Learn Church Latin for Free

{Update: Lots more info and good stuff @ www.learnchurchlatin.com } learnchurchlatin - Copy_________________________________________________________________

My basic philosophy of learning Church Latin is that your textbooks should be the prayers and texts of the Church. After all, If those prayers and texts are what you want to learn to understand, you should get started with them immediately! And thanks to the work of hundreds (thousands?) of people who get things scanned and uploaded onto the internet, so much good stuff for the Church Latin scholar is available for free, as soon as you’re ready!

Here are links to some of those good things to get you started today:

  • Pronunciation: The first thing to do is to learn the proper pronunciation of Church Latin. (Note: if you had Latin in High School, it was most likely ancient Roman Latin, which is pronounced differently–and generally uses a very different set of vocabulary words!) Here is a guide I made for my Sunday School students to get them started pronouncing syllables and words correctly from the first day: Church Latin Syllables. At the end of the second page are three well-known prayers in Latin for reading practice. You’ll surprise yourself on how well you do!
  • Prayers: After warming up with the pronunciation guide, learn to say and to chant the Pater Noster (Our Father) in Learn Church Latin for FreeLatin. Even more Catholic prayers with English and Latin versions together are here.
  • Basic Word List: Here is a short list of some of the most commonly used words in Church Latin found in liturgical texts. If you learn these words/forms right away you will have a big head start!
  • Scripture: Once you have memorized a few traditional prayers, begin a side-by-side comparison of the English translation of the Scriptures with the original Latin. The best way I have found to do this is with Madame Cecilia’s Catholic Scripture Manuals from the 1860s. These books
  • have the English translation of the books of the New Testament in larger print, with the Latin text (Vulgate) in the margins for easy comparison. Starting with the short Gospel of St. Mark, you are quickly on your way to understanding a lot of Latin–because you already know the English text so well.
  • The Guide: But, if you really feel more comfortable learning with textbooks, then the free online text of Fr. Edward Caswall’s The Catholic’s Latin Instructor is for you. (For those of you who prefer to purchase a paper copy, you can buy one here.) Fr. Caswall took the chants and texts of the Church, broke them into little pieces, and then translated them portion by portion, doing the hard work for you. All you will need to do is read and memorize!
  • Free Latin Textbook Series: Download and learn Latin with Fr. William Most’s Latin by the Natural Method: Vols. 1-3 are all linked here. (Review of first book here.)
  • Study tips, textbook reviews, and posts on all things Church Latin can be found here.
  • Lessons I’ve Written: Five free Latin lessons in a more traditional textbook-like format are here. I’m also currently (in 2018-19) working on a series of short lessons that get you reading and understanding Latin right away while praying Compline at night: those lessons are here.

Remarkably, I have noticed a renaissance of Latin in the local schools; more and more public and private schools are teaching Latin, both in High School and in college.  And even happier news is that more and more Catholics are embracing the beautiful Sacred Language of our tradition all the time. Of course, particularly amongst Catholic homeschoolers the need for good Church Latin materials is growing. (Just think of all those children who know Latin being all grown up in 15 years, and what they will then be bringing to the Church–Deo gratias!) Get ahead of the curve, and get started with your Latin studies today!

21 thoughts on “Learn Church Latin for Free

  1. In September of 1950 at the De La Salle Brothers juniorate or high school at Barrytown, NY, we began our study of four years of Latin. Second, third, and fourth year used excellent classical Latin textbooks as published by general American school publishers. The first year book, however, was a Church Latin textbook, published by the likes of Sadlier or Bruce. It was not Henle or DeFerrari. Nor was it made for seminarians, but rather for Catholic high schools, in an era when even Adventures in American Literature had a special Cardinal Newman edition for Catholics. Any guesses?

    • I’ve now started trying to look possible texts up, but I haven’t found anything you didn’t already mention so far. I’m so curious! I have a collection of vintage Latin texts, and whatever it is sounds like I must add it to my shelves!

    • Come on! Don’t keep me in suspense.
      I studied Latin at a De La Salle high school in England in 1954-1956, and then of course forgot most of it.
      Then I read an article by Jimmy Akin about reading the bible in the original languages, and that got me going. I am using Henle and Collins. But I would love to know the name of the Church Latin textbook you used.
      Sean Fennell

    • I discovered Fr. Most’s book on this site, and downloaded it right away because I was already familiar with his work.

      And I love the book.

      • That’s good! I’m glad it’s been helpful. I’ve been wondering if you good folks from Europe and Australia/NZ would find Fr. Most’s works helpful. So it’s not too obnoxious with American references: Columbus, George Washington, etc.?

      • How did you know I lived in Europe? I am Irish, but I lived in the USA for 17 years. I don’t mind the American references too much (it is, after all, an American book written by an American priest for American students) but what does bug me is the layout of the cases of the tenses. They ought to read Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, and Ablative as God intended.

      • First year of college Latin I used an American text, with the American ordering. Second year we used Cambridge with the British ordering, and it was so hard to mentally swap. I have recently obtained “Learn Latin from the Romans” which, although by an Englishwoman, includes every noun/adjective chart twice, to cover both conventions. It takes up a lot of space on the pages to do it that way, but it keeps everyone sane I think!

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