables.

How are such syllables formed?

The Romans, when speaking, ‘opened’ a syllable if the vowel was followed by only one consonant. This consonant was allowed to detach itself from the vowel, and join the following syllable. The result was an open syllable:

i.e. păt-er → pă -ter [1]

This also could also occur if a vowel were followed by a mute in combination with l or r (l and r belong to a class of consonants called liquids).

The mutes

V, B, P, F (labials)

G, C, K, Qu (gutturals)

D, T (linguals)

A syllable that ends in a vowel, and that has a short vowel in it, is going to be shorter than an otherwise identical syllable that ends in a consonant, by the simple virtue that it has fewer letters.

pă is shorter than păt

It is then important to pronounce the syllable with the correct vowel length. If the vowel length is wrong, then the syllable is mangled from a long to a short, and vice versa.

This would be sufficient to destroy a poetical reading, or indeed the intended sound of a passage in prose that relies for its effect on the syllabic structure of the sentence or turn of phrase.

So much for open syllables.

As mentioned above, two syllables with short vowels that differ only in that one has a consonant at the end, and the other does not, share a fundamental, and blindingly evident difference: one is physically short, and the other is, by comparison, physically long. (i.e. it has more letters, so as an object, it is longer than if it had two letters.). As a consequence, the syllable also sounds longer.

pă versus păr [2]

It is vital that the entirety of the syllable is fully pronounced. If the r on par were not pronounced distinctly, the long syllable could easily come to sound like a short one. This is a reason why readers of Restored Classical pronunciation take care to trill their r’s.

When does a syllable become long when reading Latin?

An open syllable automatically becomes long when followed by two consonants. (Except a mute + liquid, in which case this is optional.) [3]

How does it get longer?

The first of the following consonants sticks to it. The open syllable then becomes long, simply because it now has more letters in it – it is physically longer, and it must be pronounced fully.

tem/pe/←stā/ti/bus this gives us: tem/pes/tā/ti/bus

note: pe is short, and open, pes is physically longer, and closed. Because it has more letters in it, it takes longer to say.

a/spér/sus a/←spérsus as/pér/sus

This syllable is now called ‘long by position’. One way to understand this is that you have positioned an extra consonant against it, and so it has become longer.

Here are some more examples:

Before (short)

After (long by position)

s t i /←r p ĭ s

s t i r/ p ĭ s

d i s/ c é /←s s ĭ t

d i s/ c é s /s ĭ t

m ŏ/ d é /←s t ŭ s

m ŏ/ d é s/ t ŭ s

ē /d u/←c t ŭ s

ē /d ú c/ t ŭ s

Double consonants – double trouble

It is not a mere fancy when we are told that the Romans pronounced their double consonants as two distinct sounds. They did, but they did so because each letter of the double consonant ended up in its own syllable, according to the rule we have just discussed.

a/ppa/rā/bat is how we would pronounce it if we did not know any better. However, this is what happens to the double consonant pp:

a/←ppa/rā/bat which becomes ap/pa/rā/bat

When reading Latin, getting the syllabic structure correct is therefore vitally important, otherwise it is impossible to read Latin verse with any degree of authenticity. You need to nurse these habits when reading prose as well, otherwise the transition to reading verse will be a hard and arduous one.

The Third syllable type – Common Syllables.

What is a common syllable?

Common syllables only occur when a short vowel is followed by a mute + a liquid (l or r).

In the ordinary course of things, a mute+liquid behaves like two Siamese twins joined together, and functions as though it were a unit “joined at the hip”.

The poet has the option of performing an operation, and separating the two. Once they are separated, they behave like any two consonants. One of them moves, in the same way we saw above, and closes (and thereby physically lengthens) the syllable immediately in front of the two consonants. The first consonant from the separated mute-liquid moves to the syllable in front of it.

pătrem pă/trem

If tr were a NORMAL consonant cluster, we would expect the t to move to the first syllable, like this:

pă/←trem resulting in păt/rem

This rule would be the same rule as that we saw above, for a short vowel followed by two consonants, and a poet can chose to apply it to a mute + liquid combination if he wishes to.

However, because the consonant cluster is a mute-liquid combination, if he does not perform the operation on the twinned mute-liquid cluster, then things stay as they are, and this results in


How do we know which of the two the poet has chosen?

We need to read the verse aloud that contains a word with a common syllable. It should be apparent which way the poet has divided the word, depending on whether he needs the common syllable to be physically long or short to complete the rhythmic patterning of long and short syllables. Only one reading should sound right. This is a matter of developing your ear. It never will develop if you are not always careful about quantity when reading both prose and poetry.


A source of much confusion is the use of the macron andbreve to mark out syllable quantity. This may be fine for a speaker with native level fluency, (and to be frank, who speaks Latin with that level of fluency?) who has an instinctive knowledge of the true lengths of the vowels the words would have in ordinary conversation. For a modern second language Latin speaker, this system of marking the syllable long by position with a macron above its vowel spells disaster, and adds unnecessary complications.

While it is true that Latin versification depends on syllable quantity, the underlying vowel quantities of the words remain unchanged.

Syllables with short vowels are either physically long, or physically short (i.e. the number of letters in the syllable).

Syllables with long vowels, are needless to say, always long, as their vowels are long, even if the syllable is physically a short one: pā is long, and so is pāb

Such a vowel that is naturally long, is called ‘long by nature’. Even in a physically short syllable, (one that that has fewer letters) it is still long.

However, with syllables that have short vowels,

pă is ‘physically’ short, and păd is ‘physically’ long. Placing a macron above the a, pād to show it is physically long, invites the reader to mispronounce the syllable and lengthen the vowel, when it is the syllable, not the vowel, that is long. Even worse, it leads people to think that ‘long by position’ means that the vowel is lengthened. This is a not uncommon error, but it is a very serious one.

The use of the macron above the vowel of a syllable that is long by position, gives rise to much confusion, as the same notation is also used for vowel length.

It is not the case that a syllable that is long by position, i.e. one containing a short vowel that is followed by two consonants, has its vowel lengthened. Marking it with a macron only gives rise to confusion, especially in a student reader who does not have an instinctive appreciation for vowel length, but who rather relies on the macrons. Macrons should be used to mark long vowels, and long vowels only, and not be used to serve another purpose.

To avoid this difficulty, some educators have proposed a super- macron, which would be extended over the entire syllable. The vowel length notations would remaining in place below it – however, standard computer word processing software does not allow for this, and nor does html coding.


In order to keep the actual vowel quantities marked, another method needs to be found to show syllable quality that does not interfere with the true vowel markings. This method needs to make use of standard word processing tools that are also available on standard web editing packages. It also needs to be easy to apply when marking up a printed text for reading aloud, or, for that matter, for writing out with pen and ink.

A simple and elegant solution is proposed – that the macron for a long syllable should be placed underneath the entire lengthened syllable cluster, as an underline. The original vowel quantities can still remain marked in their places above the line, as per usual.

a m a v i

Marking short or light syllables might also need an intervention that will not interfere with the usual markings; However, it it not really necessary to mark the short syllables, if the long ones are marked. Should, for educational reasons, or otherwise for reasons of clarity be necessary to distinguish them in a positive manner, it is proposed that short syllables be italicised, rendering them visually light, with all the letters in the cluster being italicised. legĕrĕ

The advantages:

This system has the advantage that a syllable that is long by position will not lose its actual vowel length markings, which would be retained in the superscript:

b ô b ŭ s

c ŏ n c ĭ d o

Another advantage, is the ease with which a printed text can be marked up for recital. This system is also easy to apply using handwriting.

It could be argued that italicising the light syllables might be excessive – and indeed, is largely unnecessary if the subscript macron is used, as the correct vowel quantities are then clearly visible in their correct locations above.


In monosyllables, vowels that are long take the circumflex, and vowels that are short take the acute.







Polysyllables take the circumflex accent when the penult is long by nature (This simply means that it has a long vowel, see above), and the final vowel is short. A circumflex can only appear over a syllable with a long vowel.

rĭs spî

The circumflex accent is thought to have has a slight up-down tone, the acute a straightforward upwards tone. Final unaccented syllables had a slight falling tone. (This is called the grave accent, but this is not written, it is simply understood to be there.)

These accents were applied by the Romans in imitation of the Greeks, and may have been used when reciting poetry and during orations.

Evan der Millner


August 22 2007

[1] The resulting ‘ter’syllable on the end is closed. You’ve heard it said that the Romans trilled their r’s. They certainly sounded them one way or another, otherwise,’ter’, if pronounced with an English ‘r’, would be an open syllable as well.

Advice: Trill those r’s.

[2] While counting letters is a simple and efficient way to get the point across, it may be misleading if you look into the matter more carefully, for it begs the question: ‘Is “sti” longer than “i”, since it has more letters?’ In fact, only the vowel and what follows it is relevant. Technically speaking, the beginning part of any syllable is irrelevant for Latin syllable quantity.

[3] If we take the word, say, carmen, the proper syllabification is car-men. Then it is not the case that the first syllable is “followed by two consonants”, as it is not an open syllable. The vowel of the first syllable, for the syllable “car” is followed by only one consonant.

The Tonal Accent in Latin

by Evan der Millner

W.S. Allen, in his “Vox Latina”, dismisses the idea that Latin had a pitch accent, despite the description of this accent in great detail by a number of Roman grammarians writing prior to the fourth century AD. Allen states that the accent is “a minor detail of the Greek”. This would be like saying that the musical accent of Italian was “ a minor detail of Italian”. In fact, the survival of the pitch accent, albeit in modified form, in Italian, and the survival of tonality in the five main Romance languages descended from Latin. provides evidence that educated Romans adopted it into their Latin. Cicero himself speaks of the musicality of Latin, likening Spoken Latin to a form of singing. Further evidence exists in the adoption of the tonal accent into Hebrew recitation. Indeed, the Jews adopted the Greek system, including the method for manually marking the tones. (Manuum variis motibus altitudinem, depressionem, flexus vocis significabant) Talmudic texts were published with accents for this tonal singing, until well into the mediaeval period. This accent has similarities to the Greek accent , and probably developed in imitation of the Greek recitation of the Laws to a chanted tune.

Edgar H. Sturtevant, "The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin" University of Chicago Press, 1920, gives a much more developed analysis of the accent than Allen does, and he reaches the opposite conclusion. In paragraph 214 of The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, Sturtevant sets forth the summary of his argument:

"214. The evidence compels us to conclude that in the period of the classical and post-classical literature the Latin accent involved both stress and high pitch upon the same syllables. For stress we have abundant evidence also for both the pre-classical and the latest periods; but we learn directly of the Latin pitch only for the period from about 100 B.C. to about 300 A.D. It is probable, however, that it existed both earlier and later. In fact, it is not unlikely that the considerable element of pitch in the modern Italian accent is a direct inheritance from Latin."

Bennett, along with David (see below), both of whom I regard as authoritative on this matter, come down in favour of the "Greek" accent. Herman and Wright in “Vulgar Latin” also hold the view that the accent in Classical times was a tone accent (pg 36).

One major plank of the argument regarding Classical Latin and tone versus stress, (Vulgar Latin, J Herman) is defeated by Hungarian, which “has a very strong stress accent involving intensity, while at the same time a whole operating system of vowels based on distinctions in length”.

In other words, a clear strong stress accent and a vowel system based on phonological length distinctions are not ipso facto incompatible. Yet one hears this recited again and again by Classicists, educated linguists and laymen alike, so often has this notion been repeated, that is has taken on authority simply by dint of repetition. I am not sure with which linguists this canard arose – for canard it surely is. There is no empirical scientific evidence for this opinion, only evidence that weighs against. Indeed, as Bennett notes, no human language has either an exclusive tonal accent or an exclusive loud-soft or stress accent. Some languages lean more towards the stress accent than the tonal accent, and others vice versa but the only human speech that would be devoid of tonal variations would be a totally monotone language, which, as far as one may suppose, does not exist, except in the minds of some misguided Latinists.

Classical Latin had both a stress accent, with tonal differentiation, and vowel length distinctions. Earlier Roman Grammarians assert quite explicitly that Latin used a tonal accent, similar to the Greek, and only from the fourth century onward to Roman grammarians talk about relative loudness, as opposed to pitch. (pg 36 Vulgar Latin, J. Herman & R. Wright, 2000, Penn State Press.)

The question of the nature of the Classical Latin accent was initially argued for cogently in English by Abbott, in his paper “The Accent in Vulgar and Formal Latin” (Classical Philology, II ppp 444 ff). Abbott held the view that the accent of the common people continued to be one of stress, but educated Romans developed an accent in which pitch predominated. This view is reasonable enough, when we consider to what extent Roman literature is based on the Greek. Also, educated Romans spoke Greek, with its pitch accent. This view is also supported by R.G. Kent ( Transactions of the American Philological Association, LI, pp19 ff), and Turner (Classical Review, 1912, pp147 ff).

Kent writes “In the middle of the second century BC the Greek teachers of the Roman youth set a fashion of speaking Latin with a pitch accent, for as Greeks they kept this peculiarity of their mother tongue when they learned Latin. From that time on, Latin was spoken with a pitch accent by the highly educated class, while the general populace retained the stress accent” (quoted on pg 55 of “Accentual Change and Language Contact” J. Salmons, 1992, Routledge.

Another recent study in support of the Pitch accent, is “The Non-European and Semitic Languages”, Saul Levin, SUNY Press, pg 236 ff

“ The ancient grammarians say clearly that the accent of Latin is either acute or circumflex, and they describe it just like Greek. In many details the distributions of acute and circumflex [between the Latin and Greek] agrees remarkably.”.

Levin continues to say “ Some in modern times have wrongly doubted, or rejected altogether, the testimony of the Roman Grammarians about accent. But since Latin literature conforms to the syllabification and vowel quantity of Greek, the literary language of Rome can hardly have failed to employ a pitch accent compatible with such versification and prose rhythm.” He then says even more emphatically, “ It will not do to dismiss the Latin pitch accent as an artificial imitation of Greek. The most classical Latin, the kind most thoroughly described in our sources, is the most thoroughly Hellenized. If Latin was ever free from Greek influence in some prehistoric time, that Latin is unknown to us, and to reconstruct it, be peeling off what we may label the literary, Hellenizing features, is a fantasy……..Admitting that there was a raised pitch does not conflict with the stress which undoubtedly was present in early Latin.”

See also the seminal work of J. Vendryes, “recherches sur l’histoire et les effets de l’intensite initiale en latin” (Paris 1902), which is quoted by Bennett.

“New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin” Andrew Sihler 1995, OUP , pg 241 also argues in favour of the pitched accent.

“ Roman Grammarians, down to the 4th C AD, describe the Latin accent in terms only appropriate for a pitch accent. Scholars have been wary as taking this as cogent, however, as not only is the terminology of Roman Grammarians taken over entire from Greek, their statements are often cribbed from Greek sources. Some scholars protest, however, that ancient authorities could hardly have thus identified Greek and Latin accent had there not been at least an appreciable element of pitch in the latter….The familiarity of educated Romans with Greek accent in both practice and theory probably would not have caused them to adopt an element of accent wholly irrelevant for their natural speech, but could have made them more aware of an existing element of pitch, and even to a studied enhancement of it – Latin with a Greek accent, if you will, in oratory or recitations of poetry”

Pulgram 1975, pg 116, quoted in “From Latin to Spanish”, Paul M Lloyd, Diane Publishing, 1987, argues that speakers of Classical Latin adopted the Greek pitch accent, and certainly made an effort to adopt it on formal occasions, if not in general speech.

“A New Theory of the Greek Accent” A.P. David, Oxford University Press, 2006 pg 76-7 is the most recent, and authoritative of the new school of scholars who promote the view that the original statements of Quintillian, etc, are accurate descriptions of Latin as it was spoken. Here is Davis' argument:

“It is also possible that Greek forms with an acute on the antepenult are a product of the reflex described in Vendryes’ Law, if the Latin penult in these words was heard to be pronounced with a circumflex.

Might there have been such a contonation in Latin? A simple synchronic picture, which accords with the traditional account, emerges if we assume a contonation. We are informed by a recent commentator that “ Roman Grammarians, down to the 4th century, describe L[atin] accent in terms appropriate only for a pitch accent” (quoting A.Sihler, see above, pg 241).

Modern scholars, however, tend to see a sort of ‘Greek envy’ in this native description and to be dismissive. But if we frame the new rule for Latin in terms of a recessive contonation, where the voice was required where possible to rise two morae before the ultima – without, in the case of this language, any stipulation as to the quantity of the ultima – the traditional stress rules for polysyllabic words in Latin automatically follow, if the combination of pitch and quantity worked in the way that I have described for Greek. A long penult, with two morae, containing the rise combined with the Latin version of the svarita, would produce a circumflex on the penult (amIcus); [circumflex on the capitalised I] while a short penult (of one mora) would cause the rise to revert back to one mora to the antepenult, producing the Latin acute with a deemphasised svarita (facilis).

In making an authoritative correction, Quintillian actually points to this recessive rule. Discussing errors in accentuation, he cites CethEgus [circumflex on the capitalised E] as properly having a flex on the penult (Institutio Oratorio 1.5):the common error was to pronounce the penult grave in this word instead of circumflex, which apparently rendered the penult short. (A circumflex requires two morae). He implies that this change in the quantity of the penult necessitates an acute first syllable (Cethegus) [with acute on the first e] – an erroneous pronunciation, but one which conforms to the proposed rule. The Latin accent was a recessive contonation, a rise and fall, where the rise occurred, wherever possible, on the second mora before the ultima.”

This is sound reasoning for dismissing W.S. Allen’s view.

As a final point, I would like to note, that one reason why one seldom hears Latin declaimed with this accent, is that one seldom hears Classical Greek spoken with it, even though there is not even a sliver of doubt that Classical Greek was spoken with a pitch accent. Current practice, however, is not necessarily a guide to good practice, and I would advocate the use of the tonal accent, for purely pedagogical reasons – it makes Latin more intelligible, and also makes clearer distinctions between stressed and unstressed, unaccented and accented syllables, and long and short vowels.



In monosyllables, vowels that are long take the circumflex, and vowels that are short take the acute.







Polysyllables take the circumflex accent when the penult is long by nature (This simply means that it has a long vowel, see above), and the final vowel is short. A circumflex can only appear over a syllable with a long vowel.

jûrĭs lûcĕ mûsă spînă

The circumflex accent is thought to have has a slight up-down tone, the acute a straightforward upwards tone. Final unaccented syllables had a slight falling tone. (This is called the grave accent, but this is not written, it is simply understood to be there.)

These accents were applied by the Romans in imitation of the Greeks, and may have been used when reciting poetry and during orations.

An historical perspective on Latin and Greek teaching

by Evan der Millner

August 2010

This topic is a very wide ranging one – and a brief essay such as this, can only hope to cover the subject giving the barest of outlines. In this essay, I will mainly concern myself with what could be called the Rudiments of language education. I will also point out that some 'new' methods such as the approach favoured by the CLC and similar modern courses, are actually not new at all.

We are fortunate in knowing rather a lot about how the Romans went about teaching their children. Rome was a bilingual society – so education always involved an element of second language teaching. For contemporary foreign language teachers, the surviving evidence is fascinating.

Most of the direct evidence we have for language teaching dates from around the end of the third century, but we have an abundance of indirect evidence as well – fragments of papyri, ostraca and wax tablets, a syllabary inscribed on a tomb wall in Egypt that had been turned into a classroom, and, the most surprising survival of all, that body of texts now known as the hermeneumata. From around the same time period, we have the elementary Latin grammar of Donatus, which was composed for Roman boys who already spoke Latin.

My discussion of Latin education will keep returning to the hermeneumata, and Donatus, whose echoes keep reverberating through the curriculum down the centuries, except for a brief hiatus during the 'philological period' of the nineteenth century.

What were the hermeneumata? They were standardised texts,used across the Empire to teach Roman boys Latin or Greek, depending on which end of the Empire they found themselves in. They appeared to serve two purposes – they acted as primers in the child's native language, and were also used to teach a second language. The texts we have are bilingual in Latin and Greek. Most of the examples come from the Western Empire. However, we can see the uniformity of these texts across the Empire, as a Greek-Latin-Coptic example survives, that is almost identical to one of the European versions. Although the earliest surviving text we can date is from September 11 207 AD, the standardised format of the manuscripts would suggest that the methodology – probably originated by Greek pedagogues - was already well established by this time.

The hermeneumata contain a number of elements – vocabulary lists for everyday life arranged by theme, vocabulary lists arranged alphabetically, simple dialogues designed to activate the vocabulary, narratives, and simplified fables.

The dialogues aim to relate to a boy's everyday life, while also inculcating the virtues of good citizenship – piety and virtue.

We know that authors such as Aphthonius especially wrote simplified versions of fables for inclusion in primary textbooks. (N. Holzberg 2002, The Ancient Fable) These, and short, often humorous dialogues and narratives, were the elementary literature used in the Roman schoolroom. (Anglo-Saxon Conversations, Gwara and Porter. 1997)

Basic education started off with the alphabet, followed by the learning of syllables – extensive tables of syllables were composed. (Bonner,1977, Education in Ancient Rome). Each consonant was in turn combined with the five vowels – ba be bi bo bu, ca ce ci co cu, and so on, through the alphabet. This practice originated, once again, with the Greeks. An excellent reconstruction of a Roman syllable table can be found in the Institutionum Grammaticarum of Aldus Pius, (MDVII, Venice) whose comprehensive table of syllables stretches over five pages – consonants in front of vowel, vowels in front of consonants, two or three consonants in front of vowels, etc.

Pius writes” Imitati autem sumus antiquos et graecos et latinos grammaticos. Discant igitur pueri quot syllabarum sint dictiones”.

The primary reader ascribed to Julius Pollux, who was tutor of Commodus, is worth looking at as an example of a Roman lesson book. Written in the late second Century, this text begins as follows: (I have interpolated Comenius' sixteenth Century take on this, to show the direct influence of the Classical model)

“Bona Fortuna, Dii Propitii!

Praeceptor, Ave! (c.f Comenius: Salve, Lector Amice!)

Quoniam volo et valde cupio loqui graece et latine, rogo te, magister, doce me. (c.f C: Quis docebit me hoc?)

Ego faciam, si me adtendas. (C: Ego, cum Deo)

Adtendo diligentur.....

Pollux then lays out his method : “Duo ergo sunt personae quae disputant, ego et tu. Tu es qui interrogas, ego respondeo. Ante omnia, lege clare, diserte”

We see the same principle operating in Donatus, whose Ars Minor is constructed as a sort of grammatical dialogue. “Verbum quid est? Pars orationis cum tempore et persona etc” (Gramatici Latini, Keil). Donatus is providing a textbook, and also the suggested outline of a lesson plan for the praeceptor.

This method of teaching continues through the Carolingian period, into the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance, when several hermeneumata texts were 'rediscovered', with so many other Classical texts. (Colloquial and Literary Latin, Dickey and Chahoud, Cambridge 2010). The influence of these texts on Erasmus, Vives and, particularly, Comenius, was immense. Parsing grammars – more detailed than Donatus, and aimed at second language speakers, had started to appear even earlier, constructed entirely on the dialogic principle – composed in a self conscious effort to imitate classroom practice in Ancient Rome. (exemplified by Priscian's famous “Partitiones duodecim versuum Aeneidos principalium”).

The Roman method of teaching was lauded by Simon Grynaeus, in a letter included in the 1536 Basil edition of Polluxes Onomasticum, which itself formed the model for Comenius' Janua, and Orbis Pictus. The influence of the Omonasticum and the ideas in Gryneaus' letter, on Comenius, are self evident. “non gravabitur praeceptor, praesentes ipsasque si potest, si non potest, pictas, sculptas, aut quomodocunque seu verbis seu gestibus expressas bene certa cum nomenclatura res, principio puerilibus oculis animisque quam diligentissime subjicere”

In the 1800's there was a move away from this Classical Roman method of teaching, to a newly invented method I would characterize as grammar-translation, with an emphasis on only using texts that were written by the Romans themselves. A Latin sentence not penned by a Roman of the Golden Age, was not Latin worthy of consideration, and no student should set their eyes on, or be corrupted by such a thing. Aesop was rejected, as were parsing grammars, dialogues, and the short narrative stories that had been the stock in trade of second language education in Latin for over 2000 years. Teaching Latin came to mean teaching grammar, and reading Latin came to mean translation. The methods that had been used since Roman times, in a more or less unbroken tradition, were largely abandoned. Aesop, who was a staple of the Roman and Renaissance primary classroom, was abandoned, depriving students of a rich source of easily digestible Latin. Dialogue went the same way. Students were thrown straight into Caesar, or some such author, as the primary text, before being rapidly exposed to Virgil, and quite advanced Classical literature. This represented a total break with the Classical tradition. In the name of 'authenticity', a new and artificial method of Latin pedagogy arose, one that bore little relationship to its Roman predecessor.

Perhaps it was felt that, as Latin was no longer required as a spoken idiom, the teaching method should change:As Comenius noted: “discendae sunt non omnes totae ad perfectionem esse, sed ad necessitatem. Nec enim est opus Graeca et Hebraica tam expedite sonare, ut vernacula, quia homines desunt cum quibus loquamur.".Comenius astutely noted , however, “Omnis lingua usu potius discatur quam praeceptis. Id est, audiendo, legendo, relegendo et transcribendo”. It did not make a practical difference if a language needed to be spoken: the teaching method should not change.

Thus we find many modern courses, with their mix of grammar, dialogue and narrative, are far closer to the Classical curriculum than anything we have seen published in over 200 years. The only thing missing from most of these courses is the extensive parsing in Latin, and use of Aesop, which provided students in ancient times extensive active language practice in L2, in a safely delimited area, and through Aesop, a much wider range of vocabulary than that encountered by a modern student of the language.



by Evan der Millner

November 2012

An early 'modern method' teacher, called Jean Manesca, appears to have written the first fully developed modern language course in the early 1820's - designed for French; he was keen to see it adopted for the classics, and actively promoted the idea. His "Oral system of teaching Living Languages Illustrated by a Practical Course of Lessons in the French through the medium of English" was entered at the library of Congress in 1834.

In his introduction, on pg xix, Manesca writes:-

" If I have not spoken of the advantages that may be derived from the present mode of teaching applied to dead languages, it is not because I entertain the smallest doubt of its efficacy in that particular; for, on the contrary, I am confident that many years of toilsome, tedious, and almost fruitless labours, would be saved by the adoption of such a method for these languages. A well disposed young man, between eighteen and twenty, well versed in the principles of his mother tongue, would, in twelve months, acquire a sufficient knowledge of Latin or Greek for all the purposes of life. Such a consideration well deserves the attention of the few scholars competent for a task which would prove so beneficial to the present and future generation of collegiate students. The present modes of teaching the dead languages are sadly defective. It is high time that a rational, uniform method should be adopted."

Shortly afterwards, Henri Ollendorff adopted Manesca's methodology, and produced the famous series of books using the 'Ollendorff' method, which follow Manesca extremely closely. I had revived Manesca's course, which I was using together with Ollendorff's French textbook, as it was well suited to podcasting. went bankrupt in January 2012, and closed its servers. I have since then re-issued some lessons from Manesca on my YouTube channel (Evan1965)

As I sit here, I hold in my hands a copy of the "Nouvelle methode pour apprendre, a lire, a ecrire et a parler une langue en six mois, appliquee au Latin" - by H G Ollendorff, written in the 1840's. Adler's American edition, which I am using to produce the Adler Latin Course, was an extensive revision of Ollendorff's first attempt - Adler includes the grammar; Ollendorff's French text is extremely light on the grammar, and is almost entirely intuitive. Learning is based on practice alone, not theory. Adler's textbook book has 600 pages of very fine print, with copious exercises. Adler also expanded the Latin text, resulting a much higher quality textbook, with much more elegant Latin, and a wider variety of examples based on the historical classic sources.

Adler's text, being an Ollendorff, is inferior to the method originally devised by Manesca. Ollendorff picked up the outline of the method from a student of Manesca's, called Mr Albert Brisbane,who visited France from the USA, and engaged Mr Ollendorff to teach him, using the method he had outlined in manuscript from his previous lessons with Mr Manesca. Ollendorff never fully grasped the structure of Manesca's system, and to my mind Ollendorffian textbooks are defective. It is this that lead me to embark on writing my Serial and Oral Latin Course. Currently an edition is available on my website with the first 200 lessons, including a workbook, in pdf format.

Adler's 'Practical Grammar' is a direct translation into Latin of an Ollendorff text. Adler did not make up any of the material, or the sequence of material, he simply translated the text into Latin, and added a parallel Latin syntax.

The French-Latin Ollendorff was, as far as I can ascertain, the first textbook written in modern times aimed at teaching Latin as a spoken language, using 'modern' methods - I don't think Manesca's method was ever translated directly into Latin or Greek, although it did appear in a Spanish edition written by Carlos Rabadan.

Albert Brisbane's Biography, where he describes in some detail his private classes with Manesca, says that he studied Latin using the same method,but it is unclear who taught him. Perhaps Ollendorff did? If Manesca ever wrote up any Latin exercises, I would be very keen to obtain them - perhaps they only survive in manuscript among his papers. The Ollendorff version went through several editions, and was quite popular for private pupils, but it was never taken up by schools for teaching Latin.

Adler's American edition seems to have suffered the same fate, and copies of it are very hard to come by. Only ten or so printed copies of his textbook still exist in national library collections worldwide.

So, when people discuss teaching Latin as a spoken language, using modern teaching methods that involve speaking Latin in the classroom, it should be realised that this methodology has a long pedigree, it isn't the new fangled and dangerous thing that some Latin teachers seem to think it is.

A Learning Methodology for Latin

by Evan der Millner

There are things that a student of a new language should take note of - to get really good, fast, you need to immerse yourself in the language. There is no other method that will get you to fluency with speed. The secret is TIME. LOTS OF IT, all devoted to listening to the language you are trying to learn.

You can go a certain distance by focusing on grammar, but my suggestion is to go light on the grammar, only learning a little of it at a time. Spread your grammar learning over a period of months. Certainly, read a grammar text to get an overview. Start making an effort to learn verb forms and the declensions, but don't kill yourself with the effort. You will learn the verb forms through exposure, through listening. That being said, there are methods one can use to commit the verb tables and declension tables to memory with relative ease, using artificial memory techniques.

If you are learning to read, you need to be able to recognise structures, not reproduce them. The level of detailed grammatical knowledge needed to do this is much less than that needed to produce the language. Most Latin courses 'over-teach' the grammar.

Get your head out of a book, and spend your time listening. Listen. Listen more. Read as well. Use the Adler textbook, and the audio lessons, and learn the lessons. Try to generate speech (it will be really hard for the first year or two, then it will click into place). Take your Latin to the gym. Go for long walks, and do your heart a favour. Walk somewhere quieter - where you can happily mumble to yourself, and repeat what you hear, aloud. Do it in the busy City streets - no-one will pay attention anyway. Do this, in order to etch the patterns of the language into your very being.

You may possibly find it useful to engage in the following activities to be successful quickly using this course material.

  1. Writing and transcription of the Latin in each chapter: Read each Latin sentence aloud. Write it down very slowly and neatly, repeating each word aloud as you do this. Read the completed sentence out loud a second time. Each sentence is, as a result, said 3 times, and written once.
  2. Listening to the chapter's grammar section, both before and after you have done this.
  3. Reading and listening to recorded books in Latin.
  4. Grammatical study and practice.
  5. Memorising declensions and vocabulary using the method of loci (see below).
  6. Shadowing = listening to the recorded material and repeating it out loud as soon as you hear it - speaking 'over the voice' you are listening to. Doing this while walking or moving about is good. It will be hard to do in the beginning.

Also, focus on learning vocabulary, even more than you focus on grammar, especially in the beginning. Gaining a large vocabulary, quickly, will boost your confidence enormously. You can listen to the vocab files on Latinum. Listen to them regularly. Building up your vocabulary is about 80% of the job. You will be surprised how many words you learn by listening to the vocabulary recordings. These also give you the correct quantity, (vowel length) from the word go. This is important, as when you eventually read proper Latin texts, the vowel quantities are not marked. If you ever get really good, and want to write sonorous prose, or poetry, having correct quantity is a huge advantage. It also means that you will be able to pick up a Latin or Renaissance author, and read his or her poetry without much effort.

Also useful for learning vocabulary and declension tables is the 'Memory Palace' system:

A Memory Palace for Latin

Using the Method of Loci to Memorise the Verb Table and Vocabulary.

The use of mnemonics can help speed up the learning of various elements of Latin Grammar. Methods like this were used successfully by Roman Orators, and studying how to apply mnemonics formed an important part of the curriculum, as one of the tools needed for rhetoric. The method comes down to us through a work in Latin by an unknown author. The piece, called Rhetorica ad Herennium, is estimated to have been written around 85 BC, though it is unlikely that it was original with this author. The author of this textbook of rhetoric examines each of the five parts of rhetoric, including as the fourth part memoria in which he explains the method of loci. It is the only complete source from the classical world to survive, although there are brief references to the method by others, including Cicero and Quintilian, the chief teachers of rhetoric in the ancient and medieval worlds, and later in the Renaissance.

NOTE - not everyone can 'see' images in their mind's eye - I can't - at least - not clearly, yet the system can still work well for me. I can remember the shape and texture of objects very clearly, so, instead of 'visualising' them in the boxes, I imagine running my hands over them to feel them - very odd it is indeed, running my hand over an imaginary eyeball with an arm growing out of it - but I can then 'see' - for want of a better word, the object very clearly. I don't really 'see' it, but I know exactly what shape it has, and where it is. So the method of loci is still a powerful system for me, even though I can't imagine pictures clearly and consistently. If you have an auditory memory, you could do the same thing, but with sound.

A Word Room using the Method of Loci:

The curious diagram you see here

is very useful, as it is a systematic method for the loci, developed by Feinagle in the early 1800's. When combined with Gouraud's perfection of the mnemonic system, (which Grey had attempted to base on the Ancient Hebrew mnemonic system of acrostics, known in Classical texts as 'Simanim'. ), we end up with a very powerful artificial memory system. All this sounds very arcane, but has a beautiful simplicity to it.

The system works exceptionally well when combined with flash cards.

Step One:

Get comfortable. Sit with your back to the fireplace, or to a wall of your room.

Imagine the floor is divided into 9 squares, 3 squares per row. This is a tic-tac-toe /noughts and crosses game set-up.

Number them:




These 9 are represented in the diagram above, by the 9 squares in the middle.

On your left, is the first wall. Place a square on the top of the wall, attached to the ceiling.

Divide the wall below this, too into nine squares. Number them, starting from the top left





Now, compare your floor with your wall. None the consistency? This,however, is the FIRST wall, so each of the numbers has a ONE in front of it.




However, don't remember them like this, just as plain single digits.

The number TEN just above this wall, on the ceiling, tells us this wall contains tens.


Then, do the same for the remaining two walls. The second wall will be the numbers 21,22,23 etc, and the third, 31,32,33, and the wall behind your back, 41,42,43 etc

Now, examine, the diagram above. If you cut it out, and folded it up, with the numbers on the INSIDE, you will have your room.

50 is located on the ceiling, where the ceiling rose would be, or a central light fitting.

Take some time to get this pattern firmly into your head - I would spend a good 10 minutes, running over it in your mind's eye.

You can put one of these memory rooms in every room and closet in your home. The first room would be for numbers 1 - 50, and the second for 50 -100 and so on. Then you can use other venues, or invent totally new rooms,and in this way, create a 'memory palace'.

Setting this system up in your head requires a small investment in time. Once you have it, you'll have it with you for life. Getting a large sheet of card, and drawing out the diagram above, and constructing the cube, can also be of assistance.

NOW, for memorising the verbs or vocabulary using the method of loci:

Turn to page 191 of Sam's Book, (i.e. the last 4 pages or so) where he sets out his system for using the memory cube for learning the Latin verbs. I used the system very successfully myself, so it appears to work for me. It might work for you as well. Sams does not give all forms in his example, you can supply the passive and deponents yourself on the remaining 2 walls of your first room, and place irregulars in another room - or put them alongside the regulars in the same boxes, once you have learned the regulars - remember to keep the tenses in the same loci, even in a new room.

IGNORE the number-word equivalent system given by Sams. If you want to play with this acrostic system, use the more advanced system developed by Gouraud: Google for 'major method' for a number of sites that will generate words for numbers - however, you do not require this aspect for learning Latin.

Memorise the positions of these in their boxes. You may make up stories, visualise them.

The first step is to be able to quickly recognise the forms. The second step, is to be able to give them over.

Here is a simplified set-up. We will learn it, then flesh it out with the full forms of the four paradigms for each tense. (Aids to memory are in parentheses - feel free to make up your own ones)

1 I DO- Am-o ( note how it resembles i do)

2 I DID- am-abam (I did fall on my bum)

3 I HAVE- am-avi (note the resemblance avi - have)

4 I HAD am-averam (I had Avraham over for dinner)

5 I WILL am-abo (I will be about to arrive)

9 I SHALL HAVE am-avero

6 I MAY am-em (am-em, I may)

7 I MIGHT OR COULD am-arem ( I might visit a hareem)

8 I SHOULD HAVE am-averim I WOULD HAVE (I would have missed him) am-avissem

If you have a reasonably good visual or spatial memory, you should be able to get all of this memorised in about one hour.

Make Flashcards

One one side of the card, simply state the room name, and the wall and square square number:

Bedroom: 1:1

On the reverse, write the information you want to recall.

Test yourself.

Add all the other forms, as given in Sam's book at the very end. Review it regularly...the first attempt will be really hard. Then it will get easier. You will find, even after one hour of this, that your comprehension of texts will jump, as you will recognise verb forms, and be able to relate them to their locations in your mental room.

Vocabulary Learning:

  • Place a picture of the work you want to remember in a square. Think of something that sounds like the Latin in your native language, and relate it to the picture. Make a flash card, as above.


So, in summary, listen. Then listen some more.

But, fill your portable device with Latin, and listen, listen, listen.

Listen to things you understand. Listen to things you don't fully understand. Memorise a poem or two, even before you understand the Latin. One day you will, and the poems will bloom forth in your mind. The archives on YouTube also have a wide range of texts to listen to.

Fill as much time as you can with Latin.

There is no magic route, but this combination of the 'passive' route of simply listening, really works, when combined with some carefully targeted memorisation. Our brains are not in 'passive mode' when we are listening to a new language. They are really busy, forming new neural networks. Recent research has shown that even the structure of the nerves in the inner ear change, when exposed to a new language. So, listen, listen, and listen. You will be surprised at the rapid rate of your progress, despite it seeming so 'easy' - no slogging with a textbook. It is vitally important to be relaxed and stress free - listening helps- if you miss something, you just listen to the lesson again. Listen to the fabulae faciles and the texts of the great authors, until they become second nature to you. Absorb them. Internalise them. Do this for about four years, and you will be as good as anyone who ever learned Latin in ancient times.

Another study in July 2008, at Dartmouth's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, showed that the brain models 'passive' observed information in the same way as it models it when the subject was actually doing the actions. In other words, simply listening, engages the brain in a similar way to actually performing. There is, then, really no such thing as 'passive learning'. After all, infants learn most things this way. Why should adults be any different?

One word of admonition - get a good headset - one of the old fashioned looking ones, with a baffle around the ears. They are less expensive than a hearing aid, and cheaper than the inconvenience of going hard of hearing, or developing tinnitus. You won't need to have the volume up so loudly, if you use headphones with a baffle - especially if you are listening outdoors or in the gym. The usual bud-style headphones are unsafe to use, unless you are indoors in a totally quiet environment.