I have been using the learning to read Latin textbook and workbook for some time now to teach myself Latin plus some occasional instruction from a priest. I find I need to translate everything I read at what point did you find this was no longer the case?

  • Very few people are able to understand Latin intuitively. Most understand it in terms of their native language. A trick for acquiring a native understanding is to read extremely fast. If you read so fast that you do not have time to translate, then only what you natively understand will be absorbed. The drawback to this is that you will understand only bits and pieces of what you are reading, especially in the beginning. Another trick is to write your vocabulary in sentences. If your definitions are long sentences, then there is less possibility of doing word-for-word substitutions. Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 0:32

1 Answer 1


It is a little difficult to describe such a “point” – as you can imagine, there does not come a time when it suddenly clicks and you switch from translating to reading. It is a gradual process – it starts with simple sentences, or sentence fragments, that you understand on sight without thinking about cases and conjugations; on the other hand, even advanced learners will often stumble upon a complicated Ciceronian period that they cannot parse right away.

You may already have passed the point where you need to translate literally everything. For example, this is a genuine Ciceronian sentence: Quid est, Catilina? (Not just genuine, it even occurs twice in the first speech against Catilina.) I assume you know what this means. (If not: something along the lines of “What's the matter, Catilina?”) Trying to translate this just complicates things.

Another example: The first time you see Quae cum ita sint, you probably have to translate it. (Something like “This being so” or “With that in mind.”) The second time you probably do it again, the third time you already remember it, and the fourth time you don't even think about it anymore.

What will help you get nearer to the point where you can enjoy Latin texts without grammatically analyzing every sentence?

Reading, lots and lots of reading. But how can you read much if reading is so arduous? There are two approaches:

  • Read easy texts designed for beginners or advanced students. There are lots of sources for various levels of proficiency. I won't give examples here, there are too many; this might make for a good resource question on this site. I do want to mention that another option would be switch to the completely-in-Latin textbook Lingua Latina per se illustrata (affectionally known on the Internet as LLPSI), which is wildly popular and has the advantage that it really starts out at zero and gradually increases the level.

  • Re-read texts that you read before. Once you've read the first Catilinarian, you know the content and have analyized all the sentences. The next time you read it, you will find it much easier. In my opinion, re-reading is surprisingly helpful; however, you may want to start out with an easier author than Cicero (Caesar comes to mind). Getting through a speech of Cicero's the first time is probably too daunting for a beginner.

  • 2
    Another option could be: read with a translation on the side. That can really help you speed up.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 4:07
  • @Sebastian Koppehel: Cicero's "quae cum ita sint"; literally, "when these things are thus/ may be so", is this equivalent to the English, "with all things being equal"? An alternative way of saying, "if events unfold as expected"; "if things go according to plan". Do you agree?
    – tony
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 8:33
  • 1
    @tony No, like I wrote it roughly corresponds to “this being so.” It is just a rhetorical throat-clearing. Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 19:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.