Learn Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Classical Greek & Other Ancient Languages in 10 Lessons

Germania-tacitusI receive week­ly reminders of my lin­guis­tic igno­rance when­ev­er I read any­thing by authors flu­ent in Latin. How could I not, when­ev­er Clive James starts to pon­tif­i­cate on the great­ness of, say, Tac­i­tus?

“For stu­dents acquir­ing Latin in adult life, the lan­guage is most eas­i­ly approached through those his­to­ri­ans who real­ly wrote chron­i­cles — Cor­nelius Nepos, Sal­lust, Sue­to­nius and Livy — but with the His­to­ries of Tac­i­tus you get the best rea­son for approach­ing it at all… What Sainte-Beuve said of Mon­taigne — that his prose is like one con­tin­u­ous epi­gram — is even more true of Tac­i­tus.”

Fan­tas­tic! So, which trans­la­tion should I read?

“There are innu­mer­able trans­la­tions but the orig­i­nal gives you [Tac­i­tus]’ unri­valled pow­ers of com­pres­sion.”

As with Latin clas­sics, so with oth­er Indo-Euro­pean lan­guage texts, includ­ing Beowulf, orig­i­nal­ly in Old Eng­lish, Homer’s Ili­ad and Odyssey, in Clas­si­cal Greek, and the ancient Vedic hymns of the Rigve­da, in San­skrit.

For those will­ing to take up the chal­lenge of read­ing these canon­ic texts in their orig­i­nal form, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas’ Lin­guis­tics Research Cen­ter pro­vides an excel­lent resource. In addi­tion to host­ing a mul­ti­tude of Indo-Euro­pean vol­umes in their entire­ty, the LRC has made 10-les­son crash cours­es, devel­oped by sev­er­al UT-Austin aca­d­e­mics. Lessons include a brief guide to the alpha­bet, back­ground knowl­edge on the lan­guage’s devel­op­ment, and a gram­mar guide, all  avail­able for the fol­low­ing lan­guages:

Best of all, lessons are based on sem­i­nal texts from each lan­guage: Latin lessons rely on Tac­i­tus’ Ger­ma­nia, Livy’s His­to­ry of Rome, and Virgil’s Aeneid, while Homer, Hesiod’s Works and Days, and Plato’s Repub­lic fea­ture promi­nent­ly in the Clas­si­cal Greek class­es. Stu­dents progress through each les­son by read­ing the orig­i­nal pas­sages, and using the pro­vid­ed guides to trans­late them to Eng­lish.

We’ll be adding these to our grow­ing list of Free Lan­guage Lessons (and our list of Free Online Cours­es), where you can learn over 46 lan­guages, from Ara­bic to Yid­dish.

Note: These links will direct you to pages for­mat­ted in Uni­code 2. If you’re hav­ing trou­ble read­ing the texts, head to the Ear­ly Indo-Euro­pean Online lessons site and choose a dif­fer­ent encod­ing in the side­bar.

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Shake­speare Sound­ed Like to Shake­speare: Recon­struct­ing the Bard’s Orig­i­nal Pro­nun­ci­a­tion

What Ancient Greek Music Sound­ed Like: Hear a Recon­struc­tion That is ‘100% Accu­rate’

Hear Homer’s Ili­ad Read in the Orig­i­nal Ancient Greek

Hear The Epic of Gil­gamesh Read in the Orig­i­nal Akka­di­an, the Lan­guage of Mesopotamia

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Comments (21)
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  • Laura Gibbs says:

    For any­one seek­ing to learn Latin, I high­ly rec­om­mend Evan Mill­ner’s Lat­inum series at YouTube:

  • Michelle says:

    Lau­ra, do you know any good video or web­site for Ancient Greek?

  • Pasha Yerbanaut says:

    Thanks, that’s great stuff. Does any­body know a good San­skrit dic­tio­nary?

  • athaler says:

    Pasha, it depends on what your needs are.

    For user-friend­li­ness for some­one com­ing from one of the oth­er clas­si­cal Euro­pean lan­guages, I’d go with Monier-Williams. Mac­don­nell is also not bad, but it makes you think a lit­tle hard­er (pre­fixed verbs, for instance, are defined under the unpre­fixed, root form of the verb).

    Scans of both are avail­able here: http://www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de/

    Once you’ve got­ten the hang of where you’ll need to look up words, though, Apte is real­ly excel­lent. I don’t know per­son­al­ly of a scanned ver­sion online, but this was what I used when I was read­ing reg­u­lar­ly (alas, those days are gone): http://www.aa.tufs.ac.jp/~tjun/sktdic/

  • athaler says:

    Michelle, these texts have the draw­back of being some­times a lit­tle thick to get through at first read­ing, but Tex­tk­it (http://www.textkit.com/) has pulled togeth­er many pub­lic-domain gram­mars and ele­men­tary meth­ods of both Ancient Greek and Latin.

  • Victoria says:

    It’s a pity, that old Syr­i­ac is not in the list.

  • I’m very inter­est­ed in learn­ing old lan­guages.

  • David McClung says:

    I am very inter­est­ed in gain­ing a lev­el of under­stand­ing and pro­fi­cien­cy in Old Eng­lish because much of my cur­rent self research is based on the Anglo-Sax­on peri­od from the time of Alfred the Great through Athel­stan. I would like to know about the course online at it’s asso­ci­at­ed costs. Thank You.

  • OBINNA says:


  • Gouri Chatterjee says:

    I am extreme­ly inter­est­ed in enrolling in cer­ti­fied online course on San­skrit. Could you please guide me as to details of San­skrit course offered through
    (i) Open cul­ture
    (ii) Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Lin­guis­tic Cen­tre

    Many thanks for your help and reply in advance.
    Gouri Chat­ter­jee
    Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

  • Ahmad says:

    Hi and thanks for your great arti­cle.
    I was look­ing up the mean­ing of “infi­nite” in ancient lan­guages but was­n’t so suc­cess­ful duo to lack of resources and dictionarues.can you tell me the trans­la­tion of “infi­nite” in all the ancient lan­guages if pos­si­ble?
    If you’re a read­er, please tell me the trans­la­tion of “infi­nite” in ancient lan­guages if you know.

  • salar says:

    Persian.…that’s like a riv­er and a very very very epic one i love that per­sian is one of the impot­nant fam­mi­ly mem­bers of old lan­guages

  • Adekunle sulaiman says:

    I love latin lan­guage

  • Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Reyes says:

    I am inter­est­ed in Ancient Lan­guage and spe­cial Latin Corse

  • Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Reyes says:

    I am Inter­est­ed in Ancient Lan­guage and Spe­cial Latin

  • Ethan Raymiah says:

    I real­ly love latin

  • Rosemeire Castilho says:

    Please, I’d like to improve my Eng­lish. This course os Free? Anx­ious wait­ing tour answer

  • Marcos Mendoza says:

    I would appre­ci­ate a sim­ple trans­la­tion of this : Nas­si­co abou. .…it is extreme­ly impor­tant to me. Please some­body help me with that.

  • Rahul says:

    Just want­ed to add that openpathshala.com has many cours­es on San­skrit — video as well as Skype class­es.

  • Milena Velasquez ramos says:

    Hola me gus­taría apren­der latín

  • ramakrishna says:

    ‘infi­nite’ means that which has no end or ‘anan­ta’ (an+anta(means ‘un-end­ing’) in San­skrit

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