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I feel like I've forgotten almost everything I learned after a year of Latin. Can someone help?

I don't fully know why, but I've forgotten most Latin vocab, and when I look at a word, despite having learned and understanding the logic behind all of the principle parts, conjugations, noun and verb endings, etc, I just can barely make any sense of it if I'm not looking at my notes. Even when I am, it just doesn't seem to make sense to me.

I feel like this may largely be caused by the fact that I never learned to speak Latin, I only really wrote Latin in my class and we would often not use any words we learned before if they were not common enough to be mentioned in another story. I feel like SRS review could help me with vocab, but I'm not sure how well that would help me learn how to read sentences.

Does anyone know any good ways to learn Latin in the way that people learn other languages? Surely there is some sort of way to practice it with listening and reading sentences over and over until the vocab is fully learned, not simply put there for the time being or memorized?

March 19, 2020



Start writing a blog, a diary or tweeting. Replace English words with Latin verba that you know et look up verba that you nescis. After some tempus you will get melior.


Do you know any good ways to do this? Duolingo doesn't really do complex Latin, and there aren't nearly as man sites for Latin as there are for things like Spanish. Also, part of the problem is that I can't really learn well since I've started to lose interest, partially because I've been focusing on Japanese recently. How do I focus on a language that isn't particularly interesting me?


Use any dictionary and do not bother with inflection at first. You have to learn to recognise things such as direct and/or indirect object before you may try to find which case to use. But if you are not interested, do not bother at all. It will become drudgery.


SamHunter20 is right: have a word with your teacher. Think about what you would like to do with Latin and why, and then discuss with her or him.

You can overcome your problem. There is material available that should work for you, although as you say, it's not so abundant as for modern languages. Learning Latin definitely is worthwhile, given what the language offers. And once you get into it, the study will be fascinating.

But it will require plenty of work--of "retooling" and going back over material you've forgotten or never learned. Before you start to look into ways, means and materials, think about:

  • do you really want to salvage Latin?
  • do you think it is feasible to do it in your Latin III class?

From your replies so far to Randybvain and SamHunter20, it seems that you've reached the point where ignoring the word endings and trying to get by on the words' dictionary meanings alone is not working. This happens when trying to learn an inflected language like Latin (or Russian) but ignoring the inflected forms, as speakers of non-inflected languages are primed to do. At first you can limp along, but when sentences become complex it all falls apart.

Think more about your motivation, and then people can give you suggestions as to materials, etc. And let us know how the Duolingo Latin material works for you, if it does. Give some examples of what's confusing.

  1. I asked my teacher, and he doesn't really know of any materials for what I'm looking for. I don't know how, but maybe there somehow aren't Latin resources that give realistic sentences and things to repeat.
  2. My problem seems to partially be that I just don't know where to start, since Latin sentences often have utterly or nearly utterly random order. Combine that with the fact that some endings are the same for different parts of speech with nouns, and I don't know what I'm actually looking at. But it's very odd, I feel like someone that learned how to ride a bike, and who knows exactly how to do it, yet when they try to do it, it isn't simply that they fail, but rather that they literally don't know how to make their body do the correct motions.


There may be other ways to regain your Latin, but the following is what I know (although I'm no expert). Coping with your Latin III class at the same time will mean lots of Latin for you, but what I'll suggest should be quite possible to do, and fortunately you have a huge head start, given all you've studied so far.

You need to know your paradigms (the sample forms of words) and then practice with them in sentences until you are competent at least at reading.

I suggest starting out with nouns. Review the paradigms for the five declensions so that you can say or write them out automatically, without having to think. Review the uses of the cases, Then practice using nouns in sentences. Do your review one paradigm/declension at a time, or all five together.

When you read a sentence (as practice, and from now on), identify and parse each noun you encounter before moving forward in the sentence. Know its meaning, gender and declension, be able to say which cases the particular form could be, and have a general idea of how it would function in the sentence for each of these cases.

For instance: mensa, which means table and is a feminine of the first declension, may be nom. sing. or abl. sing. and can thus be the subject or predicate nominative or perform one of the various functions of the ablative (and you must bring them to mind each time). Whereas mensae may be gen. or dat. sing. or nom. pl. and can fulfill such and such functions for each of those cases. Etc. If from what you've read in a sentence the word obviously is not some particular case, recognize that.

Then go on with the sentence, proceeding in the same way for each noun in it, gradually seeing how the words fit together.

You must not ignore the endings and try to piece together a meaning for the sentence using dictionary definitions of words alone. My guess is that is what you've been doing so far. It's what we speakers of non-inflected languages do until we learn better. With baby sentences that can work. With the sentences you must be reading in Latin III it won't work for long.

Since you memorized paradigms awhile back, you are ahead of the game. Just be sure you know them and you don't only "sort of" identify the forms you see as you practice. Review the uses of the cases from your first year book, or however you like (I can provide suggestions). Then practice, practice, practice.

Do the same--memorize paradigms, review usage, and practice--for the other sorts of inflected words. Being well ahead with all that you've learned in the last few years, you just have to "activise" what you already know.

You asked about material to practice with. I've got plenty of suggestions, depending on what you like: Many books like Wheelock's grammar that SuzanneNussbaum mentioned (a very good book), some of them free and online, with keys; a "nature" method or two; some simple introductory readers; recorded easy Latin online; websites with simple Latin; etc., etc. But this comment is long enough, and proceeding with them won't help if you are not interested, so they can wait until you reply.

What books have you studied with so far, in your years of Latin, BTW?

What you're proposing will take extra work, espec. as you're trying to keep up with Latin III. But it is quite possible to do. Besides your learning Latin it will provide a way to study any inflected language--Russian, Czech, Greek, German, Icelandic, etc. And just knowing Latin, itself, of course is worthwhile, with its more than 2000 years of literature and a growing community of speakers.

If you're interested in suggestions of materials to use or have questions, leave a comment.


One other thing occurs to me, in addition to what Slogger recommends.

And this is, don't discount the value of rereading Latin passages you've already read and "know." These are the passages studied in class and prepared by you students for assignments.

These passages would lend themselves well to the kind of detailed analysis ("what case is this noun, and why?") that Slogger recommends.

Good luck with it!

  1. What exactly do you mean by a "paradigm" word? As in, how they are written in the dictionary?
  2. I've mostly just done Ecci Romani books, which don't really work for me, because they use vocab for a story, and then tend to drop and non-common vocab, so you don't learn words long term. I'm looking for a book that teaches Latin the same way that Spanish is taught on Duolingo; good repetition, along with stories of dialogue between people, instead of just stories. I feel like I won't be able to do well in Latin unless I can think in Latin, which, although simply, I was able to do far better with Spanish in a few weeks than I ever did in Latin after a year.
  3. What do you suggest one to do to get more interested in a language? I'm studying Latin, Spanish, and Japanese, and right now I'm having trouble not focusing on Japanese. How do I make myself be more interested in studying Latin at the moment? I mean, the language and culture are interesting, but you know, at times, you will be more interested in one thing, and then more interested in another thing later. Since I'm in Latin right now, how do I focus on it better and keep my interest on it?


Point 1.

A paradigm is a listing of the forms of a word. Here is the paradigm for nouns that inflect like stella. Here is the paradigm for nouns that inflect like servus (and bellum and Pompeius; beware of typos here. as in the gen. sing. of servus and its nom. pl.). You're quite familiar with paradigms, I think, as you now can see.

Noun paradigms are usually memorized in the singular and then the plural, for instance: stēlla, stēllae, stēllae, stēllam, stēllā; stēllae, stēllārum stēllīs stēllās stēllīs. (That is the order used in books published in America; use whichever order you are used to from Ecce Romani .)

Point 2.

I don't know of a book exactly like what you describe, although such may exist. Here are some other suggestions:

a. What do you think of the following, for starters? Being sure you're rock solid in a) what the various cases are used for, and b) the noun paradigms, and then following Duolingo's course, taking the skills in turn and using the dumbbell icons on the right of each line of your duome page to practice as much as you need?

b. You may be able to study in the way you would like with a combination of materials--basing what you're doing on one book or website (to keep you focused) and supplementing it with exercises, readings, or whatever. We can look for suitable materials if that sounds like a possibility to you. Wheelock's grammar, which SuzanneNussbaum mentioned, would do well for this, and there are plenty of others, for instance among the Latin books here.

c. You could use the Familia Romana book from the Lingua Latina per se Illustrata course, which has, besides the basic text, supplementary readings and exercises with answer keys, and audio recordings. Here is the 1st chapter read aloud (with text visible); here is what the 3rd chapter is like: as you can see, the book becomes gradually more difficult.

d. You might take as your "base," this very nice introduction that carpelanam has posted on Duo? Read through the first several sections to see what the arrangement of the course is like.

There are websites that do not have quite beginning material that would really be useful as a source of practice, once you're rolling along, such as latinitium or these cool Minecraft videos (try, maybe, Domus Romanus, or Aqueducts).

Point 3.

The best thing to do is study only one language at a time. Sorry to say it, but it's true. That way you really will have committed yourself to your Latin study, and you won't allow yourself to be distracted from Latin, whenever it becomes a little tedious or frustrating (as any language does in the middle stages of study), by saying to yourself something like, "Oh, I'll just study a little Japanese right now--after all, it counts as language study, too!" Beginning to study a language is always so much easier and exciting than carrying through with it. If you just can't give up Japanese and/or Spanish, only allow yourself to turn to them after you have done your Latin each day, but this will take time/energy that could be used for catching up with your Latin class.

It is fun to learn one foreign language from another. Here's a Japanese Grammar in Latin you could read. ;) Just kidding, of course, as the Japanese would be quite old fashioned.

In regard to -ae, etc., as you discussed with SuzanneNussbaum, to add to what she's helped you with. You recognize your difficulty, now you just have to work through it, which simply takes practice at paying attention. Whichever material you try to read (with a translation, as in Duolingo's course), you must pay very close attention to how a sentence is translated into English and determine how the Latin word endings match up with what the sentence means. This will go slowly for you, but with what you already know, it will not take long to be good at it, and you can always ask for an explanation of sentences you can't figure out. And as she told you, reread and reread the sentences you have figured out. That way they'll become second nature--it's one of the advantages to redoing, for instance, Duolingo practice.

Anyway. Is there anything in this discussion that you would like to look into or that needs more explanation?

[Added] If you would like more practice with -ae, etc., to supplement what SuzanneNussbaum has said, look at the first 2-3 chapters of Julia, which you can download from this page. Follow the advice she has given you, as is is based on years of experience, and read and reread the passages until they give you no trouble and seem natural.

Other books on the page that might be useful at this point include Carolus et Maria, Cornelia, Ora Maritima, and Puer Romanus. They can provide more practice that focuses on individual points of grammar. Again, read and understand, and then reread until the passages seem easy.


I teach from Ecce Romani, and have been doing so for more than 20 years now; I find that students who actually try to learn all the vocabulary ( = they demand instant recall of themselves, and work to achieve it) are very well prepared to read Catullus, Ovid and short prose passages in their third and fourth years (in the second year, if they work very hard and very fast!) and to do the AP curriculum of Caesar and Vergil when they get to that.

Remember that 'no one cares about what happens' in the stories of Ecce Romani: Cornelia and Sextus are just devices to get you to learn a lot of vocabulary and grammar, fast.

Try covering up the vocabulary when you reread a story; there's no "merit" in stumbling your way through a story because you're referring to the vocab list on the page (!) and/or because you remember your teacher talking about "what happened in the story" in class.

Reading means reading: making sense, yourself, of the words, clauses, sentences, paragraphs.


Sounds like you may need to go back to the beginning.

If you're in Latin 3 (but not understanding it), maybe get hold of a standard beginning course, like Wheelock (for college level), and rapidly review it on your own, starting from the very beginning, reading every grammatical explanation (since that's what you're lacking).

Can you look at English sentences and tell which form of the Latin noun or verb you need? (Wheelock has such sentences in every chapter.). That will indicate if you understand, for example, the differences among direct objects, and indirect objects, and objects of a preposition, for example (or the different standard ways to translate the Latin verb tenses).

Good luck! If you want to learn, you can do this on your own, especially with a book like Wheelock (try the optional, self-correcting exercises in particular). Or look for a tutor who loves Latin, to help!


Well, I can't afford a tutor, so that options out. As for understanding sentences, it is less that I don't understand parts of speech, and more of that I don't know which ending means which. For example, based on the context, "-ae" can have many different meanings. I'm not good at telling them apart.


Okay, as far as -ae goes:

Is there a plural verb? If so, -ae can (possibly) be the nominative plural, unless you obviously have a perfectly good nominative plural already.

Is the verb a form of do, dare, dedi, datus, "to give"? (or a similar verb like SHOW or TELL). If so, your -ae word could be the indirect object that such a verb requires. (Very few verbs "take the dative"; learn the ones that do. In addition to those I listed--GIVE, SHOW, TELL--you can add the impersonal verbs necesse est, it is necessary, and licet, it is permitted/allowed), and the "latin verbs that inexplicably require the dative", such as appropinquare, occurrere, confidere, nocere, favere (the 5 given in Ecce Romani I, for example).

Is there a noun (in any case) that the -ae word can be possessive of, i.e. a genitive singular? To use "the girl's" or "of the girl," there has to be a noun like: in the house of the girl ; with the friends of the girl ; He's the brother of the girl . And so forth.

Look for the -ae words in the following sentences, and decide whether you've got a nominative plural (subject), a dative singular (indirect object), or a genitive singular (possessive):

Omnes ancillae strenue laborant, et gemunt.

Dominus iratus vocem ancillae audit; "Tace!" clamat.

Servus ancillae lente appropinquat.

Quis ancillae cibum dat?

Nemo ancillae confidit, quod vera numquam dicit.

Labor ancillae nullum finem habet.

Clamores ancillae audimus; quid accidit?

Let me know if you want these analyzed or explained.

I hope this helps.


Basically the Assimil collection, books for more or less every language you could possibly dream of, I don't know if its also available for English natives but for French there is a Latin book, which is very well done. If you start learning with Assimil and in the same time start writing some things on your side to practice you'll soon be able to master some sentences and stuff like that


This is a very good suggestion, if ChikinWingu likes the course and has the time. The Assimil Latin course to get is by Desessard. For a short time there was an Assimil course in Latin intended to replace the original, but Assimil decided to reissue the older one, and that's what they have stayed with since.

There are versions of the course in French, Italian and (I think) German. From what I've heard of them, the best recordings accompany the newest French version of the course, plus these new recordings include audio of the exercises.

There is no English version of the course. However, if this site is still functioning, English or Spanish speakers can get adequate help once having signed up for the course and demonstrating that a book plus audio has been purchased.

See this comment for Assimil's website and some other info. (But note that some of the comment may be out of date, such as that the website's course only begins in September.)


try reading things in latin, reading and listening to things helps with language learning.

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