I want to become competent in Latin

By “competent” I mean I want to have a respectable Latin vocabulary and understand the basics of Latin grammar. I have no designs to rant at God, Jed Bartlett style.

So what are some good beginner’s books and/or resources for learning Latin?

Vescere bracis meis.

Do you want to be competent in classical or in ecclesiastical Latin?

There are plenty of “teach yourself” books for the former. The Cambridge Latin Course is pretty good. Nowadays there are also quite a lot of “fun” learning books at language bookshops e.g. Latin crossword books, Latin translations of children’s books (Asterix comics, Beatrix Potter stories, Harry Potter etc).

There are also specific courses for ecclesiastical Latin. The best I’ve seen is from a religious order based in Florida. I don’t have the details with me here in the office, although I could dig them up at home if you’d like me to. Failing that, just get a Latin/English missal and start working your way through it.

I’m not interested in things ecclesiastical, so I guess that means classical Latin. I’ll take a look at the Cambride book, it looks interesting!


One of the standard textbooks is Wheelock’s.

And good luck. I’ve been studying it for 3 years now and I’m still not sure I understand the basic grammar!

My JC uses the Oxford set; I personally found Wheelock to be more useful though. One of my profs recommended this book; actually I should go hit it again. . .

I have been studying Latin at home from books. It is not easy, but is rewarding. As a poor student, I have collected many Latin books in an attempt to absorb the language by osmosis rather than hard work.

The books with which I got on best were the series ecce romani. This series takes a conversational Latin approach and offers the gentlest learning curve.

If I may add this question—what are the differences between the two types of Latin mentioned?

Mosly just pronounciation, so far as I know. Of course, an ecclesiastically-oriented course would emphasize the vocabulary and constructions used in the Mass and in the Bible, but those are all standard Latin constructions.

And once you get used to the idea that the grammar is in the word endings rather than in word order as it is in English, Latin grammar is easy. Or, at least, I found it so.

Moved to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

I generally found ecclesiastical Latin easier to read than classical Latin, probably because the basic texts of ecclesiastical Latin are from a later period than classical, and Latin syntax had developed a little more toward modern languages; e.g., word order, and the use of pronouns.

The best resource you could ever hope to find was my high school Latin teacher - Betty Merrill. She was voted Teacher of the Year so many times by the Virginia Classical League that she finally said, “OK, I’ll come accept the award but only if you promise not to give it to me anymore.” Her father had been a Latin and Greek professor at Wake Forest and she literally grew up with the language. She was an inspirational woman and the very definition of what a teacher (of any subject) should be. She also didn’t laugh at me when I was tricked into asking what the Latin word for “sheath” is (it’s “vagina”).

Too bad for you that she retired a couple of years ago.

BTW, I had 4 years of high school instruction plus 2 years in college and the only thing it has helped is my ability to begin learning Italian.