Latin learning tools

Recently I have had e-mail from readers asking for advice about studying Latin this summer.

My best advice is, no matter what books you use, work out loud and everyday. 

Working out load, reading and listening, gets those pathways open.

Everyday.. well… repetita iuvant

Here are some books you might need.

I like Gildersleeve’s Latin Grammar reworked by Lodge or what we call "Gildersleeve & Lodge"



I like the Latin Dictionary Founded on Andrew’s Edition of Freund’s Latin Dictionary otherwise known as "Lewis and Short" published by Oxford Univ. Press.

You can get by at entry level with Cassell‘s 

If you are more advanced, you might want the Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue latine

And Souter, which supplements the L&S.

And if you are liturgically inclined the Le vocabulaire latin des principaux thèmes liturgiques by Albert Blaise reworked by Antoine Dumas.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Awesome. Thank you Don Z! My wife and I have started a Gregorian Chant class, and she was looking around for some latin learning material. I could probably stand to use it myself, given my age group and lack of exposure.

  2. Terth says:

    What, no Wheelock’s?

  3. Latekate says:

    Many thanks for the recommendations. I homeschooled with “Latina Christiana” when my kids were small. My elder dtr still recalls the Latin roots.

  4. momoften says:

    So many times the edition of a book is significant…sometimes the older editions of some books are far superior. Does anyone know if that is the case with the Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary?

  5. Jeff M says:

    I am in my third semester of Latin in an extension program, so thanks for this. I would add the Barron’s 501 Latin Verbs to this list. Very handy… I’m curious if anyone has suggestions for remembering vocabulary. I can learn words quickly, but tend to forget them after two weeks.

  6. John F. says:

    I prefer the series by Fr. Henle.

  7. jimsantafe says:

    The Fr. Reggie Foster courses posted on-line by Fr. Gary Coulter are worth a look. The material is well-presented and follows Fr. Reggie’s inimitable style. The two “Experiences” cover all the essentials of Latin grammar. Caveat emptor: for all Fr. Coulter’s good work, there are a number of errors.

  8. Precentrix says:

    Can I recommend the \”Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin\” published by Collins (forget the author – the book itself is in another country)? It is ideal for beginners and cuts through all the stuff like \”The tall horse stood in the walls of Troy and spewed forth men\” because it is based on liturgical and Biblical Latin. The first exercise is the correct pronunciation of the Paternoster, and it should give any beginning student enough of an understanding to cope with the missal and breviary (except matins, possibly). It is easier than most Latin books because, quite frankly, it teaches all the same grammar but most of the vocabulary is at least half familiar (or should be).

  9. ckdexterhaven says:

    Lukeion Latin provides Latin courses online. It’s a once a week lecture followed by quizzes and homework turned in online. The teacher, is very engaging, she’s an excellent teacher. One of my kids has taken from her. I don’t think she offers courses in the summer, but starts up again in the fall.

  10. Lubeltri says:

    Would anyone here recommend Scanlon’s Latin Grammar?

  11. Francisco says:

    Lots of old primers for free at Google Books. Here’s one, for example [].

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    The one resource I recommend the Latin novice buy along with missal and breviary is

    Leo E. Stelten
    Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin

  13. Paul the Other says:

    The LatinStudy mailing list is very useful. There are several subgroups that are running through Wheelock and Collins, as well as reading various Latin texts. They pick off a chapter every week or so, or several lines or verses. There is a group reading Bede, a group reading Augustine, a Caesar group, a Vulgate Bible group, Ovid, et cetera. Lots of help for the asking. More information here:

  14. John Enright says:

    Take a look at the Latium. The site contains numerous podcasts to learn latin from beginners to experts.

  15. Sieber says:

    I have not yet opened my Lingua Latina DVDs from Rosetta Stone. When I called in to ask if the Latin used is Classical Or Ecclesiastical he assured me. “not to worry sir, all our courses are taught by native speakers.”

  16. Mary Rose says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for this! I recently “tweeted” my desire to learn Latin this summer and had a few others chime in with suggestions. I am leaning toward the Latina Christiana set because it has a CD.

    If anyone would like to learn the pronunciation of Latin, I “got my feet wet” by joining our parish Schola for the TLM. I know this isn’t an option for most people, but will say it was a wonderful way to introduce me to some pronunciation. However, I need the books to go the whole nine years. Blessings to all who suggested the various resources. This page is now bookmarked! :-)

  17. Henryk says:

    I learned Latin from “Lingua Latina” by Hans H. Orberg. This is simply amazing book, written entirely in Latin
    CD with recording of lessons for vol.1 is available.

  18. Precentrix says:

    Another recommendation is the Abbé Lhomond’s ‘Historiae Sacrae’, the prequel to the better known second volume of his course, which is the ‘De Viris’. The Historiae Sacrae does what it says on the tin – it tells the history of the Old Testament in a graded Latin. It is very simple at the beginning and ideal for a first reading/translation text, especially for children, who should already know the story! The De Viris is harder, and people often mistakenly use it as a first-year text.

  19. Biff says:

    Rosetta Stone is pretty good except the pronunciation is classical and there’s only level 1.

  20. Kevin says:

    I would recommend for the intelligent neophyte the text, “Teach Yourself Latin in 24 Hours,” by Stephen Beall (MacMillan, 2000). I’ve taught Latin and Greek at both the secondary and university levels (from 7th grade to post-graduate) for nearly two decades and, despite it’s silly name, this text is solid; it covers just about just about everything one needs and, as a value-added bonus, the answers to the exercises are in an appendix. Most of the elementary grammars out there (Oxford, Cambridge) are too light on grammar and drill (and are downright idiotic), while others try too hard and miss the boat (Latin for the New Millenium). Wheelock is as dry as burnt toast in the Sahara and more boring than watching your grandma’s arteries harden. Another solid text is “Latin: An Intensive Course” (Moreland and Fleisher) but may be too much for anyone but the most dedicated and linguistically-capable beginner.

    For those who have advanced beyond learning declensions and conjugations, a good “first reader” is the Vulgate itself; the Latinity is a bit odd by classical standards but it is easy and straightforward (generally, the Neo-Vulgate Psalter aside); the stories and characters are, eh-hem, generally well-known. Eutropius is always a good author with which to start.

    For vocabulary advancement, track down a copy of “Fourth Latin” by Clarus J. Graves, OSB (Bruce, 1943). Graves’ wordlists are superb as is the text as a whole!

  21. Roland de Chanson says:

    There is an internet copy of Ritchie’s First Steps:; also Fabulae Faciles (google it).

    My best counsel is to learn classical Latin (golden / silver age) first. The NT is a fragmentum placentae (i.e. a piece of cake — curious what sort of faux ami will be made of that!) after the sublimeness of Cicero, Vergil, Lucretius, et al. Cicero’s letters are a welcome respite from the studied quintessence of the Latinity of his orations and scholarly opera. These were men who know how to clothe their native language in its most glorious raiment. Augustine and Jerome sift their diamonds in the rough as well.

    Allen’s Vox Latina and Vox Graeca are excellent for the best reconstructions of the pronunciation of the classical languages of the various eras. Unless you’re chanting, you should pronounce the Latin as Latin, not Italian. Disagree? I will sing the Pater Noster in the Teutonic mode: Pater noster, kvi es in tsälis, sanktifetsätur nomen tuum…. OK? Chant of course, like all lyrics, sounds best in Italian. As Carlo Quinto said: …. parlo italiano alle donne… A true Cavaliere. If it pleases the ladies, who can gainsay it? I attest the Emperor’s insight.

    Gildersleeve & Lodge as well as Allen & Greenough are online. See Tuft’s Perseus Project for more (can be SLOOOW).

    An invaluable resource is Textkit ( for various out-of-copyright pedagogic texts.

  22. Paul the Other says:

    …and I would be remiss in not mentioning the Familiae Sancti Heironymi:

    I have their 13-cassette tape Cursus Linguae Latinae Vivae, which is great for getting Latin “in the ears”.

    “The Family of Saint Jerome is a canonical association dedicated to the advancement of the Latin heritage of the Catholic Church, as it is reflected in the Church’s liturgy, in its sacred music, in its devotional life, in its official documents, and in its propagation of the Faith.”

  23. Nicholas says:

    I disagree strongly with Roland. Ritchie is a tired, early twentieth century textbook replete with lifeless exercises and a surely mortiferous grammatical orientation. If you are interested in training translation technicians rather than people who would read Latin with fluency and delight, go with Ritchie or one of its myriad cousins. I know whereof I speak; I was first trained with such a grammar (Jenney), and though I fell in love with Latin from the first, the grounding I received from such a text left me with little more than the ability to rattle off the endings of the first three declensions. Someone else mentioned Ørberg’s Lingua Latina. That text is outstanding. I am using it now to teach my six-year old, and he’s making excellent progress.

    I also think that foisting the so-called “classical” pronunciation on students is rather the wrong way to go. It’s a fine academic question, mind you; and the books by Allen that Roland mentions are excellent. Yet there are number of problems with actually using the “classical” pronunciation. First, it will never be more than a reconstruction, and thus there will never be complete certainty about it, unlike, say, the Italian pronunciation, of which we have living memory and which has been handed down in uninterrupted fashion. Second, no one today who has been taught and who employs the “classical” pronunciation is really using it, and thus there is a certain illusory—I almost wrote “bogus”—quality to its adoption. The great American classicist Charles Bennett felt that introducing the “classical” pronunciation into schools had been a mistake, and wrote at length on it: He rests his case on the rather indisputable fact that although one may easily pronounce all one’s c’s and g’s as hard, no one does (or really can, among Anglophones) observe all the vowel quantities. It simply isn’t done. I’m doing a Ph.D. in classics at an Ivy League university, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who could read even a paragraph of Caesar with complete fidelity to all the principles of “classical” pronunciation. Let’s not kid ourselves that we pronounce our “Latin as Latin” when we say “Kikero” rather than [insert other pronunciation here]. Bennett, by the way, advocated the “English pronunciation,” but that, I think, must be dead now, at least in America.

    The best pronunciation is, in fact, the Italian, because it is the pronunciation preserved and used still by learned Italians and by the Roman Church above all; it represents the organically developed and living tradition of Latin pronunciation employed by the continuing denizens of the city of Rome, and we may thus be confident that it is genuine rather than artificial, as the “classical” pronunciation must ever be regarded. If there is a living tradition, then it is surely the most authentic option available. No one says we should speak English like the Anglo-Saxon poet, or Chaucer, or Shakespeare. Why then should we speak Latin like Lucretius, assuming it were even possible? Two unexpected witnesses to this are John Milton and Thomas Jefferson. In his tract On Education, Milton writes, “For their studies…their speech is to be fashion’d to a distinct and cleer pronunciation, as neer as may be to the Italian, especially in the vowels. For we Englishmen being farre northerly, doe not open our mouthes in the cold air, wide enough to grace a Southern tongue; but are observ’d by all other nations to speak exceeding close and inward: So that to smatter Latin with an english mouth, is as ill a hearing as law French.” (Complete Prose Works of John Milton, Vol. II (1959), pp. 382-83) In a letter to John Banister dated October 15, 1785, Jefferson, in weighing the comparative advantages of pursuing one’s education abroad in Geneva or in Rome, writes, “The advantages of Rome are, the acquiring a local knowledge of a spot so classical and so celebrated; the acquiring the true pronunciation of the Latin language; a just taste in the fine arts, more particularly those of painting, sculpture, architecture, and music; a familiarity with those objects and processes of agriculture which experience has shown best adapted to a climate like ours; and lastly, the advantage of a fine climate for health. … I think the balance in favor of Rome.” (Jefferson: Political Writings (1999), p. 247)

  24. Roland de Chanson says:


    I mentioned Ritchie merely for bibliographical comprehensiveness and because it is free on the net. I did not recommend it.

    We will have to disagree about pronunciation. I will have my Kikero while you have your Chichero. But you must agree to be charitable to those who prefer Sisero or Thithero. ;-)

    I disagree as well about the pronunciation of Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, etc. We ought not despise the best efforts of linguists to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier phases of a language, nor totally abhor a less than perfect fidelity to its principles. Finns and Czechs do quite well with Latin vowel quantities; Fr. Z has in his podcasts taken pains to point out the semantic relevance of quantity.

    What ultimately refutes your thesis is that Latin poetry cannot be read metrically using the accentual system of Italian (nor indeed can Greek poetry using modern Greek pronunciation.)

    When my son was preparing to enter high school, we attended an “orientation” at the local Jesuit school. One of the Latin teachers, an older priest, pointed out that they no longer teach the “church” latin pronunciation, but the classical. I was astonished at the concession to secularism. At least a measure of consistency was restored to the fourth conjugation. We now have skio, skire, skiwi when once we had shio, shire, shivi. And that glaring anomaly in the present indicative has been mercifully dispatched: shio, shis, sKit shimus, shitis, shiunt.

    Of course, any language may be read felicitously with a French accent. The French tongue excels all others. :-)

  25. Nicholas says:

    My dear francophile,

    No one said anything about despising “the best efforts of linguists to reconstruct the pronunciation of earlier phases of a language.” I said, in fact, that seeking out such knowledge is “a fine academic question…and the books by Allen that Roland mentions are excellent.”

    But I am truly puzzled by your contention that my thesis is refuted by the alleged impossibility of reading classical Latin poetry metrically using the “accentual system of Italian.” You will forgive my ignorance on this score but, as far as I am aware, a Latin word’s accent falls on the relevant syllable regardless of whether the word is pronounced in the “classical” manner or the Italian manner. The accent does not change. KIkero or CHIchero (or even SIsero, for that matter), the stress falls on the same syllable. Perhaps you are referring to the fact that the classical meters themselves are quantitative rather than qualitative. That is actually irrelevant. One can learn the meters and then scan and recite classical poetry using the Italian pronunciation as easily as the “classical.”

    Tell me: when you recite a sonnet of Shakespeare’s aloud, do you affect a British accent (I am assuming you are American)? Or do you speak as you normally do, taking all care, of course, to observe the meter? I think reading classical Latin poetry with the Italian pronunciation is not much different.

  26. Roland de Chanson says:


    The accentual system of Latin was indeed quantitative, not stress. The unit of scansion was the mora. This is impossible to reproduce in Italian. I diagree that this is irrelevant. I don’t want to belabor this here as it is pretty much off-topic.

    As for Shakespeare, I do indeed use my best BBC accent. ;-)

  27. Nicholas says:


    I believe your terminology is somewhat confused. Accent and stress are synonymous. Paragraph 15 of Gildersleeve: “Dissyllabic words have the accent or stress on the penult.” By definition, an “accentual system” marks out where “accent or stress” is placed.

    Perhaps you mean that where we place the stress is determined, in the case of polysyllabic words, by whether the penult is long or short. Quite right. And such stresses or accents survived the death of the underlying vowel lengths that determined them. Thus Cicero and Pius X pronounced cotidianum (or quotidianum) with the same stress (on the “a”), but Cicero employed vowel lengths that Pius did not.

    I make no comment on your resort to a “BBC” accent for the Bard. ;-)

    And in the interests of relevance to this thread, let me throw out the title of Smith’s English-Latin Dictionary. For all those who need to translate from English into Latin, it is an outstanding resource. The Latinly titanic Reginald Foster endorses it.

  28. Jared B. says:

    Does anyone have an opinion on the New College Latin & English Dictionary?
    Some reviewers preferred that over Cassell’s.

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