What good widely available courses (e.g. textbooks, online classes) are there for people who wish to learn (or continue to learn) Latin on their own? What are their benefits and drawbacks?

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  • 3
    May I just point out that most UK grammars follow Kennedy in declining nouns etc in the form - Nom, Voc Acc, Gen, Dat, Abl, whilst US and others follow a different format. It need not be a major problem, but can be disconcerting switching from one to another, especially for beginners.
    – TheHonRose
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 20:10
  • 1
    An important point to keep track of! I'm something of a mutt in these matters, having learned Latin from an American text but Greek from a British one, so my tables tend to be patchworks that madden others. Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 2:12
  • @JoelDerfner Instead of requesting one resource per question, it is also possible to turn an answer into a community wiki where everyone can contribute. See my suggestion on Meta.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 20:27
  • 4
    After you're somewhat proficient in Latin, I strongly recommend Orbis Sensualium Pictus, a textbook with about seven thousand vocabulary terms, neatly divided into sections. It was originally intended for young students to acquire a much more adept vocabularies; It'll work miracles for fluency and general knowledge in the language. Commented Feb 12, 2017 at 3:23
  • though not for studying latin on one's own, at least not from the start, the ualerii maximi factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri nouem deserves a note as having been the textbook of choice for the learning of latin since it first appeared in the first century ce throughout the middle ages and beyond. for near 2000 years learning latin was getting a teacher, a grammar and valerius' book
    – aper
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 20:35

18 Answers 18


I recommend Hans Ørberg's Lingua Latīna per sē illustrāta series. Its main books are volume I, Familia Rōmāna, at the end of which the careful reader has a pretty fair grasp of Latin grammar, and volume II, Rōma Æterna, which takes readers from "textbook Latin" to "real Latin." These two texts also have associated workbooks and teachers' guides.

Ørberg uses the "natural method"—that is, everything is in Latin, and new words and ideas are explained using words and ideas that have already been introduced. There are several supplemental books in the series, including Cæsar, Cicero, Sallust, Vergil, Plautus, and so on. There are also a lot of resources scattered around the web for people using the series, since it's fairly popular.

If you're working on your own and you've never studied Latin before, Ørberg probably isn't the place to start, though the Lingua Latīna College Companion can fill in some of the gaps. If you have a teacher, though, or if you're returning after a hiatus, chances are you'll find Ørberg's books both useful and fun.

  • 1
    I want to add that this course is especially good for kids, who absorb foreign languages like squeegees! My daughter is a bilingual with 2 languages in the family from her birth (native speaker of both, not a trace of accent, except a local accent of course). With this course, that she started at 6, she read and spoke Latin quite freely. No more in her 20s, as she's now, but she still can open and read a Latin book with no trouble, and can write and speak, though not perfectly, rather a well developed 2nd-language level. Absent native Latin speakers to talk to,the best level one can get up to! Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 1:04
  • 3
    A bonus is Ørberg's native Danish distinguishes long and short vowels, so his own reading very naturally highlights this concept, not common in major modern languages, speaking about the the audio companion to these books. Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 1:09
  • 2
    I've had the most success with Ørberg's books, and I also recommend getting the companion books mentioned as well (particularly if you are learning on your own). The forward for the first mentions different learning styles & when to read; my personal preference is after I finish a chapter I read the companion to reinforce what I just read. There are companion books for both Pars I and Pars 2
    – Adam
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 14:08
  • I love the Lingua Latina method, and may I also recommend Companion to Familia Romana: by Jeanne Neumann amazon.co.uk/Companion-Familia-Romana-Orbergs-Vocabulary/dp/… which appears to be an accessible, 'cut down' version of the official companion books.-and considerably cheaper!)
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 0:46

“Teach yourself Latin” in the Teach Yourself series is very good. I have used it to teach my students, but you can use it on your own. What I like about it is that it has genuine Roman texts right from the beginning, and at that very good ones (especially poetry).

  • 1
    This book (by Gavin Betts) got me started. That, a good dictionary, and a few texts (Vulgate, Aeneid) took me a long way. I followed it up with Woodcock's A New Latin Syntax for intermediate grammar. I bought lots of beginner and intermediate text books, but in retrospect Betts (this book) and Woodcock were all I needed.
    – Figulus
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 0:39

Some simple and easily readable (with a growing difficulty) Epitomes were written for schools in the 19th century in France.

As an example, I own a copy of the Epitome Historæ Græcæ by Lantoine (written for 11 year old pupils). First pages are easy to understand, and the difficulty grow little by little. There is a simple lexicon at the end.

Epitome Historæ GræcæEpitome Historæ Græcæ p. 1Epitome Historæ Græcæ laterenter image description here

Of course, there are different difficulties. The well-known De viris illustribus by Abbot Lhomond can also be used to learn Latin.


If you are fluent in Finnish, I strongly recommend the book series Clavis Latina I–III by Maija-Leena Kallela and Erkki Palmén. I started learning Latin from these books, and it worked well. I used the books in Latin courses given by a teacher, but they also work well for self-study; I have learned a lot of content not covered in the courses by simply reading the chapters and doing the exercises. This series is the best (in my opinion), newest and most widely available option for a Finn.

It is my understanding that whenever a book is used to teach elementary Latin in Finland, this is the series used. I am not aware of any online material or freely available lecture notes in Finnish. And even if you manage to find some, changes are they are not as good as Clavis Latina.

Each of the three books comes as a pair, one called Textus et cultura (texts and culture) and Grammatica et exercitia (grammar and exercises). The books are a good stand-alone pack, but for more depth I suggest acquiring Ars Grammatica (Latinan kielioppi) by Tuomo Pekkanen and the dictionary Suomi–latina–suomi-sanakirja by Reijo Pitkäranta. There is also a continuation to the series under the name Ianua Latina by Kallela and Palmén, which is a single book.

The whole pack is 9 books and can cost quite a lot. I suggest first getting both parts of Clavis Latina I and then deciding how to proceed.

There will probably be things that you cannot figure out on your own. If you don't know a Latinist you could turn to, you can ask questions at this site. It is possible to ask in Finnish as well if you don't feel comfortable enough using English or Latin.


This isn't a start-from-Mārcus-puer-est resource, but Daniel Pettersson's website Latīnitium is designed to be a resource for people teaching themselves Latin on their own. It has articles in English and in Latin, really well-done videos and a podcast in Latin, and links to lots of other resources helpful for auto-didacts. He's among the most accomplished Latin speakers in the world, and I find the site incredibly helpful.

Latīnitium isn't the only Latin podcast: There's also Quōmodo Dīcitur, put out by Justin Slocum Bailey, Jason Slanga, and Gus Grissom, and Sermō Rædārius, by Alexandro Conti; I know of a few others in the works as well, which I'll come back and add when they come out.

  • This looks interesting. Are you sure you want to delete it? Podcasts are useful, especially when the Finnish broadcasting company is exterminating its Latin news.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 16:55
  • I undeleted it. I deleted it in the first place because, while these resources have been very helpful to me, they're not really "courses" or "textbooks," so I wasn't sure they were relevant to the question actually asked. But if you think it's okay, who am I to disagree? Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 17:35
  • 1
    I'm a triumvir, not a dictator. :) It's up to the people to decide by voting. My vote goes up. Perhaps it would be useful to have a separate resource request for supporting material. I think it hasn't been proposed in the meta list yet.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 18:01

I'm a bit reluctant to add this, because it isn't exactly an online course...

LatinStudy is an online learning community that's run as an 'old school' listserv (i.e., everything is done over email). At any time, there are several beginners' groups working through Wheelock's Latin and other textbooks, such as the Lingua Latina series. In addition, there are dozens of reading groups dedicated to a wide range of authors/works from many periods: currently, Catullus, Caesar, Tibullus, Livy, Pliny the Younger, Martial, Suetonius, Apuleius, Augustine, Beeson's A primer of Medieval Latin, and Bede, among others. I myself am currently leading a group that's working through Sallust's Bellum Catilinae and Bellum Iugurthinum, and I plan shortly to propose a new group to read either Seneca the Younger's tragedies or Statius's epics.

The downsides

This isn't for everyone.

In the first place, the pace is generally quite slow. Most groups have one assignment per week, and the assignments aren't usually very long. (For my Sallust group, I've set the relatively breakneck pace of about 180 words per week; and the group that's reading the Aeneid goes through about a book a year.) So if you want to see a group through to the end (especially a reading group), it's a fairly long-term commitment. (On the other hand, many of the beginners' groups that use Wheelock's Latin do a chapter a week, which is the same pace I've used when I've taught university students and adult learners from that textbook.)

Second, and most importantly, I think, there isn't a 'teacher' who corrects and gives feedback about assignments. The way this works is: group members submit their answers for an assignment to the group's leader, who collates all the responses (including, usually, his or her own) and then sends them back to the group via the listserv. The group leaders are just other list members and basically function as mere coordinators. In most cases, they aren't experts in the author/work that they're leading a group for; nor are they necessarily any more advanced than the other group members in terms of Latin ability – they're just the ones who came up with the idea for the group and/or volunteered to coordinate it. In addition, no sort of answer key is provided. Much of the learning is meant to take place by comparing one's own responses to those of the other group members to try to divine the correct answer/translation and determine why one's responses are more or less correct or appropriate than the rest. Questions can also be submitted to the list for discussion. Therefore, to make this work, one has to be highly self-motivated.


Although I admit that I wouldn't have wanted to learn the basics of Latin this way, I've participated in several of the more advanced groups over the years and have found them all extremely rewarding: 'Bradley's Arnold' Latin Prose Composition, Pliny the Younger's letters, Tacitus's Germania and Agricola, Horace's Odes, Catullus, Vergil's Aeneid, Sallust. Especially now that I'm not in academia, these groups help me maintain and even expand my Latin skills, and encourage me to expose myself to new authors and/or works (or revisit old favorites), at a pace that fits my schedule. I think of the groups that I participate in as my little weekly doses of Latin.

Another plus is that new groups form all the time, and anyone can start a group. So if you see a gap, you can fill it yourself. The list's membership is large and diverse enough that most proposed groups end up finding enough participants to make proceeding worth while.


I am learning from John F. Collins' A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin, since I am most interested in Church Latin and more than one person recommended it to me. There is an answer key for the drills and exercises.

I typically alternate between doing a unit in Collins and trying to decode some piece of 'real' Church Latin that I use daily (currently Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baronius Press) with the assistance of Collins, on-line dictionaries, and (when I get really stuck) latin.stackexchange.com.


For children, Minimus, here, here and here.

According to wikipedia "these books espouse some of the principles of the direct method of language teaching, ie refraining from using the learners' native language and using only the target language"

  • Ah, Minimus the mouse and Vibrissa the she-cat! Lovely course for kids, too! Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 1:05

The one I used when I first began to study in 7th grade was Latin for the New Millenium. I found it to be very organized and cumulative, introducing finite chunks of syntax and grammar rules in each chapter and not getting too long-winded and confusing in its explanations (which I've noticed can be the case in a lot of the older, more famous textbooks). You should be able to work through it pretty quickly - I think there are two volumes.

  • 2
    It's a bit of a classic now, but I found Wheelock's Latin (3rd Edition) to be a great book with which to teach yourself Latin. It contains many exercises and brief literature readings to help the student exercise his skill at reading and understanding Latin. The chapters on grammar are typically brief, so that the student is not overwhelmed with a lot of information all at once. I found the early Wheelock editions to be much better than more recent versions which are labeled Wheelock.
    – user16622
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 13:52
  • @user16622 This should really be its own answer.
    – cmw
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 23:30

Per this post by member d_e, this verb trainer they created would be a useful supplement to whichever book, course, or tool a person may be using to learn. Maybe at some point in the future they could also create a trainer for declension. One can hope! ;)


I took a Latin Course at College about 4 years ago. The recommended textbook was Learn to Read Latin by Keller and Russell.

The book is thorough yet friendly. The practical exercises in the companion book are great because a lot of the material is from the Classics.

enter image description here

All the best!


Another resource is YLE’s¹ Nuntii Latini. It ran for three decades, and they include a vocabulary for several of the programmes from the past couple of years. They pay attention to vowel length, and it is presented in a pronunciation close to restored classical, but with a Finnish accent. It is an excellent resource for hearing living Latin and it is completely free.

Logo Radiophonia finnica generalis

¹ The Finnish NBC.


I feel like I might be downvoted for saying this, but I found Duolingo's Latin course to be a fun and accessible way to get started learning the language on my own. Of course it doesn't take one very far, but for what it's worth it gave me the confidence to consider tackling more complete resources which would require investing quite a bit more time, money and effort.

Its main virtue is the convenience and accessibility — both in being free and easy to get (install an app or simply use the website), but also in being pretty modular: each lesson takes only a few minutes to complete. One can't also deny the effectiveness of their gamification techniques, which may not be everyone's cup of tea, but are statistically proven to encourage regular practice.

For me, at least, it was a great gateway to get my feet wet with the language, which I had been curious about for a while but not enough to invest in seriously learning it. In fact, reading the other answers, I'm not sure I'd find the motivation to tackle the larger, more comprehensive resources from scratch.

  • 1
    While Duolingo for Latin could use some work, it's still another tool to help get a person engaged with learning the language. I would definitely use it if they would improve the course.
    – Adam
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 0:25
  • 1
    @Adam I wouldn't. It's not the worst thing in the world, but their "statistically proven effectiveness" line is straight up a lie and their system introduces so many bad habits in a language that it really it could actually be harmful. A few of their modules are decent (but weird), but many have drawn the ire of actual language teachers across various fields. But that's what you get when you have a bunch of programmers who refuse to hire proper linguists and teachers.
    – cmw
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 20:23
  • 'their "statistically proven effectiveness" line is straight up a lie' — I don't mean to antagonize you, but I genuinely am curious: why do you say that? To be clear, by "effectiveness" I was referring only to the ability to stimulate regular practice; I didn't mean that it is effective in teaching the languages well. My reference for that claim was posts like this.
    – waldyrious
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 14:23

In French, Assimil's "Le Latin sans peine" here and here.

According to Wikipedia, Assimil's method is about "teaching foreign languages through the listening of records or tapes and the reading of a book with the text that you are listening to, one side native language, one side foreign language. This method is focused on learning whole sentences, for an organic learning of the grammar. It begins with a long passive phase of only reading and listening, and eventually adds active exercises. Most books contain around 100 lessons, with the active phase starting on Lesson 50. The word "Assimil" comes from assimilation."


In among these excellent suggestions, may I offer a strong disrecommendation, if there is such a word. That is the Teach Yourself Get Started in Latin by G D A Sharpley.

Whilst purporting to teach Classical Latin, it is, bizarrely, set in a mediaeval monastery, and thus introduces words such as monasterium, monachus etc, words of little use for reading Caesar or Cicero! The attempts at humour - the mule being afraid of the woods and jealous of the horses - are heavy-handed, repetitive, and deeply unfunny to anyone above the age of 12, probably younger.

Apart from the anachronistic vocabulary, unlike "good" resources, it gives no sense or flavour of Roman life and civilisation. It's a mongrel, and one, IMHO, to be avoided at all costs!

  • 2
    That setting would make a lot of sense for Medieval Latin, but it is indeed so bizarre for teaching Classical Latin!
    – cmw
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 13:40
  • @cmw Exactly! If it was teaching Mediaeval /Ecclesiastical Latin, then the setting would be entirely appropriate. This is just a mess, and, I think, pedagogically unhelpful to beginners working alone.
    – TheHonRose
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 16:29

I have used the Cambridge Latin Course, which I think is very good and productive.

However, ultimately, if the student's goal is to learn to read Latin, I suggest reading what is interesting to the student. Historically speaking, far more youths (after 1000 AD) have learned Latin from the Ars Amatoria than any other single source.

I like reading Ritchie's Fabulae Faciles. This book is exquisitely constructed because the author has carefully included all the various idioms, constructions and vocabulary found in De Bello Gallico, so that after a student has completed FF, they are ready to read DBG. Of course, I only say this because I am an old man. If I was 13, I would be reading the AA, not FF.


I didn't see a specific answer for this, but if I missed it please let me know and I can edit this or convert it to a comment.

Wheelock's Latin is another great textbook and is available in physical and digital copies. Aside from taking you through all the necessities like declensions, conjugations, syntax, etc, it includes adapted and direct quotations from latin authors. You also get a lot of ancient Roman graffiti, which helps the reader humanize the original speakers of the language.

There are companion books that are helpful as well, such as 38 Latin stories and Scribblers, Sculptors, and Scribes for extra reading. If you use an Android or iOS device, there are apps for both platforms to help you review and study(Grammaticus for Android and Principium for iOS).

You can find recordings of the vocabulary in both Ecclesiastical and Classical pronunciation on the official Wheelock's Latin website.


I recommend reading very easy Latin books as many as possible, as fast as possible. My recommendation:

1st Read easy Latin books like Puer Zingiberi Panis, Fabulae Mirabiles, Musici Bremae, Lars Romam Odiit etc. Just keep reading these books, until you know at least 1,000 words and preferably about 1500 words.

You need to focus on (A) the small words, adjectives / prepositions / conjunctions, (B) the verb to be (sum, absum, possum etc) and (C) the 300 or so key verbs and their complexes. For example, you need know exactly the difference and meanings of afficio, conficio, deficio, efficio, inficio, proficio, reficio, etc. So, you need to make an exact study of (A), (B) and (C) until you have them all perfectly mastered.

2nd Read the easiest realistic Latin. That would be Fabiles Faciles, Fabulae Divales by Strang, Phraedrus' Fables, the Legenda Aurea, Biblia Vulgata, and De Viris Illustribus. Read these books thoroughly until you know at least 2,500 to 3,000 words. Keep track of the words you know, so you have a clear and accurate picture of your vocabulary.

3rd Read Caesar De Bello Gallico and Suetonius.

It takes about 8 hours for a fluent reader to ready all of De Bello Gallico. When you can start DBG in the morning and finish it by nightfall with no need for looking up a word and fully understanding it, then you are conversant in Latin and can move on to Cicero and consider yourself to know the language.

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