Tag Archives: reading

Better than flash cards?

I received this question:

My question: my 10-year-old son and I are super enjoying VL1. You are a brilliant teacher. Now that we are on lesson 10 he has a lot of vocab words to memorize. He writes out the flash cards and reviews them almost daily. Are there any better strategies to learning the vocab?

For example, one of the things I’ve learned is that straight memorization of math facts doesn’t always work long term. Having a good number sense and being able to relate to the numbers conceptually works better in the long term. Is there anything similar in Latin? Is there a better way to learn the vocab than just old fashioned flash cards?

Here is my reply:

I agree with you completely.  While there is nothing at all wrong with memorizing, it is not always effective.  I feel this is especially true with language vocabulary.

There is a reason I based the readings on the Bible (the most influential and most read book on the planet). The Bible is a great language learning tool.  The vocabulary is rather basic and is highly repetitive. 

It turns out, one of the very best ways to learn vocabulary is via frequent reading.  In order to master Latin, I have read the books over and over and over again.  The stories help me remember the vocabulary.  For example, I have read Lingua Latina perhaps twenty times.  Maybe more.  I’ve lost count.  Whenever I see a hill as I drive, I think of the hill (collis) in that book.  There is a tree (arbor) on that hill.  Nearby is a shepherd (pastor) with his sheep (oves).  The sheep are eating grass (herba) and one of them wanders off toward the stream (rivus) near the forest (silva). 

As you can see, it is the story that carries the vocabulary.  This happens when I read the New Testament as well.  Because I have listened to the story in Latin so many times, I can’t help but think, “Ubi est qui natus est rex Iudaeorum?” (Where is he born king of the Jews?) every time I hear the story of the birth of Christ.  Because of this story, Ubi (where) is never a problematic word for me.  The story carries the vocabulary for me. 

We get it backward.  We tell kids, learn the grammar.  Learn the vocabulary.  Learn the exceptions.  When you have all of that down, we will start reading in Latin. 

We should turn this on its head.  Start reading in Latin now.  We will learn the vocabulary, grammar, and exceptions as we go. 

Flash cards are not bad.  I use them.  I am on Memrise every day.  I use the site to learn Greek and Italian vocabulary.  But, alone, it is just not enough.  To truly learn Greek and Italian, I read in those languages every day.  It doesn’t matter that I struggle to do so.  I do it anyway.  As I read, the vocabulary comes.  The stories are the channels that solidify the grammar and vocabulary for me.

Since you are in Visual Latin, I would recommend reading and re-reading the stories.  Doing so will embed the vocabulary in the brain.

I hope this answered your question.  Let me know if you need more help!

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 Goodreads.com.

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

Am I doing okay?

I received this question:

Is it ok that I can’t translate very well at this point?   It will come eventually, right?   I just want to know if I am on track  OR  if should I spend extra time reading Lingua Latina and going over the vocabulary?   

Here is my reply:

Good morning!

You are in a tough, tough, tough Latin course.  I have seen Latin teachers struggle with this book.  I am not kidding.  When I read your translations, I feel you are getting 85 – 90% of it.  And, that, Amy, is good.  I think you are doing fine.  Forget perfection.  Work toward progress.   You are doing that.  

There is always more you can do.  Always.  I am teaching myself Italian right now.  I spend about 3 hours a day studying.  At the end of the three hours, I usually feel inadequate.  I could have done more, should have done more, etc.  But, if you take a long-term view, you know you will be back the next day.  And, the next day.  Over the course of several years, you will get good at it.  It just takes time.  

If you want specific advice, then yes.  I would recommend going over the vocabulary.  I recommend you review vocabulary every day if you can.  I also recommend you re-read the chapters daily if you can.  

Miscellaneous language advice.

I received this inquiry:

“When reading the chapter ever day are they (we, I’m trying to do this with her) suppose to be reading in English, Latin or both?


We are using the Cassell’s Latin Dictionary both Latin-English and English-Latin. Many of the vocabulary words she already knows so she hasn’t done them all. So should we be doing vocabulary 1st before we start reading?And the dictionary is confusing to me. Should I be using something different?   


Here is my reply:

Read in English, Latin, or whatever you need to read in for it to sink in.  🙂  

The trick is to read frequently.  I am learning Italian right now.  When I read, I read in Italian.  Then I will read thinking in English.  Sometimes I will translate out loud in English.  After that, I will read out loud in Italian.  In other words, I try everything.  Basically, I want to hit my brain from every angle.

As for vocabulary, keep this site open nearby: http://archives.nd.edu/words.html.

It’s so easy.  Type in the word you are struggling with and this dictionary will look it up for you.  What could be better?  🙂

If you want to practice vocabulary, go to Quizlet and type in Lingua Latina.  You will get the vocabulary as flashcards and as games.  Fun way to practice.

So, vocabulary first, or no?  I go back and forth on this one.  I have seen students use flash cards with great success.  It’s not for me.  I’ve tried.  Just doesn’t do it for me.  Personally, I like to learn vocabulary via extensive reading.  I have read some language books dozens of times until it clicks.  Currently doing this with Greek.  If I were you, I would try everything.  Test it all.  Find what works.  

Let me know if you need more help!

Latin 3

I received this inquiry:

I watched your YouTube video about online class offerings and the sibling discounts, and was excited to learn you’re considering a class that could be an alternative to Henle 2 (which we’ve signed up for already). If that class becomes available, would I be able to “transfer” my son from Henle 2 into that one? 

As background, my son started with Wheelock’s, but has now nearly finished Lingua Latina with another provider. For a few reasons, the most significant being a time conflict, he won’t be continuing with that provider next year. We’re familiar with Henle and know it will be a fine class, but a less boring option is always better. 🙂

Here is my reply:

If the time works, you could switch over to Fables and Foundations. I have adjusted the content of the class.  We will read through a book of the Greek and Latin myths in the fall.  In the spring, we will tackle the book of Genesis.  We will finish class with Caesar’s Gallic Wars. This class will be the equivalent of the Henle 2 class, and will count as Latin 3.  

I hope you are doing this.

Yesterday, I slept in.  Sleeping in is a luxury I try to deny myself every day.  When I sleep late, bad things happen.  If I lose an hour in the morning, I will spend the rest of the day searching for it.

So, why do I rise early every morning?  I rise early to read.  With an online business, and a website to run, a family to feed, math lessons to teach (my kids have my brain when it comes to math), bills to pay, online classes to teach, real students to teach, old cars to repair, piles of paperwork to burn, emails to respond to, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, there is often little time left in the day to read.  Yet, reading is critical.  I cannot skip it.

This post in “Early to Rise” reminded me that I cannot afford to skip reading.  Neither, by the way, can you.

Given that Mark Cuban reads three hours per day; given that Warren Buffett reads 500 pages per day; given that Mark Zuckerberg has set his personal goal in 2015 to read a book every two weeks; given that the most successful are learners; and given that we work tirelessly to identify the best business authors of the best dozen books (Lean, Sales, Tribes, Billionaires, etc.) and bring these authors to our events, why are you missing an opportunity to learn and network with some of the best mid-market scale-ups around the world? Yes, we’re all busy – and I imagine Zuckerberg and Buffett and Cuban have plenty on their plates. So why do they keep learning? It’s about making sure you avoid the mistakes that come with NOT knowing. Nothing creative can come out of your brain that wasn’t put in first. And learning isn’t linear. It’s about piling in as much as you can (see Bill Gates’ infamous Think Weeks) and then letting the magic happen. I never know when I’m going to need to access an idea – but I have to know about it in the first place. 

– Verne Harnish

As quoted in the ezine “Early to Rise.”  March 3, 2015