1. Read the entire passage aloud in Latin. Your goals for this reading are to pronounce it accurately and to understand some of what the passage is saying.
2. Now work through one sentence at a time. If the sentences are very long, take one clause at a time, up to a semicolon, colon, or comma. For each sentence, look up the words you do not know and write them down (on your separate note sheet of course). Mark the words you feel you should know, or would like to add to your active vocabulary, with a highlighter or by underlining in a different color. If there are any unfamiliar or complicated grammatical constructions, look them up too and make an appropriate note; you may want to include the number of the relevant section in your reference grammar. Then read the sentence straight through. Do not attempt to turn the Latin into English word order, but read it in its Latin order. Your goal is to determine what the sentence means in context.
3. Once you’ve looked up the vocabulary and grammar for each sentence and read the sentences once, go back over the entire passage from the beginning. Read it over in Latin, thinking about what it means; at first, this probably means making a mental translation into English. Your goal for this step is to understand what you’re reading, as you are reading it. Try to get a mental picture of the action being described.
4. Finally, read the whole thing aloud again in Latin, this time trying to read both accurately and expressively. Your goal here is to begin trying to understand the Latin without going through English, but don’t expect this to happen right away.
Here’s an example. First, a sample passage (from the last story
in 38 Latin Stories):
Exercitum Hannibalis transeuntem Appenninum impediebat ferox tempestas: magnus imber vento mixtus oppugnabat capita militum, qui verebantur ut tantam vim frigoris ferre possent. Duos dies eo loco sicut obsessi manserunt. Multi homines mortui sunt, multa animalia: etiam perierunt septem elephanti ex iis qui semper adhuc superaverant.
Step 1: Read the passage aloud.
Here are the notes a hypothetical student might
make during step 2.
exercitum – accusative, so probably a direct object of a finite verb, or the subject or object of an infinitive in indirect discourse
Hannibalis – Hannibal, -alis, m. Carthaginian, so the "bad guy" in any Roman history
transeuntem – from transeo, and agrees with exercitum
Appenninum – the word is singular because it refers to the mountain range; we’d use a plural in English ("the Appennines" or "the Rockies"); this must be what the army is going across
impediabat – from impedo; now we know exercitum is direct object; something is getting in the army’s way
ferox tempestas – and this is what is causing the problem
imber – imber, -bris, m. rain
vento – could be dative or ablative; we don’t know yet
mixtus – must agree with magnus imber, and now we know vento is ablative "of description"
oppugnabat – this verb personifies the storm as if it’s an enemy army
militum – what case and number?
qui – presumably a relative pronoun, but could be masc. nom. sing. or masc. nom. plural; we can’t tell yet
verebantur – OK, qui must be plural and must be the subject of its clause, and its antecedent must be the only masculine plural noun we’ve had so far, the soldiers. Expect a clause saying what they fear, probably "ne" plus a verb in the subjunctive.
ut – the less usual kind of fear clause; says what they’re afraid won’t happen, or what they wish would happen.
frigoris – frigor, -oris, n. cold. must be genitive "of the source" or "of description" with vim
ferre – can have many of the meanings of English "bear," not just "pick up and carry"
possent – here’s the expected subjunctive for the fear clause
duos dies – accusative of a word for a unit of time, so must be an extent of time, "for 2 days"
eo loco – ablative of a word for a place, and no prepositions, so must be the place where something happens
sicut obsessi – note how Latin prefers similes to metaphors; an English writer might have left out "as if"
obsessi – obsideo, obsidêre, obsedi, obsessus: besiege; a military word, not a psychological one like its most familiar English derivative; the storm is still personified as an enemy army.
manserunt – from maneo; who’s the subject?
multa animalia – thrown in almost as an afterthought, though consider what the loss of the animals will do to the mobility of the army
etiam – usually a word for emphasis, so something striking is coming up
elephanti – elephantus, -i, m., elephant; could be nominative plural and subject of perierunt or genitive singular depending on another noun, in which case the other noun should be next
ex iis – partitive phrase with the number, so septem elephanti has to be nominative and we’re about to find out which elephants are in question
qui – pretty much has to explain iis, hence nominative plural and subject of a verb
adhuc – adverb; up to now
superaverant – supero, -are: conquer, overcome, survive; in other words, this is the army’s first hint that elephants are neither immortal nor invincible
Here is the mental process that accompanies step
Exercitum Hannibalis – the army, led by Hannibal, Rome’s enemy
transeuntem Appeninum – the army was going across the Appennines
impediebat – something was getting in its way
ferox tempestas – a severe storm
magnus imber vento mixtus – lots of rain and wind
oppugnabat – was attacking, beating up on
capita militum – the soldiers’ heads
qui verebantur – the soldiers were afraid
ut – that (and there’s a "not" coming)
tantam vim frigoris – such severe cold
ferre possent – they were afraid they couldn’t stand it.
Duos dies – for two days
eo loco – in that place
sicut obsessi – as if besieged, surrounded and walled in by their enemies
manserunt – they stayed
Multi homines mortui sunt – many men died (of the soldiers, of
multa animalia – and so did many of the animals
etiam perierunt septem elephanti – even 7 elephants died
ex iis – from those elephants
qui semper adhuc superaverant – who always up to now had conquered
Step 4: Read the passage aloud again, with understanding and expression.
Now, for practice, try your hand at the original of that passage, Livy 21.58
Haud longi inde temporis, dum intolerabilia frigora erant, quies militi
data est. Et ad prima ac dubia signa veris profectus ex hibernis
in Etruriam ducit, eam quoque gentem, sicut Gallos Liguresque, aut vi aut
voluntate adiuncturus. Transeuntem Appenninum adeo atrox adorta tempestas
est, ut Alpium prope foeditatem superaverit. Vento mixtus imber cum
ferretur in ipsa ora, primo, quia aut arma omittenda erant aut contra enitentes
vertice intorti adfligebantur, constitere. Dein, cum iam spiritum
includeret nec reciprocare animam sineret, aversi a vento parumper consedere.
Tum vero ingenti sono caelum strepere et inter horrendos fragores micare
ignes; capti auribus et oculis metu omnes torpere; tandem effuso
imbre, cum eo magis accensa vis venti esset, ipso illo quo deprensi erant
loco castra ponere necessarium visum est. Id vero laboris velut de
integro initium fuit; nam nec explicare quicquam nec statuere poterant
nec quod statutum esset manebat omnia perscindente vento et rapiente.
Et mox aqua levata vento cum super gelida montium iuga concreta esset,
tantum nivosae grandinis deiecit ut omnibus omissis procumberent homines
tegminibus suis magis obruti quam tecti. Tantaque vis frigoris insecuta
est ut ex illa miserabili hominum iumentorumque strage cum se quisque attollere
ac levare vellet, diu nequiret, quia torpentibus rigore nervis vix flectere
artus poterant. Deinde, ut tandem agitando sese movere ac recipere
animos et raris locis ignis fieri est coeptus, ad alienam opem quisque
inops tendere. Biduum eo loco velut obsessi mansere. Multi
homines, multa iumenta, elephanti quoque ex iis qui proelio ad Trebiam
facto superfuerant septem absumpti.