A desire has been growing in me for some time now to pick up a little Latin. And now with the spring semester at a close, I jumped at the chance to browse some beginning Latin books at the library.
The one I took home with me is “Teach Yourself Beginner’s Latin.” It starts out very basic and has you reading simple Latin from the first chapter. (By “simple” I mean “Dick and Jane” level, but far more interesting, as it discusses the antics of a monk and his mule in the woods.) Despite its simplicity, the feeling of accomplishment is satisfying. Mulus equos non amat. “The mule does not like the horses.” The book jumps right in with declensions (nominative, accusative, and ablative) but, curiously, reserves introducing gender for a few chapters later. So far, it feels comfortingly similar, yet intriguingly different, from my previous studies of French, Spanish, and Italian.
Once I gain some basic reading ability, I will want something to read. That is, something within a beginner’s reach, which probably rules out Tacitus.
My local library contains, to my surprise, two children’s books that have been translated into Latin: Tela Charlottae (Charlotte’s Web) and Winnie Ills Pu (Winnie the Pooh). The former is in juvenile non-fiction, while the latter is in adult non-fiction, due either to inconsistency or some guideline I have not yet grasped. The Library School won’t let me take Cataloguing to find out, until I take some required database class this fall! The non-fiction designation alone puzzled me, until I realized that these books are next to annotated or scholarly versions of various children’s (fiction) literature, so I guess a translation is similar in spirit.
There are also some good pointers to online materials for beginning Latin readers. This list led me to a delightful 1933 text called Cornelia, which is designed with a progressive vocabulary that makes a point of encouraging you to learn words by context as they are encountered. From the Author’s “Foreward to Pupils”:
Salvete, discipuli. This is the story of a little American girl named Cornelia. Her life was different from yours, but not very different. You will readily understand the things that she did. I hope that you will like her and that you will enjoy the adventure of finding out about her in a language that is not your own. Valete, discipuli.