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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Ouch.

One thing is sure: conservative American Protestantism is not future-oriented. In this sense, it is lower class.  Lower-class people and movements do not shape history; they are carried along in the back of the bus in order to be milked by those future-oriented people and movements that do shape history.

I wrote this book for Christians who are tired of being milked, bilked, and forced to ride silently in the back of humanism’s bus.

Gary North in “Crossed Fingers, How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church

If you are around…

As everyone knows by now, my son survived a brutal car accident on April 13.  Three months tomorrow.

While we were in Denver, there were several fundraising parties thrown in our honor… in Franklin.

One of my girls complained.  They are throwing parties for us in our own hometown, and we don’t even get to go!

Heh.  That’s true, actually.

Since we have returned, my wife has decided to throw several parties to celebrate God’s mercy on my son and on our family.   If you know the story, you know that it is a miracle that my son is alive.

If you are around, consider yourself invited.  Even if you are not around, consider yourself invited.

The first party will happen tomorrow night (from 4 to 7ish) at McCreary’s Irish Pub in downtown Franklin.

The second will take place in a local park on July 25th.   More details soon.

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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Notes like this keep me going…

The Latin and Greek world can be a lonely world of dry, dusty books.  Notes like this keep me going:

“I just wanted to let you know that I am loving your classes! I say that in the plural form because even though I am really taking the Lingua Latina class, I am also watching Henle 2 videos as well. I love reading through the Gallic Wars and find your maps and your explanations so helpful and interesting. Oh yes, I am also taking your Matthew class. This is all possible because of you! I thank you so much. Your classes and knitting are my favorite things to do. Thank you so much. You are a Godsend to me.”

– Patty

Help me?

I received a cry for help.  To keep myself on track, I responded to her questions in red.  Her questions are in black font.

Ok so I think I get it. Your classes are live? & recorded.  Correct.  Live and recorded.  Come to class if you can, or watch class later anytime you like.  I feel live offers more dynamics & accountability. So how does that exactly work, we watch live at set time & if I have different kids in different class levels they can jump in on different times?  Yep.  Students can jump in at any level.  If they are joining Lingua Latina though, I highly, highly recommend starting at the beginning.  That book is much tougher than people think it is.  25$ a month for my whole family? Sounds to good to be true.  $25 is correct.  I strive for “too good to be true”.  To see what others are saying, check this page out:  https://dwanethomas.com/testimonials/

I have 8 kids & did cc last yr. Henle killed us. I see you offer Henle plus the other book you recommend for your live T/W classes. Do you assign homework or?  I do assign homework.  I used to check it, but I just do not have the time to do it anymore.  Students and parents are able to check their own work now using the resources I have loaded into my site.  I have also created almost 100 tests and quizzes.  That number is climbing and will continue to climb.  The tests and quizzes provide an immediate grade and immediate feedback.  In the past, students had to wait a long time for me to respond.  I realized that I was the rock in the path.  I am now focusing on creating more resources for parents and students.  I havnt had as chance to look at the Lingua Latina book. But we’re almost to the ‘drop Henle’ point. But if we did the online LL fall class would my child/me easily know what homework he’s to be doing?-sort of like the cc guides spell out for the ch programs? Yes.  I provide syllabi for all of my classes.  These syllabi tell students exactly what steps to take.  I will be updating them with even more detail soon.  Help?  I have been doing this for 20 years, and I see no reason to stop.  You don’t have to learn Latin to live a happy life.  In fact, I recommend learning a modern language before learning Latin.  But, if you have to learn Latin, I can definitely help.

Poverty

I have started reading “The Tao of Seneca” by Tim Ferris.

In Seneca’s second letter, I found this:

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. What does it matter how much a man has laid up in his safe, or in his warehouse, how large are his flocks and how fat his dividends, if he covets his neighbour’s property, and reckons, not his past gains, but his hopes of gains to come? Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth? It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough. Farewell.

I am a big fan of audio books.  If you would like to listen to “The Tao of Seneca”, click here.

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