Even though Latin is no longer spoken in most cases, it remains a useful language if you want to read ancient documents and as a basis for understanding the evolution of modern Indo-European languages such as English, Spanish, French and Romanian. For instance, most official documents written in England and the United States between 1086 and 1733 were written in Latin. The earliest Latin inscriptions are from the sixth century BC. Latin grew to become a world language thanks, in no small measure, to the spread of the Roman empire and the Catholic Church, which designated it as its official language until the 1960s when it stopped being the obligatory language in Catholic liturgies.
Learn how to read Latin. Latin is a phonetic language, which means every word is pronounced as it is spelled. Memorize the sound of each Latin consonant and vowel and how they combine, and practice reading Latin documents.
Study the grammar of your mother tongue. Latin is a dead language, which means nobody really speaks it in everyday life. It is a very rigid language based on strict grammatical rules, so you'll need a solid understanding of the grammar of your own language before you learn Latin grammar. Learn what nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verb tenses are. If you are comfortable with these basic blocks of language, learn the rules that regulate how words are arranged in a sentence, also known as a language's syntax.
Study Latin grammar. Latin grammar is probably the hardest aspect of learning Latin for beginners because there are terms and concepts not found in many modern languages. For instance, Latin words will change their form depending what function they play in a sentence. To illustrate, the Latin word matella, which means chamber pot, will change to matellam if it is used as a direct object in a sentence. If you do not know what a subject or a direct object is, see step 2.
Increase your vocabulary. Reading Latin and understanding Latin grammar is of little use if you have to check the meaning of every word in a dictionary. Buy or borrow a Latin lexicon and learn as many new words as you can.
Practice reading and translating Latin documents. Using Latin documents will not only help you remember why you started learning Latin in the first place, but it will hone your newly acquired skills. Classical works of Cicero, Caesar and Tacitus are great texts for practice, as are Latin translations of the Bible and legal documents, such as the Domesday book.
Andrew Latham has worked as a professional copywriter since 2005 and is the owner of LanguageVox, a Spanish and English language services provider. His work has been published in "Property News" and on the San Francisco Chronicle's website, SFGate. Latham holds a Bachelor of Science in English and a diploma in linguistics from Open University.