I have attended a few traditional masses in Latin. My proposal is to learn the language by reading the bilingual prayers and Bible readings. Since I can already read Spanish and French, I have been able to fill in most of the gaps. However, can I truly learn Latin this way without formally studying its vocabulary or grammar rules? What about more foreign languages like Sanskrit, Aramaic or Hittite?

I want to be able to open up any page in any book written in said dead language and at least get the general gist.

  • 1
    Learning to translate a language through (a lot of) sentence pairs is what neural machine translation does: it is taught neither vocabulary (although it probably could) nor grammar. Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 7:30
  • @MathieuBouville That is exactly how Latin is traditionally taught, though; through translation exercises. Wouldn't it be better to do a holistic reading and infer how the grammar works?
    – K Man
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 20:02
  • How smart are you? Do you have a photographic memory? Spanish and French don't have declensions. But they have verbs with different ending. Without memorizing the Latin declensions, there are many things that will pass you by. All languages are different, dead or alive. And all have their own particular difficulties. I find this question to be slightly naive yet demonstrating a lot of hubris. Dead languages are not video games.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 16:55

2 Answers 2


For Latin, there is a book called "Lingua Latina: Per Se Illustrata" (abbreviated as LLPSI) which takes an interesting approach on this. I think this is an approach worth looking into, but there are not many books out there that do something similar:

LLPSI uses exclusively Latin from the first page, and the sentences become gradually more complex both grammatically and lexically. They repeat the same grammatical structure a few times with the same grammatical cases and verb conjugation, and add a tiny new element (Krashen's i+1) each time. A few people I know have gone through sections of this book and learned certain grammatical items from it without ever being explained the rules.

Note: I'm not advertising this book, just using it as an example of a method that might work well in OP's situation.


Usually you learn any language by listening, speaking, reading, writing.

Also wanted to highlight that Sanskrit is not a dead language. By dead language, I assume that it is nobody really uses it actively.

I don't know about Latin and other languages, but Sanskrit is very much alive. The patronage decreased, but it seems to be making a comeback again.

Actually institutes like Samskrita Bharati recommend newcomers to start with a 10 day-spoken Sanskrit class just to demonstrate bust the myth that one needs to learn grammar first.

Reference: https://samskritabharati.in/

An example session https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d03uKp_OX18

Hope it helps.

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    There is no denying, though, that Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati and related languages are more alive than Sanskrit.
    – K Man
    Commented Jul 14, 2020 at 18:16

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