Best Online Latin Classes for All Your Dark Academia Dreams

Best Online Latin Classes for All Your Dark Academia Dreams

Salve et grata discipuli! Latin may be a dead language, but thanks to the Roman Empire, its effects are still seen in many modern languages. It is estimated that about 1 billion people speak a Romance language as their first language (to say nothing of second language learners). Despite the Norse and Germanic roots of English, it also has Latin to thank for many words and grammatical principles.

While learning Latin used to be the staple of a well-rounded curriculum and the sign of a highly tutored mind, it has become almost a relic in recent decades. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a public school in the US with Latin on the schedule, though it occasionally pops up as an elective. Private, particularly religious, high schools may offer the class, but the majority of students are only exposed to Latin through other Romance languages like French, Spanish, and Italian, or through the occasional Latin motto of various institutions. Even in higher education, Latin has been all but abandoned.

Latin was an almost universal scholarly language in the West that could be used to share research among scholars from different countries, and indeed it has other benefits even to those who aren’t on the tenure track. In this article, we’ll look at eight online Latin courses that can help you fill in the gaps of your education, and we’ll consider how Latin can benefit students even today.

Orientation

If you already have your heart set on learning Latin, you probably have some idea of why you’d like to learn and how you’d like to learn it. Here are some ways we’ll be evaluating the courses on our list to help you choose the correct one.

Course Goals

You may be approaching Latin studies for a completely different reason than the person next to you. Language instructors who teach Romance languages or even English may like to enrich their knowledge of Latin to gain a better understanding of how it influences their language of specialty. In this case, looking for a good balance of fun words and phrases that you can pass on to your students, as well as some grammar and structure information, will likely be the best fit.

Academics looking to read classic texts on literature, philosophy, and religion in Latin will probably want a more rigorous course that helps students understand the nuance of the language to be able to translate the meaning of the text more accurately.

Younger students may also take Latin to fulfill a language requirement in their school curriculum. If their school doesn’t offer Latin, or they are homeschooled, they may get permission to take online Latin courses instead.

There is also nothing wrong with hobby learning. Perhaps you’re a fan of The Secret History and the dark academia aesthetic and see Latin as a way to romanticize your life. You may enjoy the act of studying and learning or even enjoy taking personal notes in Latin to keep them truly private. Learning can and should be a passionate endeavor, so if you have the desire to learn Latin, you should, even if it doesn’t practically relate to your job.

If you have a passion for languages and want a new challenge, then learning Latin is also a great way to keep your brain spry. Learning new things, like languages, could potentially help stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia, after all. For hobby learners, focusing on the academic uses of Latin and the complex grammatical structures may not be as beneficial, but focusing on having fun and learning more vocabulary with a light emphasis on structure might be more what you’re looking for.

Level

Most English speakers know at least a little bit of Latin, and if you speak a Romance language, you probably know more than you think. However, Latin is tricky and has its own complex structures. Most people will be approaching the language as a beginner, and there are plenty of online Latin courses designed just for such students.

However, if you did attend a school or university that taught some introductory-level Latin, you might already have a grasp on some of the basic vocabulary and sentence structure you need. In that case, we have some recommendations for more advanced courses that will take you further on your journey of more fluent understanding.

Keeping those things in mind, here are eight online Latin classes that can help you on your journey into the past.

Top 8 Best Online Latin Classes 2021


1. Most Comprehensive Latin Class: Ancient Languages: Beginner Latin

  • 23 hours $850 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Best For: Language Teachers and Academics

Why we like it

The academic style of this class, combined with its highly tuned curriculum, makes it one of the best Latin classes available online.

Course Review

Ancient Languages specializes in just that — languages that aren’t spoken by modern people anymore. Their beginner Latin course is structured over the course of 15 weeks, with live online classes. The class comes with textbooks and will feel very familiar to anyone who has attended a US college.

Unlike many Latin classes, this course gets the words off the page with an emphasis on speaking. In this first-level course, students get a firm grasp on the complex Latin grammar system, all while learning over 1800 vocabulary words and practicing reading, comprehension, and speaking.

This class is ambitious in its goals and vigorous, but it is still fun for beginners. Ancient Languages also offers higher-level Latin courses going all the way up to the expert level, in which only Latin is spoken in class.

Who It’s For

If you enjoy structured, academic-style classes, then you will likely enjoy the straightforward collegiate style of this course. The classes meet each week for an hour and a half with readings and exercises for students to complete in between.

However, this is also the main downside: students must commit to meeting with their class online at a designated time every week and spend additional hours on the assignments. If you are looking for something more flexible to fit into a busy schedule, you may prefer a course like the one available from the University of Texas.

While less expensive than your average college course, this isn’t a very budget-friendly option, but it will give you one of the best Latin classes available online. The emphasis on speaking what is typically considered a dead language makes it feel more natural and gives students greater fluency overall, even when it comes to reading comprehension.

Pros

  • Includes course textbooks
  • Emphasizes speaking skills
  • Comprehensive grammar study
  • Rigorous, yet fun

Cons

  • Requires the ability to meet at class times
  • More expensive than other options


2. Best Academic Latin Class: Wheelock’s Latin: Chapters 1-15 Lectures

  • 15 hours $30 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Best For: Academics, Students

Why we like it

This course brings one of the most widely respected texts for Latin learning to life.

Course Review

If you have ever taken a Latin class, you are probably familiar with Wheelock’s Latin. First published in 1956, this book has become a staple of academic Latin. The book is geared towards beginners and takes passages straight from ancient texts, which allows students to practice reading and translation from the start. It also contains cultural information about Ancient Rome and conversational phrases for speaking practice.

In this course, the instructor walks students through the first 15 chapters of the Latin textbook. Meant to be used as a companion to this book, it offers opportunities to practice, with audio and video lessons on demand. It doesn’t provide the answers to the questions in the book but rather provides guidance and insight into the challenging lessons.

The teacher for this class is a retired Classics professor who brings years of experience as someone who both studied and taught Latin for many years. Pronunciation help, tips, and exercises enable students to grasp challenging concepts. He focuses a lot on explaining especially difficult grammatical concepts and provides review worksheets for students who want more practice.

Who It’s For

Those in an academic setting who must tackle Wheelock’s Latin may find this course to be a lifesaver. If you need more practice and opportunities to listen to examples and hear Latin spoken aloud, this can help you learn best.

For homeschoolers or those embarking on an independent study of Latin with no in-person instructor to help them, this course can mimic the classroom experience, perhaps with an even more experienced teacher than you might otherwise have access to. Of course, you need to have a copy of the text to fully benefit from and follow the instruction.

Since this only covers the first 15 chapters, you may also need to purchase additional classes to help you continue your studies in the rest of the book (which the same instructor does offer). Unlike an in-person class, you won’t have any interaction with the teacher or other students in this course, as there is no provision made for that, unfortunately.

Pros

  • Provides guidance for self-guided study or extra help
  • Uses Wheelock’s Latin as its base
  • Has flexible schedule and pacing
  • Experienced instructor with valuable tips

Cons

  • Must be using Wheelock’s Latin to benefit
  • No interaction with teacher or other students
  • To complete the book, additional courses must be purchased


3. Best Budget Latin Class: Duolingo’s Latin for English Speakers

  • Flexible Free Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Best For: Hobby Learners, Students

Why we like it

One of the leading language learning apps, Duolingo uses its classic game-like structure to teach Latin in a natural, conversational way.

Course Review

Nearly anyone looking to independently learn a language has encountered Duolingo. Their app makes it easy for you to practice in short bursts on any device, making it ideal to squeeze in a lesson whenever you have a spare moment.

The app is structured like a game in which you try to maintain streaks, earn points, and can accept challenges from an encouraging (though sometimes slightly pushy) coach, embodied by an owl. The Latin course of Duolingo is structured like any of their classes. Students start with basic nouns and verbs, greetings, and other practical phrases.

This is a very different tact than most Latin classes that emphasize complicated grammar structures from the outset. In Duolingo’s class, grammar concepts are gradually introduced, first by showing you sample sentences that use this grammatical rule. Uniquely, Latin is taught like a living language on this app.

Who It’s For

Anyone can enjoy the mental exercise or practical benefits of language learning with Duolingo, thanks to its free base plan and bite-sized lessons. This makes it an ideal way for hobby learners or anyone looking to get a taste of Latin before committing to a more intensive study of the language.

Of course, if you’re looking for a stronger emphasis on grammar from the outset and more examples pulled from actual Latin texts, you may not enjoy Duolingo’s casual, natural speech style of teaching. It also doesn’t go beyond the present tense, making this only suited for true beginners. Duolingo gives learners a collection of vocabulary and lets them get familiar with Latin syntax but doesn’t go much further. To understand slightly more advanced grammar, it may be valuable to pair this course with one that makes those foundations its emphasis, like this class.

It’s interesting to note that since Duolingo provides audio for each lesson, usually with native speakers of the target language pronouncing vocabulary for students, they face a unique challenge with Latin. Since there are no native speakers of Latin, it sounds like the company hired people who speak a variety of Romance languages. Perhaps because of this, there are slight inconsistencies in pronunciation and in the sound quality of these recordings.

Pros

  • Flexible commitment
  • Natural, game-like style of lessons
  • Syntax and grammar are introduced by examples
  • App tracks progress on any device you choose

Cons

  • Little emphasis on grammatical concepts
  • Only has lessons in the present tense
  • Inconsistencies in audio recordings


4. Best Contextual Latin Class: Open Learn: Getting Started on Classical Latin

  • 10 hours Free Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Best For: Hobby Learners, Language Teachers

Why we like it

This class combines cultural and historical information with language basics.

Course Review

Offered by Open Learn (The Open University), this free class focuses on Classical Latin for new students. It puts a great deal of emphasis on the links between modern English and Latin, as well as diving into how to pronounce Latin words. Indeed, the course shows you how context clues and different spellings give us a pretty good idea of how Classical Latin would have been pronounced in the first century.

Unlike some courses that simply dive into teaching the language basics, this class spends one of the first units contextualizing the history of Latin, how it spread throughout Europe, and how it had an influence on English. Only midway through the course does it shift focus to the nuts and bolts of grammar. In this brief course, all the essential parts of speech, as well as sentence structure and word order, are tackled.

The grammar information provides a foundation for the final lesson of the class on reading. At this point, students have the opportunity to practice reading and identifying the cases within Latin. Students discover how these inflective cases, specifically nominative and accusative, affect sentence meaning.

Who It’s For

If you have a love of learning and want a low-commitment course that helps you better understand how Latin became such an important base language, you’ll enjoy this class from Open Learn. While brief, this class helps students feel more confident when approaching Latin thanks to the time it spends showing you how many words you already know due to their English equivalents used to this day.

For language teachers, this class could also be a resource to share with your students. The self-directed learning style is ideal for independent study time. Of course, the class is mainly reading-based. While there are some interactive quizzes and links to pronunciation guides, there are audio recordings (with the expectation of a linked page with some clickable sounds) or videos. Students who prefer listening or being guided by an instructor may not enjoy this style of learning.

The grammar section of the course mainly focuses on showing examples of parts of speech in English rather than showing comparable Latin words and sentences. This helps bone up your understanding of grammar concepts but does little to teach you any actual Latin in this section, which seems like an oversight.

Overall, this is largely a theoretical course that may be interesting for people looking for the mental exercise of learning something new. Or this could be a fun interactive resource for English teachers. Contrasting Latin grammar and sentence structure could help students better understand the functions of English. Serious Latin students would do better with a class like Latin Online that spends more time teaching a wider range of vocabulary and declensions.

Pros

  • Widely accessible and free
  • Teaches historical context
  • Helps learners understand grammatical concepts
  • Interactive quizzes and exercises

Cons

  • Few practical Latin examples
  • Little practice reading real Latin passages
  • No audio or video instruction


5. Best Grammatical Latin Course: An Introduction to Classical Latin

  • 5 hours $30 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Best For: Academics

Why we like it

A heavy emphasis on grammar makes this ideal for someone wanting to better grasp the structure of Latin.

Course Review

Latin grammar is often extremely challenging for students since it uses complex rules and inflections that don’t exist in English or were simplified centuries ago. This course methodically tackles the foundational grammar that a learner needs to understand, translate, and express thought in Latin.

Broken up into 20 lessons, each section contains one or more related grammatical principles such as third declension nouns or reflexive possessive adjectives. Through slides and lecture content, the instructor explains how these function, particularly when compared to similar functions in English. He highlights the etymology of words we use in English that come from Latin to help build some basic vocabulary skills as well.

You can take the class at your own pace, but interspersed throughout are self-exam questions to benchmark your progress. The course also comes with downloadable resources to review material and practice vocabulary from each section.

Who It’s For

For people looking to strengthen their Latin skills to better read and translate classic literature, having sharp grammar skills is essential. This course really digs into the different structures found within Latin and the functions of various parts of speech.

Most of the information is presented via slides that contain a lot of information, sometimes too much for a single slide. The instructor isn’t the most polished or experienced, and there are some audio issues, but the slides are full of information, which you can easily read yourself even if you don’t enjoy listening to the lectures.

This class is more geared toward students who already have some background in Latin. There isn’t a lot of emphasis on vocabulary or many classical text examples, which may make this hard to follow for new learners. But for those who need a refresher or a follow-up course that puts grammar first, it could be valuable.

For those who aren’t keen on dense information may want to try this course instead as it provides a more elementary introduction.

Pros

  • Self-paced learning
  • Progress quizzes
  • Heavy emphasis on grammar and structure

Cons

  • Not much vocabulary
  • Lacks some polish
  • Informative but overly crowded slides


6. Best Latin Class for Younger Learners: CLRC: Online Latin Program

  • 1 semester $200-400 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
  • Best For: Students

Why we like it

If your homeschooled child is interested in Latin, or you simply want to introduce them to the language, this is one of the best available programs.

Course Review

Designed for homeschooling, the Classical Learning Resource Center offers online classes on a variety of subjects for elementary, middle, and high school students. Along with classes in Greek (Classical and Modern), Fine Arts, Economics, and Christianity, and many more, the school offers a Latin curriculum for students of any age.

Classes are taught in real-time, following a standard US academic calendar. Just as the case for in-person schooling, students get to interact with their teacher and classmates, complete homework, take tests and do projects. There is even a vocabulary competition at the end of the year for students to show off their skills.

The classes are designed to be age-appropriate. Elementary students focus on vocabulary and learn songs and poems to practice with, but at higher levels and for older students, the course becomes more rigorous. Ancient texts and modern textbooks are used to give a well-rounded learning experience to students. AP level Latin courses and private tutoring in Latin are also available through CLRC.

Who It’s For

Unlike most of the classes on our list, this course isn’t for adult learners. For a more academically structured Latin class for adults, check out Ancient Languages’ Latin course instead. This is specifically for homeschooled students as a way of enriching their curriculum with interactive language classes. This means it’s great for students who thrive in a more interactive learning environment.

Of course, since all classes are held with the instructor and the rest of the class, that means you have to be able to commit to specific times. All class schedules are organized on Pacific time, which could be tricky for students in other time zones.

While this course is not as expensive as some, it’s important to consider that it is a continuous expense every semester if you would like your child to keep moving forward in their language studies. Depending on the other expenses of your child’s homeschooling, that could be financially difficult for some families.

Pros

  • Especially designed for homeschooled students
  • Age- and level-appropriate course content
  • Interactive classroom experience

Cons

  • No options for adult learners
  • Class schedule organized on Pacific time zone
  • Continuous costs each semester


7. Best Class for Latin Reading Skills: University of Texas at Austin: Latin Online

  • Flexible Free Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Best For: Academics, Hobby Learners

Why we like it

This is an excellent class that both hobbyists and would-be professionals can enjoy with some great bonus information.

Course Review

The Linguistics Research Center at the University of Texas has a simple but ambitious goal: keep dead languages alive. With that in mind, they offer free reading courses in a number of dead languages, including Latin. This online course feels like a textbook, with lengthy explanations of concepts and careful analyses of sample texts.

Tables help students visualize verb forms and noun declensions alongside passages from ancient texts that use these grammatical functions. The class really emphasizes the use of original texts rather than creating Latin phrases for you to practice with, making this a bit of a crash course in classic literature as well.

This class is divided into 10 lessons, gradually building vocabulary, grammar, and translation skills as you go. Links to online resources appear throughout the lessons. Students also have access to a special dictionary to help them translate unknown terms in Latin.

Who It’s For

If you’re an academic who needs to be able to read and translate Latin texts, or if you’re a hobby learner who would love to read classic literature in its original language, this course is very helpful for beefing up your reading skills.

Even better, since it’s both free and self-directed, anyone can take the course when and where it’s convenient to them. Of course, you won’t get any speaking practice or the opportunity to be coached or corrected by an instructor. Some learners may find the dense stretches of text without a person to explain them difficult to navigate.

If you prefer to learn by interacting with a teacher or having things explained, you could try this course. You might also pair this with Duolingo, for example, for extra reading and grammar practice to supplement their more speaking-heavy curriculum.

Pros

  • Makes use of original Latin texts
  • Free and self-directed
  • Uses tables to help visualize verb forms

Cons

  • No teacher-student interactions
  • Material can be dense


8. Learning the Ancient Latin Language #1: Salve!

  • 24 minutes Free with Skillshare Subscription Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Best For: Hobby Learners, Students

Why we like it

This is an excellent class that both hobbyists and would-be professionals can enjoy with some great bonus information.

Course Review

This brief introductory course is designed to whet students’ appetite when it comes to learning Latin. At only a half-hour long, it is by no means comprehensive, but introduces some basic concepts, a few vocabulary terms and gives students some ideas for texts they might study from.

In less than half an hour, students are given a basic introduction about Latin, how it could be useful in their lives, and some reasons why studying Latin is still valuable. They are also introduced to a number of ancient writers who have written in Latin. Then, it delves into some of the language itself. Some basic principles of pronunciation, as well as greetings, start off the class. After that, students learn the first two noun declensions and some basic Latin verbs.

Students are challenged to write a brief self-introductory paragraph in Latin at the end of the class.

Who It’s For

Students who are on the fence about whether Latin is interesting or useful to them might enjoy taking this class to dip their toes, so to speak. And hobby learners could also find this to be a good starting point to accompany a Latin textbook or other online course they’ve purchased.

Despite the style of the class being more casual and geared toward “fun” learning, the instructor is less inspiring than you might hope. The lecturing is a bit dry, and despite claiming that the class is for anyone from “beginners to Latin scholars,” the material is very elementary. It won’t likely be valuable to anyone who has previously completed a level one Latin class.

As long as you have the correct expectations going into this class, you can still get something out of it, particularly if you are 100% new to the language. Beyond that, it won’t be very useful.

Pros

  • Starts off with speaking
  • Covers some essential declensions and verbs
  • Gives new students a jumping-off point

Cons

  • Very elementary information
  • The lecture style is dry


FAQs

Language goals vary greatly from person to person, but many people have similar questions about learning Latin. We hope to clear up a few of those in this section.

Latin is a highly inflected language, more so than many modern languages that you may be familiar with. Unlike English, Latin has gendered nouns, similar to modern Romance languages. It also has a variety of declensions, meaning a specific noun or adjective form to express its function in a sentence. In English, pronouns go through similar changes (think: I/me/mine), but it is largely a foreign concept to English speakers.

If you speak a Romance language, you have an advantage. You will already be familiar with the nouns used in Latin as well as the structure of verb tenses and even many vocabulary words. For example, in French, ‘tu’ is still used as it was in Classical Latin to mean ‘you.’

One of the biggest challenges that come from learning a dead language is your limited ability to immerse yourself in it and practice. For example, if you’re learning Italian, you may be able to spend a few weeks in Italy, enjoy Italian films, and get to know native Italian speakers who may live in your community; when it comes to Latin, there are no native speakers.

For this reason, many people view Latin as an academic language to be read, not spoken. However, some classes shake up that mindset by focusing more on speaking Latin in their course to make the language seem more natural. Through research and by analyzing modern derivatives of Latin, as well as the spelling in original texts, a set of pronunciation rules has been agreed upon. Therefore, many teachers will start their Latin course with a lesson on how to pronounce the Latin alphabet and various diphthongs.

While learning something new doesn’t always have to have the end goal of practical application, some students do find that Latin study helps them in other areas. Understanding the structure and grammar of Latin can help students reflect on the structure of their native language, better understanding its function by contrast.

It can also help strengthen your ability to learn other Romance languages thanks to the shared vocabulary and concepts like gender that remain largely unchanged between these languages. Surprisingly, a background in Latin can also help students learn seemingly unrelated languages like Russian and German due to its emphasis on grammatical inflection. These concepts, while generally not applicable in English, are present in these other languages.

In the field of science, many terms are derived from Latin as a universal academic language, meaning that if you can understand the meaning of the name, you will already have some information about the subject since they are often descriptive in nature. Similarly, medical and law terminology is also often in Latin, so that language foundation can help in your studies of these subjects.

Beyond this, learning about an ancient culture gives you a window into another world. By learning Latin and reading original, untranslated Latin texts, you get a clearer picture of the way these people of the past lived and thought. This helps you develop your sense of empathy and gives you greater historical context about the civilization that had such a great impact on much of the Western World.

Learning should be for everyone. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, so learning simply for the sake of enriching your mind is often viewed as a luxury, particularly by people who struggle to find adequately paying work. This is part of the reason why Latin has been removed from most school curriculums. Many students don’t have time to learn something that really will have no value to them in the workforce since most of them aren’t moving on to a career as an academic, language teacher, doctor, or lawyer.

So, yes, spouting Virgil in original Latin at the next house party you attend will ‘probably’ get you branded as a snob unless it’s a party with solely Ph.D. candidates in attendance. No matter your background, though, if you have the time and inclination to learn Latin, you should. You don’t need to have a private school education or even a college degree to pursue intellectual challenges.

The beauty of online courses is that they are typically designed to be flexible, suiting many busy schedules. And since many of them are free or moderately priced, you don’t need to be living off a generous trust fund to take one.

One of the main arguments for teaching Latin in schools is the claim that studying classical languages will improve students’ ability to score highly on standardized tests such as the SATs. The evidence for this is largely anecdotal and may be an example of correlation rather than causation.

After all, schools that still teach Latin as part of the high school curriculum tend to be private. With more resources and better funding, these schools offer many educational advantages. At home, students whose families send them to private schools tend to be wealthier, meaning students are less likely to have part-time jobs, so they can devote more time to study. These students are also more likely to have private tutors to help them prepare for tests.

Learning another language will always help to exercise your brain, which may improve your overall cognitive skills. Many of the SAT vocabulary words have Latin bases as well, so studying it may give you a slight edge. However, if you are only considering Latin as a way to give yourself an advantage on standardized exams, you may also want to consider studying Latin-based languages like French or Spanish, which have more real-life applications and give you more opportunities to practice.

So, study Latin if you want to; it will be an interesting feature on your college admissions resume, but just know that it doesn’t have to be Latin if it’s better test scores that you’re after.



Extra Credit

Table cluttered with open books and an espresso

As you begin your journey into the storied world of Latin study, there are a few things to consider.

Ultimate Goal

The type of student you are will probably have some bearing on your ultimate goals for your Latin study. As a casual hobby learner, you can simply take whichever course piques your interest the most. But if you are taking Latin with certain academic goals, it may be beneficial to make sure that the course you’re taking is recognized by whatever institution you study at or work for.

If you plan on reaching a higher level of fluency, it also might be beneficial to choose an option like the class from Ancient Languages or the course on Wheelock’s Latin. By sticking to a consistent curriculum, you can keep building on your knowledge in a more methodical way.

Vale et Bonam Fortunam

Latin may not be the trendiest language around (though some literature and aesthetic movements are doing their best to popularize it again), but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. There are many benefits to learning Latin, and if you have the desire to do so, you should. Whether you’re looking for something directly applicable to your academic life or career or simply enjoying the challenge, you have options.

There are some high-quality online Latin classes out there with different styles of teaching to help students of all backgrounds and levels. We hope that our list has provided you with a range of options so you can decide which one fits your lifestyle and learning goals best.