Scholae nostrae

Latine discere aude: our method

Non […] tam praeclarum est scire Latine quam turpe nescire.
Cicero, Brutus, XXXVIII, 140.

The method and the course
It is our common opinion, based on our studies and experience, that Lingua Latina per se illustrata, by Hans Henning Ørberg, is the most effective of all Latin courses, for learners of at least 12 years of age.
The aim of this course is to allow the student to read fluently and understand correctly Latin classics: active use of the language – writing and speaking in Latin – is strongly recommended, because it is a very important and effective means to achieve that goal; but speaking Latin is certainly not the final goal of our course.
The Latin course Lingua Latina per se illustrata is divided into two volumes, Familia Romana
(for the basic level) and Roma aeterna (for the advanced level).
It follows the inductive-contextual method (or nature method), which is based on the text and the context, from which students draw forms and constructions, and the meaning of words and phrases. Morphology and syntax are first inductively assimilated, by the identification of recurrent structures and the necessary reflection, and then organized in a systematic manner.
Learners are constantly exposed to the language: initially, in Familia Romana, a very simple – yet true and authentic – Latin, and then, gradually, a more complex and elaborate language: most of Roma aeterna, the second volume, contains original texts of classical authors, with their refined language and style (but already in the first volume students read some excerpts from the Gospels, the poets Catullus, Ovid, and Martial, and the grammarian Donatus). Students are thus gradually and effectively introduced to the reading and understanding of classics.
Students are strongly involved, with their active abilities too: they are invited to read and understand, to do exercises of comprehension, and also to use the language themselves, both speaking and writing.
They are always required to understand the Latin text; if they are asked to translate it, translation will have to follow understanding, not the other way round, as it sometimes happens at school!
Finally, the book’s continuous story line, besides being in itself a mnemonic help to learn words and constructions, clearly illustrates Roman life.  

The context
The first volume, Familia Romana, tells the story of a Roman familia of the 2nd century AD, and of its members’ daily life and activities.
Students are thus presented not with out-of-context sentences and grammar rules, but with real-life situations.
In the second volume, Roma aeterna, they can at last read the fascinating events of Roman history, from its mythic beginnings to the end of the republic in 27 BC. Again, the bulk of this second volume is made up of unmodified classical texts (Livy, Sallust, Cicero and others).
The exercises at the end of each chapter help to strengthen the learning of both grammar and vocabulary, and to verify text comprehension.

Vocabulary
One of the most important advantages of our course is that it teaches the core vocabulary of Latin: 4,000 words that are considered more necessary because of their greater frequency in classical texts. These are gradually learned and assimilated through the use of the language, the attractiveness of the continuous narration, and the studied recurrence and frequent repetition of already learned words.

Marginal notes and images
The meaning of Latin words is always explained (not translated into another language).
Marginal notes, in Latin, explain the meaning of words, phrases and constructions, using synonyms, antonyms, circumlocutions, etc. Four symbols recur: “=” means “(semantic) equivalence”, “↔” means “the opposite of”, “<” means that the meaning “can be inferred” from what follows, and “:” means “equivalence within a context”. These notes contain only words, forms, meanings and constructions that students already know.
In addition to these explanations, hundreds of images illustrate new meanings and uses.
We thus avoid that words and phrases are understood only when they are translated into the student’s mother tongue: translation should regularly follow, not precede, understanding. 

Grammar
Theory is always united with practice: after finding a good number of examples, in different contexts and situations, students reflect on what they have read, and are presented with an accurate description of grammar structures. The whole building of Latin morphology and syntax is thus gradually raised.
The final section of every chapter is a short and schematic lectio grammatica, or “grammar lession”.
In addition, the students’ manual, Latine disco
, is a practical companion to the course: in it, the student is given all the necessary explanations, chapter by chapter, in a plain conversational style. Important concepts, and particularly noun and verb paradigms, are repeated in the page margin. Morphology and syntax are not artificially separated from each other but presented together, as far as possible, because they form one whole in the actual use of language.
Finally, the Grammatica di consultazione
(“Reference grammar”, only in the Italian edition) is an elementary but sufficient grammar. It consists of a short Phonetice Latina (“Latin phonetics”: the rules of pronunciation), a schematic morphology, the Morphologia Latina (with the paradigms of declensions and conjugations), and, more important, a Syntaxis Latina: this section on syntax is less schematic and is rich in examples, taken from the two volumes of our course and from classical writers. 

Practice of the language
Learners are often stimulated to use and practise Latin, which thus becomes a familiar and pleasant language.
The course is a full immersion in the Latin language: inter alia, because during lessons the teacher always speaks Latin (in such a way that he can be perfectly well, and easily, understood by the student).
Exercises are of various kinds: students are asked to fill in the blanks, to answer questions, to summarize texts, to detect mistakes, to describe images, to write their own compositions, to amplify, or transform, a given text, to work on synonyms and antonyms, etc.
(You can get an idea of this by watching the Italian documentary La via degli umanisti, “The way of the humanists”.)
In addition to the exercises that are found at the end of each chapter, there are many more in the three supplementary volumes Exercitia Latina I (online version, by my friend and colleague Casper Porton, here
), Nova Exercitia Latina I and Exercitia Latina II.

How can you learn Latin with Lingua Latina per se illustrata?
1. Read every chapter carefully, more than once, until you are sure you have understood everything. Read also the final section (the lectio grammatica, or Grammatica Latina).
If you pay attention to the context and to images and marginal notes, you will understand everything easily.

2. Then read the relevant chapter of the Latine disco carefully. Make sure you understand everything, and learn by heart noun and verb paradigms and the other important concepts.
If you want a more complete and systematic view of grammar, you may refer to the volume Grammatica Latina.

3. Do the exercises. You will find them both at the end of the chapter and in the supplementary book, Exercitia Latina I or Exercitia Latina II.
You should usually be able to understand yourself whether you have done the exercises correctly. There is also a supplementary book which contains the keys to the Exercitia Latina I and the Exercitia Latina II; finally, you can find the keys to the Nova exercitia Latina I here.

4. Now – but not before – you can begin the following chapter.
This is a very good and effective method, but it won’t work if you don’t work seriously: one hour a day at least.

We strongly recommend using the language actively: writing and speaking in Latin will help you to remember words, and, even more importantly, to have a more flexible mind, which will enable you to read the classics with no great effort.

A good illustration of our method is provided by this Italian documentary, which was made in the academy Vivarium Novum in 2008. Everybody speaks Italian, because the documentary was intended chiefly for Italian teachers, but our course is normally taught in Latin from the very beginning.