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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.

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    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. – Mathieu Bouville Oct 24 '19 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 Oct 24 '19 at 20:02
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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.

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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 grammer 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 Jul 14 at 18:16

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