Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What's the Word?

Those who are just starting out learning Latin often want to know what vocabulary is most important to learn. Every textbook uses a different list.

Here are a few sites with high-frequency word lists for Latin students.

  • Latin Teaching Materials at St. Louis University An incredible site that you will want to bookmark and refer to often. You'll find a list of high frequency Latin word forms, organized vocabulary grids correlated to Wheelock's Latin, advice for learning and retaining vocabulary, and much, much more. There are also loads of grammar and syntax charts, diagrams, synopses and exercises, elementary readers, timelines, essays, and even some software. Designed and maintained by Claude Pavur.
  • Anne Mahoney's Two Hundred Essential Latin Words An organized list of the most important words to learn in Latin, accounting for nearly 50% of the words in a typical prose text. Also see Anne's list of Resources for Students of Latin which includes acompilation of the 1000 Core Latin Words (created using the Perseus Latin Vocabulary tool described below) and her method for using flashcards to organize words.
  • The Latinum Podcast On Latinum you will find a section labelled 'GCSE', which is the vocabulary for the UK GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) Latin exam. This is a vocab of around 350 words, and is a good starting place. The words are presented in audio format, so the students learn correct quantity from the word go.
  • OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations) maintains vocabulary lists for students seeking qualifications in Latin.
  • Professor Robert W. Ulery of Wake Forest has several vocabulary lists of words everyone should know.
  • Professor Emerita C.A.E. Luschnig's Vocabula Course in Vocabulary Building Organized in 5 parts including basic vocabulary, prefixes, verb formation, noun formation, adjective formation and review.
  • The Latin Library has a wonderful collection of Vocabulary (and Grammar) handouts. Particularly useful vocabulary lists include compilations of Verba Parva et Difficilia, prepositions and the "Q" words. There are also vocabulary lists keyed to specific curricula.
  • The Independent Schools Examination Board administers the Common Entrance exam, which is an examination taken by British students at the ages of 11+ to 13+ for the purpose of placement into independent schools. See the Classics syllabus for the required Latin and Classical Greek grammar, syntax as well as vocabulary lists.
Don't forget the Perseus Vocabulary Tool which allows you to make tables and comma-delimited files of vocabulary words in selected Latin texts. You can sort in alphabetical order or by frequency or make key term lists. There are all sorts of things the Perseus Vocabulary Tool can do!

Of course, the best tool for learning vocabulary is a good Latin dictionary. If you have a lot of spare change and plan a career as a Classicist, the Oxford Latin Dictionary is highly recommended. However, at nearly ten pounds, it's not exactly portable. C.T. Lewis' Elementary Latin Dictionary, at about 1.8 pounds, is a bit lighter, but still not a book you'd want to carry around in a backpack or briefcase. The Bantam New College Latin and English Dictionary, by John Traupman is in its third edition and is a very nice, mass-market sized paperback dictionary that I use all the time. You can generally find it in most bookstores for about six dollars.