Latin 101: Learning a Classical Language

Course No. 2201
Professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller, Ph.D.
Union College
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Course No. 2201
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What Will You Learn?

  • Learn how nouns, adjectives, verbs, and more are treated in Latin.
  • Hear the distinct pronunciation of Latin words, phrases, and letters.
  • Learn all about the subjunctive mood - and how to use it.

Course Overview

Latin lives! The language of Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, St. Jerome, and countless other great authors is alive and well in the modern world. It lives in the Romance languages, which are the lineal descendants of Latin. It flourishes in English, which draws a major part of its vocabulary from Latin. It thrives in the technical terms of science, law, and other fields. Latin is used in the traditional liturgy and proclamations of the Catholic Church. And it is the language of choice for inscriptions, mottoes, and any idea that needs to be stated with permanence and precision.

Above all, Latin lives in thousands of pages of writings that were preserved from the ancient world—poems, plays, speeches, historical and philosophical works that were handed down for centuries because of their beauty of expression and profundity of thought. These immortal works have influenced everyone from Shakespeare to the framers of the United States Constitution to author J. K. Rowling.

On the other hand, Latin has an undeserved reputation for difficulty. But when taught well, Latin is pleasingly straightforward, logical, and predictable. Each word is like a finely crafted part of a machine—a device that does an amazing amount of work with very few components. Learning to read Latin is immensely rewarding, and it is a discipline that trains, enhances, and strengthens critical thinking.

Embark on this unrivaled adventure with Latin 101: Learning a Classical Language, 36 innovative lectures that cover the material normally presented in a first-year college course in Latin. By watching these entertaining lectures, practicing the drills, and doing the exercises in the accompanying guidebook, you will gain access to some of the world’s greatest thought in its original language. You will also understand why no translation can reproduce the elegance and charm of Latin.

Your guide is Professor Hans-Friedrich Mueller of Union College in Schenectady, New York, an award-winning teacher and textbook author who brings warmth, humor, and enthusiasm to the age-old profession of Latin master. To his students, Professor Mueller is simply Molinarius, which is Latin for his surname, Mueller, which means “miller” in English. Fully equipped to live in ancient times, Professor Mueller speaks Latin using the restored classical pronunciation, which melodiously approximates the way Latin was spoken in antiquity. When he speaks, Latin is indeed alive!

A Course for All Ages

For centuries, Latin was the indispensible foundation for higher education—a course of study that sharpened the mind and paved the way for more advanced schooling in literature, languages, and even mathematics and the sciences. Other courses have since taken Latin’s place in the required curriculum, but Latin remains a cornerstone of Western culture and superb preparation for a deeper understanding of English vocabulary and grammar.

Those who will benefit from Latin 101 include

  • self-learners and home-schoolers who wish to learn Latin on their own with these 18 hours of lessons and the accompanying guidebook;
  • those studying Latin in high school or college who seek an outstanding private tutor who knows the most common pitfalls that students face;
  • anyone who has already taken Latin, even if years ago, and desires a refresher course from an engaging, award-winning professor;
  • lovers of language, classical civilization, and great literature who aspire to hear and understand the living voice of the ancient world.

Let the Past Speak to You

In Latin 101 you plunge into authentic Latin from the start, becoming part of a time-honored tradition of students unlocking the delights of increasingly challenging extracts of real Latin authors, such as these:

  • Caesar: Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War describe the great general’s exciting exploits in a clear style without exotic vocabulary. These dispatches helped propel Caesar to a remarkable political career.
  • Catullus: When asked to speak Latin, Professor Mueller often recites a charming love poem by Catullus. All of the elements that make Catullus one of the greatest poets who ever lived—language, meter, and style—are accessible to you after only a few Latin lessons.
  • Cicero: Arguably the most influential writer of all time, Cicero left behind works in many different genres. In this course, you study some of the grammatical lessons from his oratory. There is no better guide to the principles for making a persuasive speech.
  • St. Jerome: For his translation of the Bible into Latin in the 4th century A.D., St. Jerome used the language of the vulgus, or crowd. The “Vulgate,” as it is known, is an ideal text for beginning Latin students. You analyze passages from Genesis and Proverbs.

Your readings also include excerpts from Virgil, Livy, Sallust, Plautus, Martial, Cato the Elder, the Twelve Tables of Roman Law, the Magna Carta, and the Great Seal of the United States, among other passages. In every case, you focus on something specific about how Latin works. For example, Adeste, fideles, the Latin version of the Christmas carol “O Come All Ye Faithful!,” is a superb introduction to the imperative mood.

By the end of the course, you will be translating a long inscription from a Roman funerary monument, which tells a touching story of young love and a married life cut too short. It is a heart-rending message that speaks directly across the centuries, highlighting one of the best reasons to learn an ancient language—so that you can listen to voices from the distant past with understanding and immediacy.

Fiat Lux!

St. Jerome’s Latin version of God’s command in Genesis 1:3 is Fiat lux, “Let there be light.” Two Latin words where English needs four—or even five, since a more accurate English translation is “Let light come into existence.” This vividly demonstrates Latin’s grace, simplicity, and depth of meaning. How does Latin say so much with so little?

The secret is an array of word endings and other seemingly minor modifications that mold a basic word stem to fit a very precise role. For instance, the passive voice is awkward in English and therefore rejected by many writers concerned with style. An example is “I am being driven.” But in Latin you can say the same thing with only one word: agor. The ability of Latin to express the passive voice with elegance makes such forms much more common and useful than in English. The same goes for many other grammatical constructions, which is one of the ways that Latin improves your analytical skills—by allowing you to understand and make distinctions that are difficult to convey in English.

Latin 101 gives you extensive practice conjugating verbs and declining nouns and adjectives to create these meaning-packed words. It is the area in which Latin students have the most trouble, but Professor Mueller makes it accessible, interesting, and fun. Kinetic on-screen graphics emphasize the different forms as Professor Mueller recites them, so that you simultaneously see and hear each Latin word. Then the professor allows a moment for you to say it aloud. The combination of seeing, hearing, and speaking is the ideal way to reinforce language learning. Professor Mueller also reviews material already covered and looks ahead to what you still need to learn before your solid foundation in Latin is complete. Building such a foundation is quite an accomplishment, and the professor knows how to keep you motivated.

Along the way, you explore Roman history, laws, courtship practices, religious beliefs, and other aspects of ancient culture. And you encounter many examples of Roman thought, including this timeless piece of advice from Dionysius Cato, who lived in the 3rd or 4th century A.D. His words apply especially well to Latin 101 and to The Great Courses in general:

      Disce aliquid; nam cum subito fortuna recedit
      Ars remanet vitamque hominis non deserit umquam.

“Learn something. For whenever good fortune suddenly departs, skill remains, and skill does not desert the life of a person ever.”

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Pronouncing Classical Latin
    Salvete! Greetings! Ease into your study of Latin by admiring its beauty and impressive history. Then focus on the letters and sounds of the restored classical pronunciation, which approximates the way Latin was spoken in the classical era. Finally, cover the rules of accents. x
  • 2
    Introduction to Third-Conjugation Verbs
    Begin your adventure in Latin verbs with the third conjugation, practicing the present tense indicative of ago (I do). Learn the four principal parts of ago-the key words that allow you to conjugate any form-as well as the imperative endings that permit you to issue commands. x
  • 3
    Introduction to the Subjunctive Mood
    See how the long vowel a" is the key to the present subjunctive mood in verbs such as pono (I place). The subjunctive expresses doubt or potential, and you explore its use by the poet Catullus in one of the most famous love poems to survive from the ancient world." x
  • 4
    The Irregular Verbs Sum and Possum
    Learn two important irregular verbs, sum (I am) and possum (I am able), mastering their present tense indicative, imperative, infinitive, and subjunctive forms. Notice how the tiniest linguistic details can be powerful markers, giving rise to Latin's great economy of expression. x
  • 5
    Introduction to Third-Declension Nouns
    Having conjugated verbs, now learn to decline nouns. In this lecture, investigate the largest class of nouns, called third declension. Discover the function of the five cases and how to identify the noun stem. Then practice with masculine and feminine nouns. x
  • 6
    Third-Declension Neuter Nouns
    After a review of verb and noun endings covered so far, focus on third- declension neuter nouns, specifically the word corpus (body). Note the distinctive features of the neuter declension, then practice these endings. Close by exploring several celebrated Latin expressions that feature corpus. x
  • 7
    First- and Second-Declension Adjectives
    Adjectives must agree in number, case, and gender with the nouns they modify. Review a chart of the endings for first- and second-declension adjectives. Then practice matching adjectives with nouns in examples such as nox perpetua (everlasting night) and basium fervidum (fiery kiss). x
  • 8
    First- and Second-Declension Nouns
    Study first- and second-declension nouns, discovering that they have the same endings as first- and second-declension adjectives-with some peculiarities. Close the lecture by translating your first complex sentence in Latin, which involves a shocking incident in Rome's Temple of Vesta. x
  • 9
    Introduction to the Passive Voice
    See how the magic of personal endings makes the passive voice in Latin elegantly simple-unlike awkward passive constructions in English. After practicing the present tense passive indicative of the third conjugation, translate passages from the Roman authors Cicero and Virgil. x
  • 10
    Third -io and Fourth-Conjugation Verbs
    Investigate two classes of verbs similar to pono: the third-io and fourth conjugations. Learn the forms in the present tense active indicative. Then discover that you can understand the commands in the original Latin of the famous Christmas carol "O Come All Ye Faithful!" x
  • 11
    First- and Second-Conjugation Verbs
    Your knowledge of the third, third-io, and fourth conjugations paves the way for mastery of the remaining two patterns, the first and second conjugations, which are more regular than those already covered. Practice all five conjugations, and continue your translation of O Come All Ye Faithful!"" x
  • 12
    Reading a Famous Latin Love Poem
    Reap the rewards of your labors by reading and appreciating one of the most beautiful poems in Latin, which declares the poet Catullus's love for Clodia, whom he calls Lesbia to hide her identity. In the poem, encounter many of the grammatical forms you have studied so far. x
  • 13
    The Present Passive of All Conjugations
    You have learned present passive forms in the third conjugation. Now cover the present passive endings in the first, second, third-io, and fourth conjugations. Close by deciphering a passage from the book of Genesis in St. Jerome's Latin translation, and analyze a pagan prayer to the emperor Tiberius. x
  • 14
    Third-Declension Adjectives
    Dictionary entries for third-declension adjectives can be disconcertingly terse. Learn that these adjectives are actually easier to decline than first- and second-declension adjectives that you have already learned. Apply your new knowledge by declining Catullus's phrase brevis lux (brief light) encountered in Lecture 12. x
  • 15
    Third-Declension I-Stem Nouns
    Explore a subset of third-declension nouns that has the letter i" in certain forms. Called i-stems, these endings closely resemble those for third-declension adjectives. Expand your grasp of Latin morphology and syntax by reading passages from Cato the Elder, an arch-traditionalist of Roman values." x
  • 16
    The Relative Pronoun
    Pronouns that introduce a relative clause are called relative pronouns. Investigate these valuable words, which unlock the doors to Latin prose and are unusually enjoyable to chant aloud. Experience relative pronouns in action by translating two excerpts from Sallust's The Conspiracy of Catiline. x
  • 17
    The Imperfect and Future Tenses
    Having mastered the most challenging tense of all in Latin, the present tense, learn the future and imperfect tenses, which are governed by simpler rules. Practice the active and passive forms in all four conjugations. Also encounter the imperfect subjunctive. x
  • 18
    Building Translation Skills
    Apply your skills with the future and imperfect tenses to Latin texts. First, behold a lover's quarrel in a poem by Catullus. Then, scrutinize a disingenuous claim by Julius Caesar. Next, read a brief passage from the Magna Carta, and close with two pithy sayings by Dionysius Cato. x
  • 19
    Using the Subjunctive Mood
    St. Jerome's Latin translation of the Bible is an excellent text for beginning Latin students. Grasp the wisdom of Solomon by analyzing four verses from chapter 1 of the book of Proverbs. Your knowledge of Latin forms will enrich your understanding of these ancient sayings. x
  • 20
    Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns
    Study the three most basic demonstrative adjectives in Latin, and see how they can be used as pronouns. Then look at similar words that decline the same way. Close with a passage from Cicero that showcases the dramatic use of demonstrative adjective to indict a corrupt politician. x
  • 21
    The Perfect Tense Active System
    Tackle three new tenses: the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect in the active voice. The perfect tense denotes completed action, contrasting with the uncompleted action of the imperfect, which you studied in Lecture 17. Finish by conjugating duco (I lead) for all of the active tenses learned so far. x
  • 22
    Forming and Using Participles
    Participles usefully combine characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. Learn the rules for forming Latin participles, and investigate some of their many applications. Close by translating the Latin from the Great Seal of the United States, which includes the perfect passive participle coeptus (having been begun). x
  • 23
    Using the Infinitive
    Enhance your knowledge of infinitives by learning perfect active and passive infinitives, as well as future active and passive infinitives. Then see how these forms are used for indirect discourse, which involves a crucial exception to the rule that subjects are always in the nominative case. x
  • 24
    Reading a Passage from Caesar
    With judicious help, you are now ready to read significant excerpts from authentic Latin prose. Work through three sentences from Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War. This exciting narrative is written in a direct, eloquent style that has enthralled readers for 2,000 years. x
  • 25
    The Perfect Tense Passive System
    Complete all the tenses of the Latin verb by learning the perfect passive, which uses a form of the verb sum together with the past participle. Close with an example of this construction in an ancient historian's description of Caesar's notorious death. x
  • 26
    Deponent Verbs
    The phrase non sequitur (it does not follow) has a verb with a passive ending but an active meaning. Such verbs whose active forms are identical to the passive forms of regular verbs are called deponents. Learn to conjugate this intriguing class of verbs. x
  • 27
    Conditional Sentences
    Expand your appreciation for Latin syntax and the subjunctive by learning to express conditions using if-then clauses. Discover that Latin can convey more subtle shades of meaning in conditional sentences than English. See how Cicero put this grammatical tool to use in confronting the conspirator Catiline. x
  • 28
    Cum Clauses and Stipulations
    Study other uses of the subjunctive, particularly provisos and temporal clauses, exemplified by Emperor Caligula's famous reply when told that he was hated: Oderint, dum metuant (Let them hate, provided they fear). End by analyzing a passage that shows the extreme piety of the Roman people. x
  • 29
    Reading Excerpts from Roman Law
    Probe examples of Roman legislation in the original Latin, starting with a provision for the sale of sons by fathers from the Twelve Tables, the most ancient codification of Roman law. Examine marriage and divorce law, and a peculiar tradition forbidding the exchange of gifts between a husband and wife. x
  • 30
    Interrogative Adjectives and Pronouns
    How do you ask a question in Latin? After covering the three particles used to introduce a question, focus on interrogative adjectives and pronouns and their corresponding correlatives. Compare direct and indirect questions. Then explore relevant examples from Latin authors, including Catullus and Cicero. x
  • 31
    Fourth- and Fifth-Declension Nouns
    Complete your tour of the Latin noun by mastering the fourth and fifth declensions, which pose no major hurdles after the third declension, introduced in Lecture 5. Practice by translating a passage from a Latin requiem mass, which opens, dies irae (day of wrath). x
  • 32
    Gerunds and Gerundives
    Focus on the fourth principal part, which is the gateway to a verbal noun called the supine, used to denote purpose, as in mirabile dictu (marvelous to tell). Then investigate another verbal noun called the gerund, compare it to the gerundive, a verbal adjective, and learn the subtleties of translating them into English. x
  • 33
    Counting in Latin
    Now that you have been introduced to the supine, explore the irregular verb eo (I go). The passive infinitive, iri, combines with the supine to create the future passive infinitive-for example, amatum iri (to be going to be loved). Then learn to count in Latin with both ordinal and cardinal numbers. x
  • 34
    More on Irregular Verbs
    Look at other irregular verbs, discovering that most display the greatest irregularity in the present tense system, especially the present tense indicative. Discover strategies for streamlining your study of Latin forms, and close by translating passages from Plautus, Martial, and Livy. x
  • 35
    Comparison of Adjectives and Adverbs
    Investigate the patterns that govern comparisons of adjectives and adverbs. Then try an example of authentic Latin text that speaks directly across two millennia: a heartfelt inscription on a Roman tombstone. Although in colloquial Latin, it is just as dense with meaning as the literary passages you have already read. x
  • 36
    Next Steps in Reading Latin
    Finish analyzing the funerary inscription from the previous lecture, discovering that you have the tools to understand a complex message that even features a mystery! Then complete the course with recommendations for your further studies in this enduring and elegant language. Valete! Be well! x

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Your professor

Hans-Friedrich Mueller

About Your Professor

Hans-Friedrich Mueller, Ph.D.
Union College
Dr. Hans-Friedrich Mueller is the Thomas B. Lamont Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He earned his M.A. in Latin from the University of Florida and his Ph.D. in Classical Philology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before coming to Union College, he taught at The Florida State University and the University of Florida. Professor Mueller won the American...
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Reviews

Latin 101: Learning a Classical Language is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 120.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title is very accurate! As with his Greek 101 course, this a marvelous review of Latin, which I last studied seriously in 1953! Dr. Mueller teaches with a wonderful dry humor with helps cement these grammatical points in the memory and recall memories which have been dormant for all these years.
Date published: 2019-09-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Finally getting my Latin 101 class. Great to go at my own pace, to be able to review chapters as needed, and great presentation. This DVD course encourages the student interaction with the text.
Date published: 2019-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Latin Lives Four decades after college/grad school Latin classes and growing up with the Latin mass I have rekindled my old passion with this course. I am enjoying the course and the instructor. I think he teaches Latin the way it should be taught—he jump starts you to a quick and steady progress and he reinforces learning at evert step. Good stuff!
Date published: 2019-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from After three years of church Latin in a Catholic high school, I forgot all about it After three years of church Latin in a Catholic high school, I forgot all about it except for some understanding of the the Latin Mass. (However, I was very happy about changing to the English Mass when it happened. ) I am now in my eighties and have noticed that I have to pause to think of some words when talking. I thought that taking a course in Latin might help with this problem. It does, but it is difficult for me to explain why. Perhaps it is because so many English words are derived from Latin, or because I am now thinking about words more. It is a little early for me to be writing a review since I have only barely reached the fourth lesson. I have tried to practice all the homework. This is a trivial point, but I must say that the classical pronunciation of “v” as “w” sounds very childish to me. I wonder how scholars know how the Romans used this sound since they did not have record players or tape recorders in those times.
Date published: 2019-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course I was able to read Latin before I bought the course, but the grammar, the endings, the declensions, always escaped me. The professor is very good, very methodical. I just wish he spoke a little bit more natural. He speaks in a fashion that no one would ever speak naturally like so. His Latin does not flow to my ear. Latin was spoken in such a way that sounded natural, not superficial, like a real living language. The real problem I have is the accent, and that I realize is my problem. I am Puertorican, I speak Spanish and heard much Latin as a kid in the catholic church, spoken by Puertorican and Spanish priests with a wonderful Latin pronunciation of vowels, clean vowels. I have also studied Latin here in New York with the classical pronunciation, not the ecclesiastical one, where the v is pronounced as a w and the ae is pronounced as written. I didn't have a problem with that. But the problem, to my ear, is the vowels, whether long or short. This video is made for English speaking people whose ears can barely hear the difference how we Latins pronounce the open vowels a, e, i, o, u. It is almost impossible for English speakers to say the vowels without sounding like diphthongs. I need to find a Latin teacher whose vernacular is either Spanish or Italian so they can pronounce the real clean vowels. This is not about the classical pronunciation, this is about the ability to pronounce phonetic vowels. This might appear as an unfair criticism, but that is the case. I will look for a Latin tutor who can pronounce latin vowels. I had a very difficult time understanding the professor if I was not reading the word. Also, sometimes he was not consistent with accents. Altogether, if you are an English speaking individual, I would recommend this course by all means. This is the way Latin pronunciation is taught to English speaking people, not to the Latin ear, even with the classical pronunciation of v as a w. It is all about the open vowels, whether short or long. The only reason I like the course is because the clarity with which the professor teaches the grammar.
Date published: 2019-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent for beginners I bought this about 3 weeks ago. I’ve never taken a Latin course before , and haven’t even taken another language since High School. So far it’s been great. The professor explains concepts in an easily understood manner. I usually end up playing the lectures about 3 or 4 times before attempting the assignments. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s looking to get a good start in Latin. I hope they come out with a follow up course.
Date published: 2019-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great teacher I took 2 years of Latin in high school. This is an excellent refresher course!
Date published: 2019-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engaging lecture presentation I really liked the engaging style of the presenter, which helped lighten the inevitable dull tasks involved in acquiring basic vocabulary and grammar of a foreign language. Why didn’t I give the course 5 stars? I was dismayed at the lack of a software tool in the accompanying written learning material to jump rapidly across pages of my iPad. I have to scroll down manually on the screen to get to the review summary and homework, which is a nuisance of itself. But the correct answers to the homework are OVER THREE HUNDRED PAGES downstream ! I am not going to spend five minutes manually scrolling down my computer screen to find out whether I have correctly listed the proper endings of the three assigned Latin verbs in the homework. In fact, this inconvenience means I will likely stop using the written learning guide materials entirely after a few more lessons. In today’s software environment, the absence of this tool is completely inexcusable and a waste of potentially useful learning material.
Date published: 2019-01-07
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