Don’t you beginners complain to me about Latin and Greek. If you want them bad enough, they will come to you. I know well how hard it is to learn a new language: English is the toughest nut I’ve ever cracked. Here is some practical advice.
Reading dead languages, not translating them, is your goal. But in order to get there, you WILL go through some form of translation. There is nothing inherently bad in translation, as long as you don’t make it your perpetual focus.
Paradigms and vocabulary are your friends. Learning them now will save you time later. Enjoy them as means. Those of you who moan and groan about paradigms focus too much on the means. You eat to live – not the other way around.
Ah, but how to learn those paradigms is the question. You don’t have the memory or the time. Of course you don’t – I wouldn’t either if I started from memorizing endings and then try to screw them on those elusive stems. Remodel your approach and conjugate one single verb until you can do it blind-folded, then do the same with another verb. Take your time – the endings emerge naturally. Starting with the endings is too abstract without the data that supports them.
Never approach a sentence linearly, if you are a beginner and want to advance to reading. I’ve seen too many beginners try to guess their way through Latin sentences. Now, nothing wrong with guessing per se, unless you make it a habit. Then guessing becomes a dangerous obstacle and a source of frustration. Plus, guessing is not fair – you don’t want your own words to get misinterpreted, do you?
Approach your sentences in a logical way. No matter what language you have, a sentence is always about an activity or state. Focus on your action word – the verb is the sentence’s heart. Your sentence may contain various verb forms, some of them describing the action or state in general terms, like to go or going. Do not focus on those, at least not initially. Aim for forms that most closely resemble “s/he/it goes.” It is this form that will give you hints about the someone or something that performs the activity, or is in that state (“subject” is how we call it, and I will write on the etymology of that mysterious word later.) Too time-consuming for you? Be patient – with time, this filtering of sorts becomes lightning-fast.
Everything else in that sentence will either tell you something about the activity/state, or the someone or something that carries it through. You will have phrases telling where or when the action occurred, or how it happened. Adjectives and other explanatory phrases will tell you what kind of person or thing the doer is. You may have a word for the object most directly hit by the action (aka the direct object), or the one that benefits from it (like the indirect object). Often those objects will be explained by adjectives and such as well. The whole thing becomes really exciting when, instead of an adjective, you get a relative clause telling what sort of person the doer is; but that is the subject of another post (do you see now why I have to post on the etymology of “subject”?).
There is much more, of course. That’s why you want to take classes with me.