Category Archives: Online Classes

Book Review #4: Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg

A few months ago, my students and I just finished another trip through Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, by Hans Orberg. 

Since I had to cancel class in April, we were a bit off schedule.  I promised students we would continue until we finished the book.

Every time I read this book, I am amazed. 

I am amazed at how well it teaches Latin.  And, I am amazed at how tough it is.

Did you catch that?  Let me repeat that.  

Lingua Latina is tough.

Hans Orberg wrote Lingua Latina in Latin.

That’s right.  If you have not seen the book yet, it is completely in Latin.

There is no English explanation.  There are no sidebars with English notes.  There are no grammar points in English at the end of each chapter.  Most shocking to my students, there is no “Latin to English” dictionary at the back.

Lingua Latina: Per Se Illustrata means: The Latin Language Illustrated through itself.

In other words, Latin will teach you Latin.  The reader will use the Latin he knows to learn the Latin he does not know.  

Chapter 1 begins with pictures of new words and a map of the Roman empire.  Students read Roma in Italia est. 

Looking at the map, students see that Rome is in Italy.  This simple sentence just taught four words in Latin.  Each sentence, each paragraph, and each chapter from this point forward will add to your knowledge.  

By the time you finish the book, you will know almost 2,000 words in Latin.  This is significant.  I’ve been studying languages for twenty years.  As best I can tell, a learner with about 2,000 to 3,000 words in another language possesses the foundation needed for basic conversation and possesses the foundation for more advanced reading.

By contrast, another text I use to teach Latin, First Year Latin by Robert Henle, teaches students about 400 words.  Really, that isn’t much.  When you finish the book, you are not going to be able to read much in Latin.

By chapter 28, in Lingua Latina, students are reading from the New Testament in Latin!  In other words, if you tackled a chapter a day, starting today, you could be reading the New Testament, in Latin, 28 days from now.  Admittedly, that would be one tough assignment to hand yourself, but… theoretically, it could be done.

At the end of the book, chapter 35, students read Latin poetry, Latin wit, and a few Latin jokes.  If you can understand jokes in another language, you are either fluent or almost fluent.

I think I have read almost every Latin textbook out there.  I spent years looking for something like Lingua Latina.  The day I found it, I was hooked.

Mr. Ørberg was brilliant.

He turned a tough subject, one almost always taught from a grammar-based approach into a novel.

Instead of reading dry disjointed sentences, students read about family squabbles, school fights, pirates, dramatic rescues, runaway slaves, and stolen money.

Not only is the story completely in Latin, it is actually interesting!

Lingua Latina takes the reader from completely ignorant in Latin to near fluency.  Keep that in mind.  When I tell you that this is one of the toughest books you will ever read in your life, I am not kidding.

If you are plowing through Lingua Latina and you are struggling, be encouraged.  You are supposed to struggle.  Push through.

Soon you will be able to read in Latin.

That, my friends, is worth the struggle.

Of course, if you don’t want to tackle this book on your own, you are welcome to join me as I read it again.  We start over in September.

To read my other book reviews, go here: https://dwanethomas.com/bookreviews/

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I could earn more money…

I received this question:

Comment: Hello! I am wondering where to place my children in your classes. They were at a classical Christian school until January of 2016. My 14-year-old has had 4.5 years of Latin before we began homeschooling. As we started mid year, I decided to not do Latin that first half year while we were getting used to homeschooling but then we did not pick it up this year either as he was WAY beyond where I could help and there just wasn’t time for me to learn it. My daughter had 1.5 years but will for sure need to be in the Latin 1 again as I’m sure so much of it has faded away with little use. Can you help me figure out what the best place to start would be and then let me know if he could just upgrade to the next level if he needs to? I’m only seeing the 3 years of Latin on here…do you go beyond? The school they were at did Latin from 3rd grade all the way through graduation with them reading and translating many large works. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Here is my reply:

Schools spread Latin out over too many years, in my opinion.  Students should learn a modern language when they are young, and should then learn Latin in high school.  They should learn the grammar of Latin in one to two years and then spend any more time in the language reading.  This is my approach. 

I could spread Latin out over six or seven years and earn more money.  But, I don’t think this is necessary.  I think students could learn Latin grammar in two years or less. 

I know that I am leaving a lot of money on the table, but I don’t care.  I am in the business of helping people.  I can sleep better at night knowing that I am not ripping people off. 

My students are reading and translating the New Testament in their second year of Latin.  Some are reading and translating Caesar’s Gallic Wars in their second year.  For those who want to go on, I offer classes with the writings of Cicero, Tacitus, Livy, and Vergil. 

That said, here is what I suggest.  Order a copy of Lingua Latina by Hans Ørberg.  If your kids have not read it, they will like it.  Unlike every other grammar-based approach to Latin, Lingua Latina is a novel.  With the Latin your kids have learned, they should be able to read it. 

If they can finish the book, they are welcome in any class I teach.  If they can only read the first 19 chapters of the book, then I suggest they join the Lingua Latina 2 class.  If they can’t read the first 19 chapters of the book, I suggest they join the Lingua Latina 1 class. 

If they start reading and find themselves discouraged, encourage them not to despair.  The book is challenging.  I am never surprised when a fourth year Latin student cannot read the book.  Unfortunately, that’s a pretty common story.

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A note to a discouraged student…

I received this email:

I am very worried that I am not doing well with my Latin. Up until around Chapter 32, I can read most of the chapters pretty well, even if I read pretty slowly. But I can hardly read Chapter 32 at all, and I know we’re supposed to be starting Chapter 33 now, but I can’t even begin to read and understand it. I don’t have any problems with understanding the grammar: I think it’s just vocabulary. Is there anything you could suggest that would help me study and memorize the vocabulary for Chapters 32 and up? I am afraid I am going to fall behind and get abysmal grades otherwise…

Here is my reply:

The process of learning a language is more a marathon than a sprint.  It takes a long time.  The reason I choose Lingua Latina is that, believe it or not, it actually speeds the process. 

For example, First Year Latin by Robert Henle is really a grammar book with a lot of English explanation.  Students finish the book knowing only learn about 400 words.  That’s not enough.

On the other hand, Lingua Latina teaches students about 2,000 words.  2,000 to 3000 words is about all you need in a language to be fluent in the language.  Of course, you can continue studying vocabulary as much as you want for the rest of your life.  That’s what I am doing.

The problem is, getting to those 2,000 words, especially in Latin, is tough.  I have found that the best way to achieve the goal is via repetition. 

This is why I suggest that my students read the book again each month. On the first day of the month, read chapter 1. On the second day of the month, chapter 2.  On the third day of the month, chapter 3.  You get the idea.  When you stall out, and you will, pause and focus on the problem causing chapter for the rest of the month. For example, if chapter 17 trips you up, spend the rest of the month reading chapter 17. Read it over and over again until you master the chapter.  Then… move on. 

Don’t be afraid to repeat. Just as you can’t train for a marathon by running around the block a couple of times, you can’t learn Latin by reading a book just once. You must repeat the process over and over again. You may be able to pass standardized tests in school, with one reading, but to truly own the language, you are simply going to have to repeat the process multiple times. This is why I choose Lingua Latina.  It’s a novel.  At least it’s interesting. I don’t mind reading interesting books multiple times, and chances are, neither do you.

No one wants to read First Year Latin by Robert Henle, or books like it, twice.

Another thing students sometimes ignore is vocabulary. The vocabulary in Linga Latina is aggressive. Each chapter teaches you about 50 words. That’s quite a lot. This is why I emphasize to my students over and over again that they cannot skip vocabulary training. Review the vocabulary every day. Review the vocabulary for the chapter that you’re currently in. For example, if you’re studying chapter 17, and if you are struggling with Chapter 17, then master the vocabulary for chapter 17.  Study the vocabulary for chapter 17 over and over and over again.

You can create flashcards for yourself if you like.   Or, you can use the flash cards over at quizlet. You can also learn the vocabulary by looking up each difficult word you encounter in the chapter.

This is my favorite way to learn new vocabulary. You learn in context.  Best of all, with Lingua Latina you learn vocabulary via a story. This story helps you remember the vocabulary. This is why I emphasize strongly that students who have learned Latin read the New Testament in Latin.

The New Testament is the most famous story on the planet. You can learn so much and vocabulary so fast if the New Testament is the first book you read once you know the grammar of a language. I do this with every language I study.

I know that you’re discouraged by the final chapters. That’s fine. I, too, was discouraged by the higher chapters when I first read the book. But, I kept coming back. Over and over and over again. Now, Latin is a skill and a knowledge that I will possess the rest of my life. Some things are worth building. A lot of girls from your generation have memorized the lines and lines of the Gilmore girls. Probably nothing wrong with that. I don’t know.  I have never seen an episode. 

However, it will not have the long-term benefits that mastering another language will have.

 

Cicero

Next year, I plan to teach Henle 3.  This book is composed mainly of the writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero.  It’s going to be some seriously tough Latin.  That part I am not really looking forward to.

Getting inside the mind of this amazing Roman?  That part I am seriously looking forward to.

I found this excellent summary of Cicero on the following site: https://home.isi.org/cicero-enemy-state-friend-liberty

The following is taken from Lawrence Reed’s excellent book Real Heroes.


Question: If you could go back in time and spend an hour in conversation with ten people—each one separately and privately—whom would you choose?

My list isn’t exactly the same from one day to the next, but at least a couple of the same names are always on it, without fail. One of them is Marcus Tullius Cicero. He was the greatest citizen of the greatest ancient civilization, Rome. He was its most eloquent orator and its most distinguished man of letters. He was elected to its highest office. More than anyone else, Cicero introduced to Rome the best ideas of the Greeks. More of his written and spoken work survives to this day—including hundreds of speeches and letters—than that of any other historical figure before AD 1000. Most important, he gave his life for peace and liberty as the greatest defender of the Roman Republic before it plunged into the darkness of a “welfare-warfare” state.

Cato Institute scholar Jim Powell opened his remarkable book The Triumph of Liberty: A 2,000-Year History, Told Through the Lives of Freedom’s Greatest Champions with a chapter on this Roman hero—a chapter he closed with this fitting tribute: “Cicero urged people to reason together. He championed decency and peace, and he gave the modern world some of the most fundamental ideas of liberty. At a time when speaking freely was dangerous, he courageously denounced tyranny. He helped keep the torch of liberty burning bright for more than two thousand years.”

Who wouldn’t want to have an hour with this man?

Father of the Country

Cicero was born in 106 BC in the small town of Arpinum, about sixty miles southeast of Rome. He began practicing law in his early twenties. His most celebrated case required him to defend a man accused of murdering his father. He secured an acquittal by convincing the jury that the real murderers were closely aligned to the highest public officials in Rome. It was the first but not the last time that he put himself in grave danger for what he believed to be right.

In 70 BC, ten years after his victory in that murder trial, Cicero assumed a role uncommon for him—that of prosecutor. It was a corruption case involving Gaius Verres, the politically powerful former governor of Sicily. Aggrieved Sicilians accused Verres of abuse of power, extortion, and embezzlement. The evidence Cicero gathered appeared overwhelming, but Verres was confident he could escape conviction. His brilliant defense lawyer, Hortensius, was regarded as Cicero’s equal. Both Verres and Hortensius believed they could delay the trial a few months until a close ally became the new judge of the extortion court. But Cicero outmaneuvered them at every turn. Verres, all but admitting his guilt, fled into exile.

Cicero’s speeches against him, In Verrem, are still read in some law schools today.

Roman voters rewarded Cicero with victory in one office after another as he worked his way up the ladder of government. Along the way, the patrician nobility of Rome never quite embraced him because he hailed from a slightly more humble class, the so-called equestrian order. He reached the pinnacle of office in 63 BC, when, at age forty-three, Romans elected him coconsul.

The consulship was the republic’s highest office, though authority under the Roman Constitution was shared between two coequal consuls. One could veto the decisions of the other, and both were limited to a single one-year term. Cicero’s coconsul, Gaius Antonius Hybrida, was so overshadowed by his colleague’s eloquence and magnetism that he’s but a footnote today. In contrast, Cicero emerged as the savior of the republic amid a spectacular plot to snuff it out.

The ringleader of the vast conspiracy was a senator named Lucius Sergius Catiline. This disgruntled, power-hungry Roman assembled an extensive network of fellow travelers, including some fellow senators. The plan was to ignite a general insurrection across Italy, march on Rome with the aid of mercenaries, assassinate Cicero and his coconsul, seize power, and crush all opposition. Cicero learned of the plot and quietly conducted his own investigations. Then, in a series of four powerful orations before the Senate, with Catiline himself present for the first, he cut loose. The great orator mesmerized the Senate with these opening lines and the blistering indictment that followed: “How long, O Catiline, will you abuse our patience? And for how long will that madness of yours mock us? To what end will your unbridled audacity hurl itself?”

Before Cicero was finished, Catiline fled the Senate. He rallied his dwindling army but was ultimately killed in battle. Other top conspirators were exposed and executed. Cicero, on whom the Senate had conferred emergency power, walked away from that power and restored the republic. He was given the honorary title of Pater Patriae (Father of the Country).

“I Shall Not Tremble”

But Rome at the time of the Catilinarian conspiracy was not the Rome of two or three centuries earlier, when honor, virtue, and character were the watchwords of life. By Cicero’s time, the place was rife with corruption and power lust. The outward appearances of a republic were undermined daily by civil strife and a growing  welfare-warfare state. Many who publicly praised republican values were privately conniving to secure power or wealth through political connections.  Others were corrupted or bribed into silence by government handouts. Cicero’s voice was soon to be drowned out amid political intrigue, violence, and popular apathy.

In 60 BC, Julius Caesar, then a senator and military general with boundless ambition, tried to get Cicero to join a powerful partnership that became known as the First Triumvirate, but Cicero’s republican sentiments prompted him to reject the offer. Two years later and barely five years after crushing Catiline’s conspiracy, Cicero found himself on the wrong side of senatorial intrigue. Political opponents connived to thwart his influence, resulting in a brief exile to northern Greece.

He returned to a hero’s welcome but retired to his writing. Over the next decade he gifted the world with impressive literary and philosophical work, one of my favorites being De Officiis(“On Duties”). In it he wrote: “The chief purpose in the establishment of states and constitutional orders was that individual property rights might be secured. . . . It is the peculiar function of state and city to guarantee to every man the free and undisturbed control of his own property.”

Politics, however, wouldn’t leave Cicero alone. Rivalry between Caesar and another leading political figure and general, Pompey, exploded into civil war. Cicero reluctantly sided with the latter, whom he regarded as less dangerous to the republic. But Caesar triumphed over Pompey, who was killed in Egypt, and then cowed the Senate into naming him dictator for life. A month later, Caesar was assassinated in the Senate by pro-republican forces. When Mark Antony attempted to succeed Caesar as dictator, Cicero spearheaded the republican cause once again, delivering a series of fourteen powerful speeches known as the Philippics.

Cicero’s oratory never soared higher. Antony, Cicero declared, was nothing but a bloodthirsty tyrant-in-waiting. “I fought for the republic when I was young,” he said. “I shall not abandon her in my old age. I scorned the daggers of Catiline; I shall not tremble before yours. Rather, I would willingly expose my body to them, if by my death the liberty of the nation could be recovered and the agony of the Roman people could at last bring to birth that with which it has been so long in labor.”

Antony and his fellow conspirators named Cicero an enemy of the state and sent the assassin Herennius to take him out. On December 7, 43 BC, the killer found his target. The great statesman bared his neck and faced his assailant with these last words: “There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.”

With one sword stroke to the neck, the life of the last major obstacle to dictatorship was extinguished. At that moment, the fivehundred-year-old republic expired, too, to be replaced by an imperial autocracy. Roman liberty was gone. On the orders of Antony, Cicero’s hands and head were severed and nailed to the speaker’s platform in the Roman Forum. Antony’s wife personally pulled out Cicero’s tongue and, in a rage against his oratory, stabbed it repeatedly with her hairpin.

Powell reports in The Triumph of Liberty that a century after the ghastly deed, the Roman writer Quintilian declared that Cicero was “the name not of a man but of eloquence itself.” Thirteen centuries later, when the printing press was invented, the first book it produced was the Gutenberg Bible; the second was Cicero’s De Officiis. Three more centuries after that, Thomas Jefferson called Cicero “the first master of the world.” And John Adams proclaimed, “All the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher” than Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Giving His Life

For nearly five centuries, the Roman Republic bestowed upon the world a previously unseen degree of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. The unwritten Roman constitution boasted features we would recognize today: checks and balances, the separation of powers, guarantee of due process, vetoes, term limits, habeas corpus, quorum requirements, impeachments, regular elections. They were buttressed by the traits of strong character (virtus) that were widely taught in Roman homes. When the republic expired, the world would not see such wondrous achievements on a comparable scale for a thousand years.

To the moment of his assassination, Cicero defended the republic against the assaults that he knew would send Rome into tyranny. Some might say Cicero’s labors to save the Roman Republic were a waste of time. He gave his life for an ideal that he was able to extend tenuously for maybe a couple of decades.

But if I had an hour with Cicero, I would thank him. I would want him to know of the inspiration he remains to lovers of liberty everywhere, more than two millennia after he lived. I would share with him one of my favorite remarks about heroism, from the screenwriter and film producer Joss Whedon: “The thing about a hero is, even when it doesn’t look like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s going to keep digging, he’s going to keep trying to do right and make up for what’s gone before, just because that’s who he is.” And that is exactly who Cicero was.

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This is me once again.  (Dwane)  We had our own Cicero once.   Like the Romans, we didn’t listen to our Cicero either.

Refund season

This time of year, I send a lot of refunds.

This is one of the reasons I no longer offer a discounted annual rate.  To set this up, I have to set the payments up recurring annually.  People are excited when they join.  “Sure,” they think, “we will stick around for three years.”

No.  You won’t.  Latin is as hard as algebra.  You are going to want to quit.  Then, when you do quit, I am going to refund the next automatic payment that you set up last year.

This is why I changed my site to a monthly subscription site.  It makes cancellation easier for both of us.

This is also why I warn you NOT to join my online classes unless you are ready for a real challenge.  Latin is tough.  The books I use are tough.  The pace is tough.  Please, do not sign up unless you have grit and determination.  You are going to quit.  Your kids are going to want to quit.  These are not easy courses.

If you feel you are not ready, or if you feel your kids are too young, then go with Visual Latin.  You can move at your own pace.

People love, love, love my online classes.  Just read this page: https://dwanethomas.com/testimonials/.  But don’t be fooled.  Just because people love the classes, that does not mean the classes are easy.

People also love, love, love the prices I charge.  Here is why: https://dwanethomas.com/before-you-cancel/

But, please.  Do not join unless you understand the warnings.  The online classes I teach are not for the faint of heart.  Within 18 months (sometimes less) you will be reading the New Testament in Latin.  You just can’t accomplish that goal without some serious work.

From Henle 1 to Henle 2? Henle 3?

I received this question:

My daughter is going to be enrolling in Classical Conversations for the very first time, going into Challenge 3 where the class will be completing the last part of Henle 2 and then starting Henle 3. I don’t think she is really going to be ready, and I think it might have been better for her to do the second half of Familia with you this year instead. But she didn’t. So, in your opinion, what is the best way for her to get prepared to jump in and not be too over her head? Should she try to do more Familia over the summer? Or would Visual Latin help her to bridge the grammar gap?  

Here is my reply:

I am not sure how to answer this.  In my experience, Henle 1 does not prepare students for Henle 2.  I am teaching Henle 3 this fall.  I am not even sure how to prepare.  So far, as best I can tell, Henle 2 will not prepare students for Henle 3.  

Years ago, I was leaving education for construction and real estate.  I was leaving because of books like Henle Latin.  I discovered  Lingua Latina and decided to stick around a bit longer.  I loved the series then, and I still love it today.  It prepares students for almost anything in Latin.  

It’s a simple numbers game.  First Year Latin by Robert Henle teaches students about 400 words.  Lingua Latina part 1 teaches students about 2,000.  

Have her read Lingua Latina over the summer.  It will prepare her for the Henle books.  It will do a better job than the Henle books.  

By the way, I will likely be offering a Lingua Latina review class over the summer if you are interested.

After The Latin Road?

I received this question:

I have a son who is almost 12 and has completed The Latin Road volume 1 and most of volume 2. His brain seems to compute Latin well. Do you think he would be a candidate for one of your classes, or should he hold off? I was planning on him doing a Second Form Latin class with Memoria Press, but your class seems so much more appealing.

Here is my reply:

Unfortunately, I am not too familiar with the Latin road.  I need to order that series.  

All of my classes start at the beginning.  So, it is quite possible he could jump in and keep up.  My classes are aggressive.  My goal is to have students reading the New Testament in Latin within two years.  It can be done.  I have taken thousands of students across this line.  But… it isn’t easy.

Fortunately, I record every class I teach.  This provides students with a bit of insurance.  If class becomes too much, they can always slow down and move at their own pace.  

You can get a feel for the classes by checking out the book Lingua Latina.  It’s the toughest Latin book out there, but it is the best, by far.  (Anyone who says differently is selling something.)  It is also the most entertaining.