Teaching myself Latin

Most of what I know about mankind’s accumulated knowledge I’ve learned through translation. As scholarship has become politicized, one would be foolish to continue trusting the translators or their translations. Why not read the original and cut out the middleman? Besides, learning Latin is fun!

One of the first things I tried was an app. Apps have the advantage over traditional self-taught methods by providing spoken pronunciations. Some apps can even review your own pronunciation. Among the apps I investigated, Duolingo stood out. First, it offers Latin which many language apps do not, including their chief rival Babbel. Second, it presents the material as an interactive game. Third, it’s free.

Fun at first, Duolingo quickly became one of the worst user experiences I’ve ever had. Although free, their business model is intended to get the user to upgrade to the “pro” version which has a monthly subscription fee. For example, if you make several errors playing their “game,” the app freezes you out for 24 hours. You can unfreeze the app by buying “power-ups” to negate the errors, or agree to watch a number of commercials. Of course, you can force the app to disregard all errors if you upgrade to the pro version.

This resulted in a horrible user experience where I focused on managing the game instead of learning Latin. An app designed to make me fail; just what I need to learn Latin. 

What I’m using now is Cambridge Latin Course, 4th edition. It provides a lot of learner-level stories based on articles about Roman life, culture, and history. Seems very natural to me. The reviews and quizzes provide a great resource for autodidacts.

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