Francis Cairns Publications

Learning Latin. An Introductory Course for Adults

J.G. Randall, in collaboration with J.C.B. Foster and D.F. Kennedy

ISBN 978-0-905205-33-5. Paper, xviii+380pp. 1986.  UK £15 US $22.50

Latin is at the cultural and linguistic heart of Western Europe and the Americas. Learning Latin offers senior school and adult beginners access to this shared heritage.

John Randall, over two decades of teaching Latin to beginners at Lancaster University, developed techniques to encourage a rapid grasp of Latin sentence-construction without distortion of the natural Latin word-order. The Learning Latin course evolved from his teaching experience. He collaborated in the final stages of its development with two other experienced Latinists, Jonathan Foster and Duncan Kennedy, who gave the course further rigorous testing at Liverpool University.

The course uses only the real Latin of classical authors, both prose and poetry, right from the very first sentence: homo hic ebrius est, from the comic playwright Plautus. Where (minimal) adaptations have been made to the Latin, this is signalled and the original form given in an appendix.

The grammatical terminology is traditional, with the addition of two concepts from modern linguistics – 'kernelling' and 'metaphrasing'. The forms of nouns, adjectives, pronouns and verbs are listed in tables.

Learning Latin consists of 25 chapters, for each of which around two hours instruction is envisaged. Its aim is to enable students to make sure progress in the structure of the language, so that after completing the course they can handle Latin prose and simple Latin verse confidently with the aid of standard reference works.




1. Nominatives 14. Present Participles

2. Accusatives  15. Person Endings: The Imperfect System

3. Ablatives  16. Imperatives and Exclamations

4. Comparatives  17. Tenses: The Perfect System

5. Plurals and Deponent Verbs 18. Past and Future Participles

6. Datives  19. Supines and Defective Verbs

7. Gerunds and Gerundives  20. Person Endings: The Perfect System

S. Genitives  21. Conditional Clauses

9. Superlatives  22. Infinitives

10. Pronouns  23. Causal, Concessive and Temporal Clauses

11. Tenses: The Imperfect System  24. Questions

12. Impersonal Verbs  25. Qui and the Subjunctive Tables

13. Ut and the Subjunctive  

 Appendixes: A: authors and works; B: original form of adapted Latin passages; C: vocabulary for learning a note on pronunciation


The Classical Journal 84 (1989) 176-9 (Vincent J. Cleary): ''Many features of this text represent valuable improvements in the way Latin is taught, and the positive aspects of this book far outweigh any negative considerations. This text, whether adopted for classroom use or not, should lead teachers to examine and question the assumptions and goals of their methods in teaching the fundamentals of the Latin language.' As such, it is a most useful addition to the field and deserves consideration by all who wish to improve the way they teach Latin in their own classrooms."

JACT Review 1 (1987) 31-32 (John Carter): "... my own experience of using the course encourages me to persevere with it. ... My students are developing a proper grasp of the workings of syntax in an inflected language and can (on a good day) deal with bits of quite tricky Latin."

Greece and Rome 34 (1987) 84-5 (D.E. Hill): "by far the most original and radical elementary language text book that I have ever seen. ... No one who is contemplating the task of teaching Latin from scratch should make a final decision before examining this most exciting and challenging course."

Latomus 49 (1990) 305 (R. Desmed): "Au total, un ouvrage séduisant par certains côtés mais irritant par beaucoup d'autres."

A computer program (the Learning Latin Computer Package) designed to accompany Learning Latin is available. Using a wide range of Latin from classical authors, it exercises students in Latin grammar and in metaphrasing. LLCP runs on Pcs, but at present only in MS-DOS mode. A version to run in Windows is being planned.