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Vocabulary Building with Picta Dicta

Picta Dicta is an innovative and highly engaging tool for students to build their Latin vocabulary. This program could easily serve as an introduction for young students into the delightful world of Latin. The lessons would also prove a wonderful supplement to any Latin curricula, or even as a summer strengthening program for Latin students. The approach engages students in learning vocabulary through pictures and images rather than the usual vocab word list found in most textbooks. Instead of being shown two words such as vir, viri, m. – man. The students are shown a Latin word connected to a picture.  In some cases, as the students advance, a sentence is included for context.  This is a fabulous way to instill the true meaning of a word as connected to an image or an idea as opposed to another word. For students who are visual learners this can be a powerful tool.  However, the program does not leave it entirely to the student’s intuitive understanding to connect the word to the right idea.  The NOTES tab will still provide a traditional dictionary entry and other helpful information.  When offered the SENTENCES tab will use the word in a Latin sentence to provide context.


Picta Dicta not only builds vocabulary skills by connecting pictures (picta) to written words, but also to words spoken (dicta).  As the images appear on the screen a voice can be heard reading the word or even the sentences.  This is a great tool for the parents who feel anxious about modeling correct Latin pronunciation at home. With this program student and parent can learn together through modeling and repetition.

The more senses students use to learn something, the better they will retain it. Picta Dicta uses visual cues of both written words and pictoral images, the program uses audio cues for them to hear (students would do well to repeat the words they hear form more audio reinforcement), and it uses tactile elements as it requires students to respond to questions they have learned. After learning a specified set of words, the progam will then begin to sollicit responses in a number of ways – clicking on a correct image, fill in the blank (choosing from multiple words), or even typing in a word using the keyboard. A HINT button is always available to give the student a boost. When an error is made the program gently redirects the student to a correct answer and then makes note to quiz that concept again soon.


From a teacher perspective this looks like an ingenious idea.  However, I wanted to obtain a student perspective.  There are multiple levels for students in grades K-12. I was able to get a sneak peek at the lower two levels and share them with my own daughter who has just completed the 9th grade. She gave Picta Dicta an enthusiastic two thumbs up.  She looked through a program built around human anatomy.  Some of the words she already knew from her Latin classes, but several words were new to her. She really enjoyed the way the program engaged memory and review by asking questions from several different angles. She found the notes not only helpful, but very interesting as they often give additional insight into eytmology and derivatives. For example the notes tell students that umerus (meaning shoulder or upper arm) is also the funny bone – a “fun” play on the word humorous (humerus).  My daughter happens to be a gifted artist. As such, visual learning suits her very well.  Another feature that she really appreciated as a student is the built in accountability feature. Picta Dicta uses Cerego, a brilliant memory program. Parents can see how Cerego tracks the words that students have successfully learned, those that are weak, and those they labels as “fading” because it has been a while since the student reviewed them. As the program tracks a student’s progress, it will bring up words needed for review. Cerego will also send friendly email reminders to students that it is time to get back in the game in order to continue to build vocabulary skills.

Overall I think this is a truly brilliant program for building Latin vocabulary in a highly engaging and enjoyable manner for students of varying ages and ability levels.  I am often asked for ideas to keep Latin fresh over summer break or for tools to help build vocabulary in general, PICTA DICTA will be my new answer for such questions.

You can sign up for Picta Dicta at

For another great site for interactive games and visual learning visit the post on Headventureland.

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