LATIN - The easy way

Part 1

Next - Part 2
(c) 1999 by C.J. Cherryh

I used to teach this subject. I use a method that's a little different than the standard, a method aimed at results, not tradition, and no need to learn grammar at the outset, when you've got enough new things to learn. If you learned by the traditional method you may find this radically different; but trust me.

If this is new to you...give it a try. Download this file and work with the pieces and see if you don't think this is easier than legend says it is. Think of Bren Cameron, with more than singular and plural to worry with...and try an alien language.

I've found Latin fluency more valuable myself than any other subject I ever studied: vocabulary, logic, world-building, history, culture, reasoning and general knowledge. I can read scientific texts in subjects I never studied...because to me the scientific jargon makes perfect sense.

And if a good number of my visitors would like to learn how to think and speak Latin beyond the 3 sessions below, I'll continue this section from time to time. Let me know.


First of all, not every human born thinks in the same order. English is moderately unusual, in fact, in the way it patterns thoughts. Let me show you the Latin thought pattern.


Now, think about that. Two units. The first package is, say, "Marcus Brutus/Caesar." <Actor/Actee>

So, what, knowing history, would you expect the action to be? The <Action> is pretty well expected from the association of the first two parts. OK?

We expect...<stabbed or killed or assassinated>. That's right.

Now think of another <actor/actee> and a really logical <action>. How about "The man/the runawayhorse" followed by <caught>. Has to be a single simple action. Nothing fancy, yet.

Try several more logical and obvious combinations.

In Latin, the verb [action] is often a no-brainer. Of course, the hearer says to himself, it's thus and such. Every language has set expectations. In Latin, the most important understanding is the <actor/actee> set. The <action> is, with a lot of practice, downright guessable.

NEXT: Latin words change endings according to their duty. ACTORS have a basic spelling...."Marcus Brutus".

ACTEEs change that spelling to end in the -m sound [-am, -um, or -em]. Why this happens...ask later. Just trust that if "Marcus Brutus" weren't the hitter, but the hitt-ee, he'd be "Marcum Brutum."

Let's say Caesar saw Marcus Brutus. In Latin, the actor/actee is "Caesar/Marcum Brutum" and the action is "saw".

Tullia [a woman's name] saw Marcus Brutus. <Tullia Marcum Brutum> "saw."

Marcus Brutus saw Tullia. <Marcus Brutus Tulliam> <saw.>

Neat trick: because Latin shows use by changes in spelling, you can turn a statement inside out and upside down and the meaning doesn't change. <Tulliam/Marcus Brutus> <saw> is exactly the same as <Marcus Brutus/Tulliam> <saw>. This reversal is nice for poetry...but rare. Save that trick for later. Do it the plain way. Marcus Brutus Tulliam <saw>.

Some words to use for practice.

Marcus Brutus [a man's name] say: mar-koos bru-toos; mar-koom, etc.

Tullia [a woman's name] say: TOO-lee-ah; TOO-lee-ahm.

Tullius [a man's name] say: TOO-lee-oos; TOO-lee-oom.

Caesar [a man's name: this is one of the -em sort, not uncommon. The actor version is Caesar; actee is Caesarem.] say: KY-sar; KY-sar-aym.

femina [can you possibly guess it's an -am type?] means 'woman'. Say: FAY-mee-nah. Many words of this time are women's names. So are the words for: casa [casam] meaning 'house,' tabula [tabulam] meaning 'table', urna [urnam] meaning 'pot, jar, container', aqua [aquam] meaning 'water', and porta [portam] meaning 'door' or 'access' or 'gate.' Not every of the type has to do with houses and their furnishings, but a lot do.

patria [another -am] means 'country' as in 'native land'. Say PAH-tree-ah.

Oh, forgot to mention: Latin doesn't have a word for "a, an, the" and rarely uses "my, yours, his, theirs." You can say "Marcus Brutus patriam" < betrayed> and it means Marcus Brutus <betrayed> [his] country. Trust me. It does.

Ok, there's all of lesson one and some words to play with.You haven't learned the ACTION yet. That's next, and it's not that hard, either. What you've got is the most basic and important word-association in the whole language. If you can do <actor/actee> rapidly and accurately with various words, hey, you're a third of the way through Latin I semester one in a single lesson, and if you knew enough words, could probably get a meal and rent a room in an inn anywhere in the Roman Empire.



Now ignore what's below if technical words aren't your cup of tea: but for those who want to know the grammar, I'll reiterate what I just said in grammatical jargon:

You've just learned two 'cases' of all Latin noun classes, the actor [nominative case] and the actee [accusative case.] Latin nouns come in five classes, or spelling groups, also called 'declensions'. We haven't gotten to plurals, but that will come. "Cases' are nothing more than 'instances' of words in use. No big deal.

Latin nouns [names of people/places/things/concepts] have five cases in all. More on this later. You know two.

You now know the basic word order of the Latin sentence.