The tools you need to learn a language.

Perhaps you are familiar with the book Carry On, Mr. Bowditch!, by Jean Lee Latham.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch! is the story of an early American merchant who spends quite a bit of his time at sea.  As Mr. Bowditch sails around the world selling his wares, he teaches himself various languages.  He began with Latin.   After Latin, he taught himself Portuguese, Spanish, and French.

How did he do it? 

He used a trick we can all imitate.  It’s a rather simple trick. I have used the same trick to teach myself Latin, Greek and Spanish.  These days, I am using it again to teach myself Italian.

So, what was the trick?

Simple.  Read the Bible in another language.

Modern educators can sometimes complicate things.   I know.  I am one of them.

When we begin to learn a new language, the educators rush in.  They tell us that we need flashcards, videos, podcasts, books, audiobooks, notebooks, apps, posters, wall charts, immersion classes, grammar classes, and trips abroad.

The truth is, learning a new language is not as complicated as we like to think it is.  Nathaniel Bowditch was on to something.  It really does require only three cheap items. 

You are going to need a dictionary, a grammar, and the Bible.

I would add one thing to the list. I would add audio training. Nathaniel Bowditch didn’t have this in the 1700’s.  We have it these days. 

For example, until recently, there was almost no audio content available for Latin.

This changed in 2011.

In 2011, Faith Comes By hearing.com released biblium.is.

Here you will find the entire New Testament, fully dramatized as an audio book, in Latin, for free!  Thanks to biblium.is, you now have access to a massive Latin audio book.  This is significant.  Such an audio book has never been available in Latin before.

For Christian students, this is fantastic news.  You should be reading the Bible daily anyway,  Now, you are able to read the Bible and learn Latin at the same time.

But, what if you are not a Christian?

You should listen to the Bible anyway.

Why?

The Bible has influenced our world profoundly.  It is impossible to estimate the impact this book has had in our world.  To be ignorant of the Bible is to be ignorant of the most influential book on the planet.

Just as you cannot fully understand the history of the Middle East without reading the Koran, you simply cannot fully understand the history of our world without some knowledge of the Bible.  It’s impact is undeniable.

There are other practical reasons to listen to the Bible in Latin.

First of all, the free audio version is the most audio content you will find in Latin.  I have personally scoured the internet looking for audio content in Latin.  Until the release of biblium.is, I was only able to find snippets.  Nothing comprehensive was available.

Second, the Bible is written at, roughly, a 6th-grade reading level.  This makes it a perfect first book in Latin.

Third, the Bible exists in so many other languages.  Do you already speak French?  Read the Bible in Latin and French simultaneously.  Your understanding of French and Latin will grow.

How exactly do you do this?

Simple.  Spend an hour or two just listening to one of the four gospels every day.  You may understand nothing in the beginning.  It doesn’t matter.  Do it anyway.

In time, you will understand.

Each day, spend half an hour, to an hour studying the grammar book.

By the end of one year, after working through the Latin grammar, listening to the Bible in Latin, and consulting the Latin dictionary as you go, you will understand most of what you hear.

Oh, there is one more thing Nathaniel Bowditch had that you are going to need. Though it is never mentioned in the book, it’s there all right. 

He had grit. 

Latin is not an easy language to learn.  He stuck to it.  He didn’t give up when it was difficult.

You, too, are going to need a heavy dose of grit as you learn Latin.

Combine a Latin grammar, a Latin dictionary, a Latin Bible, and a good dose of grit… and you could be reading in Latin by next summer.

Have a Happy Saturday!