Category Archives: Tip of the Week

How to learn all the vocabulary…

Estimates vary… but, it seems you need at least a few thousand words in your head to be able to speak fluently in another language.

Since there is no way to nail down an exact number, I am going with 2,000.

If you learn just 50 words a week, you would possess those 2,000 words in just 40 weeks.   40 weeks = one school year.

Great.  But, how are you going to learn those 2,000 words?  Do you really want to sit down and create 2,000
flash cards?  How many trees must die so that you can order a Margherita Pizza in Italian?

Fortunately, one of my students reminded me of a digital flash card site.  And in doing so, she potentially increased the world’s cognitive surplus and simultaneously saved the planet.  Pretty impressive, Amie.

Here is her note to me:

I have been working through your Lingua Latina classes for the past two months. Great class! Thanks for making it affordable!

Right around lesson10, I realized that the vocabulary was getting to be a bit much for me. I just wanted to share that I found a great resource for learning the vocabulary for Lingua Latina. I have been using Memrise for the last two weeks and it is making this much much easier. It is free. Well, they try to sell me a subscription when I use my iPhone but I have since downloaded the app on my Kindle and it is totally free!”

Somehow, I had forgotten about Memrise.  I spent some time on the site this morning.

She is right.  Memrise is an impressive flash card site.  There are numerous courses, languages, and subjects.  You can even set challenges for yourself and you can follow friends who also use Memrise.

If you, like Amie, are having trouble with the more than 1,800 words in Lingua Latina, then use this link:

If you are having trouble with the 497 words in First Year Latin by Robert Henle, then use this link:

Of course, there is much more than Latin on the site.  If you are plodding through a course and you need to learn a pile of new words, check out Memrise!

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas

P.S. This Thursday (July 27, 2017) at 7 PM central time, I am going to be testing out a live Q and A.  If you are confused about the classes I am offering, Visual Latin, or just Latin in general, feel free to stop by!

Register here:

Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here:

How to track what you are reading.

Last week, I blogged about a simple way to stand out in your chosen field of expertise.

Simply read more than everyone else.

If you read a book a week for twenty years, that adds up to 1,040 books!

20 years is going to pass anyway.  You might as well have something to show for it.

By the way, we have the time.  How many hours are spent each week watching football, baseball, or hockey games?  The same math applies. Just one game a week for twenty years adds up to 1,040 games.

After I sent the tip of the week last Saturday, I received this email from a friend.  Not only does she have 8 kids, she has already read 50 books this year.

After punching a hole in the sheetrock, and after crying on the floor for a while, I emailed her back and asked how in the world she does it.  In her response, she reminded me of a site I used to know about but had long since forgotten.

“I know people never understand how I can read that much, so I always tell them 10 minutes at a time.  I never feel like I have to have huge chunks of time to read, but sitting down for even 10 minutes with a book a couple times a day adds up.   Have you heard of the website Good Reads?  I find that is a helpful way to keep track of the books I read every year, as well as read reviews on books, etc.  I am “friends” with just a few other people of whom I respect their reading choices, so it is also fun to see what they are reading.  It perpetually keeps me adding to my “want to read” shelf!  (Good Reads has “shelves” where you organize your books, i.e. Books Currently Reading, Books read in 2017, Family Read Alouds, etc.)  Anyway, you might find you like it!”

Actually, I thought all of you might like it.   If you want to track what you are reading, or if you need new ideas, or if you want to nose through your friends’ personal library without actually nosing around in their library, then check out

Have a happy Saturday (What’s left of it, anyway)!
Dwane Thomas

How to stand out.

In one of my favorite books, The Pledge, by Michael Masterson, the author reports that the average American reads one book per year.

It may not be that bad.  According to the Pew Research Center, the average American in 2013 read a book a month.

What about “above average Americans”?  According to the site, Rich Habits, the average millionaire reads a couple of books a month, or 24 books a year.

Author Brendon Burchard claims to have read a book a week for the last 20 years.

Using the sources above and using Brendon Burchard’s 20-year benchmark, here is how the numbers stack up.

  • 20 years = 20 books (The Pledge)
  • 20 years = 240 books (The Pew Research Center)
  • 20 years = 480 books (Rich Habits)
  • 20 years = 1,040 books (Brendon Burchard)

Want to stand out in your chosen field of expertise?  It’s a simple numbers game.

If the average person in your chosen field of expertise reads a book a year, or a book a month, and you read a book a week… who is eventually going to stand out?

It’s simple math.  You are.

Devote an hour each day to learning by reading and you are going to set yourself apart.

In time (and it may be sooner than you think) you will move into the top half of your field.

Keep reading.  You will move into the top 20% of your field.  You will stand out.

Keep reading.  Eventually, you will move into the top 20% of the top 20%.  In other words, you will move into the top 4% of your field.  You will very likely be recognized as an expert.

Perhaps you are thinking… 20 years?  That’s a long time!

So, what?  20 years is going to pass whether you want it to pass, or not.  You might as well have something to show for it.

As Tony Robbins says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year, and underestimate what they can do in two or three decades.”

By the way, I also recommend you write about what you are reading.  In this way, you also develop your writing skills.

I read a lot.  But, for some dumb reason, I have not been blogging about the books I read.  Until recently.  I am a slow learner, I suppose.

Anyway, I am now reviewing books on my site and will continue to do so.  I recommend you do the same.

You can check out my reviews here:

So, turn the T.V. off.  Turn Netflix off.  You can always watch “Some Dumb Movie 3” later.

Stand out.  Grab a book instead.

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas

Protect yourself before you go.

One of the great inventions of the modern world is insurance.  (I know.  I know.  It’s also one of the great nuisances of the modern world.)  But, think about it.  By pooling your resources with others, you can protect yourself from massive financial setbacks.

By now, all of you know that my son was in an accident in Colorado.  His accident brought my family back from Athens, Greece.  I had gone there to study Greek intensively.

When we heard of the accident, I immediately went online and bought a ticket for my wife.  She was on a plane for Colorado eight, or so, hours later.

My girls and I stayed in Athens.  We waited for more news.  How serious was the accident?  How badly was my son injured?

As news slowly filtered in, we realized the situation was, indeed, quite serious.  We settled all of our affairs in Athens and boarded a plane 24 hours behind my wife.

Last minute flights for myself, my wife, and my girls cost roughly $2,000 each.  So… $12,000.  With airport taxes and such, it was actually a bit higher than that.

Before our trip, my wife had purchased travel insurance for the family.  It cost $158.

This week, Allianz Global Assistance refunded the entire amount.  They deposited a little more than $12,000 directly into our checking account.

I am a bit of a complainer when it comes to taxes and insurance.  I shouldn’t complain, I know.  But… it feels so good.

Maybe I will stop complaining now.  Those $158 dollars my wife spent now numbers among our top 10 purchases for $158.

If you are traveling alone, you could possibly justify the risk of going without travel insurance.

But, if you are traveling with a family, do it.

And, if you are going to purchase travel insurance, consider Allianz Global Assistance.  They were easy to work with, and they upheld their end of the bargain.

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas

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During my son’s recent ordeal, I discovered several things about myself that I did not like.

Among other things, I am not the Stoic I thought I was becoming.  Under pressure, I lost my cool.  More than once.  Sigh.

I also discovered that, under pressure, I stop journaling and I stop writing down all that I have to do.  (My wife, on the other hand, became a blogger under pressure.  Prolifically, she started writing everything down.   She is still blogging about my son’s recovery.  You can follow her here.)

I almost always have a small Moleskine journal with me.  Usually, whenever an idea hits, or whenever I remember something I need to take care of, I will write it down in the journal.  I write things down for one simple reason.  I can be rather forgetful.  If I don’t write it down, there is a good chance I will forget it.

During our time in Denver (where my son’s accident and subsequent hospitalization took place), I stopped writing things down.

That was fine for a few days while we traveled to Denver.  It wasn’t fine at all to stop writing things down for the two months (almost) we were living there.

There were still things to do.   Life doesn’t stop throwing “things to get done” at you.  Not even during the hard times.  Cars still run out of gas.  Bills keep coming.  Kids get hungry.   Rent is still due.  The cat needs a bath.

To keep up with what I had to do, and to keep up with the new demands created by the situation, I switched to a digital to-do list.

There are many online, but several years ago, my friends at Compass Classroom told me about Wunderlist.

If you write things down, you will enjoy Wunderlist.  You can set it up on your computer.  You can set it up on your smartphone.   And, you can link the two.

Sometimes when I am out, I will think of something I’ve got to take care of later when I return to my computer.  I will type it into my phone into the Wunderlist app.  When I am back on my computer, there the task will be.

You can even set Wunderlist up with other people.  Using this feature, other people can add items to your inbox.  Then they can use Wunderlist to remind themselves to pester you about the tasks they delegated to you.  I do not use this feature.  But, you can, if you want.  But, you cannot use it with me.

We all know it’s true.  If you write things down, you will get more done.  The studies have proved it over and over again.  We just have so much hitting us these days.  To keep up with it all, write it down.

Wunderlist it.


Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here:


Summer school

I wasn’t planning to be in Tennessee this summer.  I was going to be studying Greek in Greece and I was going to be giving informal tours of Athens and Corinth to mission teams.

But, everything changed in a moment.  My son nearly lost his life in a car accident in Aurora, Colorado.  My family and I ended up here for six weeks.  He is able to travel again.  We start driving home today.

Before I say anything else, I’d like to say thank you to the Denver area Classical Conversations community.  Thank you for the meals, the prayers, the help and the hospitality.  You have tempted my family.  We have discussed moving to Colorado.  No humidity?  No mosquitos?  Where do we sign up?

Here’s the thing.  I didn’t grow up in the South and I don’t like summers in the South.  Too humid.  Too many mosquitos.  Most of my childhood summers were spent in Holland, England, and Germany.  Those were not humid summers.  In Tennessee, I’d rather stay inside.  Sooo, I am going to.

While hibernating (aestivating, technically) inside this summer, I am going to teach some summer classes.  These are classes I always want to get to, but never seem to have time to for during the school year.

I will be taking students through the Gospel of Matthew in Latin.  This is a perfect way to review what you have learned.  It is also a perfect way to get ready for tougher books like Caesar’s Gallic Chore.  (Sorry, I meant: war.  Not chore.)

I will also be taking students through a Lingua Latina review course.  Lingua Latina is the toughest (and best) Latin curriculum out there.  This class will keep you from losing what you learned.

And, of course, if you are interested, I will keep several other classes running.  We will continue reading through Caesar’s book, and we will continue reading through the history of Rome.

These classes will run through June and July.  I will be taking August off to write and to prepare for the upcoming school year.

All of the summer classes are open to current subscribers.  Just contact me and ask for the summer schedule.

Of course, I will not respond.  I will be on the road until late Monday night.  You may not hear from me until Tuesday.

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas

Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here:

Tip of the Week #106. Hidden in plain site.

I usually keep some cash hidden in my car.  And, an extra house key.  And, a ninja grappling hook.

Okay.  I don’t have a ninja grappling hook.  But, I have always wanted one.  Today is my 44th birthday.  Perhaps I will order one.  I have waited long enough.

I don’t want anyone to find the cash in my car.  I especially don’t want anyone to find the key to my house.

Of course, if someone broke into my home I am afraid they would likely be quite disappointed.  We don’t own too many electronics.  We don’t have much cash lying around.  Our phones are old.  And, since I wasn’t into Star Wars as a kid, we don’t have a collection of vintage Star Wars figurines.

But, if there are robbers out there eager to make off with a pile of Latin and Greek books, my home is treasure island.

I worry about this every night.  Throughout the country, there is a resurgent interest in Latin.  I know it’s only a matter of time before my home is invaded.

At least the cash in my car will be safe.  It is hidden in plain site.
My cars are old.  Every one of them has a can of WD-40 tossed under the driver’s seat.  But, here’s the cool part.  They are not cans of WD-40.  They are safes.  Check this out:

If you need to hide some valuables, stuff them in one of these secret safes.

Oh, one more thing.  If you have kids like my kids, then you need to find a way to hide your chocolate stash.  You should be able to find a safe large enough on this page.  I recommend the dictionary:

Have a happy Saturday!
Dwane Thomas


Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here: