Starting our studies after the winter break always requires an extra measure of grace. Having time off for the holidays is nice, but it doesn’t always feel as restful as the summer break. Additionally, the material generally gets more difficult as you continue to the second semester of study in a subject. It can be hard to love learning when the work is over your head.
I sat down with Andy, and we reminisced about what helped us get through the winter season of our studies, where things seemed dead, and like you’ll never see fruit again. Don’t fear! We’ve been there many times before, and we are still talking about loving learning Latin! So here are our tips for reigniting that joy or starting it in the first place if it was never there! I even have a new freebie to spark a little bit of joy in your Latin studies, so make sure to read to the end!
1. Stop putting a number grade on your work.
Seriously. Stop putting a number grade on your work. Latin holds an exponential amount of ways you can go wrong, and feeling like you’re a failure will halt learning every time.
Do check your work. It won’t help if you never know if you’re right, so you can’t throw the answer key away completely. Get the answer key out while you’re working. Check your answers immediately to see if you are heading in the right direction.
If that still doesn’t help, lean into the answer key even more. If you’re translating, defend the answer key. Why did the answer key choose that translation? Why did they use that ending? Figuring out how they got the answer is an intermediate step between where you are and where you want to be. You’re still learning! That’s the goal.
As you become more familiar with what the answers look like, you’ll start making fewer mistakes. Success feels good, and you’ll enjoy what you’re doing more when you feel like it’s possible.
2. Focus on vocabulary.
Latin gets more difficult the second semester because the volume of vocabulary reaches an overwhelming amount. When you’re not familiar with the vocabulary, the exercises take longer. When the exercises take longer, you don’t want to do Latin! And it just doesn’t stop coming!
Andy and I have gathered ten games you can play with vocabulary to keep the learning fun. There are several you can play with flashcards. You can make flashcards or download and print the Latin with Andy flashcards (included in the Latin with Andy membership).
3. Watch some Minecraft Vocab Videos.
We’ve had so much fun connecting our love of Latin to our passion for mining and crafting while making fun resources to help others learn their Latin vocabulary. Have you watched some of our Latin Vocab + Minecraft videos?
These light-hearted and wholesome videos take something that can be intimidating and turn it into an inspiring and enjoyable task. A hidden metaphor develops in these videos: you know how to work hard and build something on Minecraft; Latin is just the same.
When Minecrafters “grind” gathering resources, they will spend hours on mundane tasks because they know they’re going to use those materials to build something unique. Learning a new language works the same way. You put in the time doing things that aren’t glamorous, quick, or easy, and in return, you gain the capability to create something beautiful.
If you’ve never played Minecraft before, you’re really missing out. My youngest finally talked me into joining her a couple of years ago, and we’ve built more than dirt houses in this silly little game: we’ve built relationships. But I digress.
4. Go back to where it was easy.
Speaking of digress, did you know its meaning comes from the Latin “dis,” meaning step aside, and “gradi,” meaning to walk? My side story about learning Minecraft took the conversation in a different direction.
As you’re trekking along in Latin, you’re often doing just fine until you’re not. All of a sudden, you look up, and you have no idea what you’re doing anymore!
If you find yourself in this position, you’ve digressed! All you need to do is go back to where you remember tracking with the lessons and start working from there again. Backtracking can feel frustrating, but if your goal is to learn Latin, it shouldn’t matter where you are in the book or how many times you’ve got to repeat a lesson. To truly learn it, you’ve got to master the concept before moving on to a new one.
Celebrate the opportunity to return to more straightforward concepts knowing that when you get to the problematic section again the next time, you’ll be better prepared to tackle the lessons!
If you feel in over your head, you should go back to some grammar basics. Andy’s Code Breakers course is a great place to refresh the basics.
5. Create a chart copying challenge.
Another critical piece of information that can make or break your Latin studies is how well you know the paradigms, including the noun declension and verb conjugation forms. Without this grammar memorized, you won’t make it far in Latin.
Therefore, there need to be incentives. What will motivate you to start copying charts? A movie night? A special treat? Cold hard cash?
Seriously, if your student is struggling miserably in Latin, what would you pay to help them overcome it?
Last year I incentivized my daughter’s math studies, but I did it with a sneaky twist. For every lesson she got done ahead of schedule, she’d earn $2. While that doesn’t sound like much money, keep in mind that she was pretty far off the pace we’d agreed on at the first of the year, so she had the potential to earn a pretty penny.
The twist was that if she fell behind again, she’d owe me $2 per lesson. Suddenly the urgency hit to get her tasks done on time or early. Ultimately, she learned that she could do more than she imagined if she put her mind to it, and she donated the money she earned to a good cause. Win-win!
Don’t leave them out in the cold all alone.
This might be a good time to mention that learning Latin is extremely difficult. I know you already know this because if you’ve read this far, you’re experiencing the gap between what you need to do and what you feel capable of doing.
Parents, join your student in the pain. While you may never become a Latin scholar, but you can copy a chart. Maybe your incentive becomes a challenge in who can copy more charts! You never know. You might learn something along the way that will help you overcome the learning speed bump and get back on the path to success!
Either way, there is comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Find what motivates your student to learn and lean into that.
6. Dig into Roman History
The Henle textbooks are designed to teach you the Latin necessary to read Caesar’s military journals. If you’re unfamiliar with Roman history, some of the scenarios you’re translating can be odd. Why are there bodies in the river? What were all of these guys doing reconnoitering?
Eventually, you start translating from the original source in the second Henle book. The translation work feels nearly impossible when you don’t know what’s happening.
Andy created a fun sum-up of Caesar’s Helvetian Drive to the West that you can watch on YouTube:
Digging into Roman history in English made translating recollections of Roman history in Latin more approachable. We loved Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul for this reason. Reading through it helped us understand what was happening so we could translate.
7. Take the National Latin Exam.
Maybe you need a different goal for a little bit to help you push through your Latin studies. The National Latin Exam offers a great opportunity to practice taking standardized, timed tests while also encouraging you in your progress in your Latin studies over the year.
Andy has some great tips for preparing for the National Latin Exam along with a great list of resources he used to study. My girls didn’t thrive in this test, so it’s not for everyone, but it’s a great option if you have a student that is motivated by a challenge like this.
8. Step away from Ceasar.
Sometimes you need to take a breather from all of the war that Caesar brings to your Latin studies. The good news is that there are so many fun options for playing with Latin apart from Caesar’s writings.
Another excellent source text to learn from is the Vulgate. Nat Bowditch learned Latin with just a Bible and a Latin grammar; you can study this way too!
Using parallel versions of the text is a great place to start in the Vulgate. I’ve created two guides to walk students through beginning to observe the language in this way:
One of my favorite resources Andy created was his guide to translating the book of Jonah.
I used this in my Challenge II class as our devotional and as a way to integrate our Latin studies. Andy gives you so much help in translating his simplified version of the original text with footnotes and explanations of tricky grammatical situations.
9. Read Latin stories from other Latin fans.
While original texts are great to learn from, there’s something amusing in reading familiar stories rewritten in Latin just because they could. You know, someone must be a huge Latin fan if they’re willing to translate a favorite story into a foreign language!
So many Latin scholars have taken the time to translate some of your favorite children’s books into Latin, which makes them so much fun. These are some of our favorites:
- Cattus Petasatus: The Cat in the Hat in Latin (Latin Edition)
- Ubi Fera Sunt: Where the Wild Things Are
- Olivia: The Essential Latin Edition
- Fairy Tales in Latin: Fabulae Mirabiles
- Winnie Ille Pu (Latin Edition)
- Hobbitus Ille: The Latin Hobbit
Or you could read Andy’s story he wrote in Latin!
Maxima Vipera by Andy Strauss
The story is an adventure tale about a brave soldier, an ancient beast, and a deadly battle. There are four short chapters, and it would be great for students who have made it through most of Henle’s Second Year Latin.
10. Try some Latin puzzle pages.
If you need a lifeline to keep Latin fun, try some Latin word puzzles that Andy and I created. The free download includes the following:
- A couple of Latin Word searches
- A Crossword puzzle
- A fun Latin code breaker
- Some challenging anagrams
- And a Roman Numeral sudoku puzzle
Try some fun activities and take some of the intensity associated with Latin studies down a notch. You’re running a marathon, not a sprint. It’s okay to take it a little slowly.
What are some of your favorite ways to breathe new life into your Latin studies?
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.