Whether you want to supplement what you are learning in Latin class or you want to be an autodidact and teach yourself Latin, a good Latin textbook or two will be your best ally.
On this page, you’ll find some of my recommendations for Latin textbooks. While I prefer the natural method and take this immersion-based approach in my online Latin classes, I have also included resources that use the traditional grammar translation method, and many that use a hybrid of the two.
So, without further ado, here are some of the best resources for learning Latin that are available for purchase online.
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Best books for learning Latin
Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata: Familia Romana
This is the first part in a two-volume set of books that has been described by some as a work of pedagogical genius. Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata is the book that I use in my private online Latin classes.
It is perhaps the perfect example of a Latin textbook that uses the natural method of language acquisition. You will not find a single English word in the entire book. Instead of giving you lists of Latin vocabulary with an English glossary or an exhaustive course on Latin grammar, Lingua Latina lets you dive straight into reading Latin with simple sentences.
These sentences become progressively more complex as they narrate a story about a Roman family. Each chapter deals with certain grammar concepts and provides relevant exercises—all in Latin, of course.
Forum: Lectiones Latinitatis Vivae / Speaking Latin as a Living Language
Similar to Lingua Latina, this book also opts for natural language acquisition over grammar translation, but Forum: Lectiones Latinitatis Vivae uses the Polis method for this purpose.
One interesting aspect of this method is TPR or total physical response, which is helpful for beginners in a formal classroom setting to get familiar with some basic vocabulary and grammar structures by physically responding to simple commands.
The book comes with audio files that can be downloaded for free at the Polis Institute’s website.
Cambridge Latin Course Book 1
The first book in the Latin program developed by the Cambridge School Classics Project, this is a story-based approach to learning Latin which falls somewhere between a modern language immersion method and a traditional grammar-and-memorization method.
Book 1 of the Cambridge Latin Course is geared towards reading and understanding Latin texts, not speaking, although it does this in an enjoyable way compared to many other books.
Grammar-focused books for learning Latin
Reading Latin: Grammar and Exercises
This is one of three books from Cambridge University Press that I would recommend if you want to teach yourself Latin, the other two being Reading Latin: Text and Vocabulary and Reading Latin: An Independent Study Guide. Note that at least the Grammar and Vocabulary books are necessary for an effective learning program, with the third being a very useful, if optional, tool for autodidacts.
The Reading Latin approach is designed for mature beginners who wish to read the classics, and so it places a greater emphasis on reading than on speaking. Overall, the teaching method is somewhat more on the traditional side.
Latin to GCSE Part 1
From the name, it should come as no surprise that Latin to GCSE Part 1 is exactly the sort of text that you would expect to encounter in school. The authors’ goal with this series was to create a Latin textbook that was condensed enough to be manageable and did not skimp on grammar.
In the authors’ own words, “We do not apologize for the fact that it takes grammar seriously: grammatical understanding is essential for both progress in and enjoyment of Latin.”
This is the most traditional of all the resources listed here; it is the quintessential grammar-first Latin textbook. It can be a very useful tool because of all the grammar tables it contains in the back of the book, and it might be worth purchasing Wheelock’s Latin because of that resource alone. However, it is very old-fashioned in its approach to teaching Latin, and most students are not likely to make good progress if they rely on this as their main textbook. I would recommend using it in conjunction with another book or online class.