Imágenes de páginas

object, a gesture, a picture, or a book, is a question that may well be left to the discretion of the teacher. The best practice is probably to employ, as far as time allows, every available means, separately and in combination, to impress permanently and together thought and sound, written sign and muscular movement. Ear and eye, tongue and hand, should be in constant interaction with the busy brain, each exciting and aiding the others. Undoubtedly a normal spelling makes for a wrong pronunciation no less in the foreign language than in our own, but until men adopt everywhere a phonetic alphabet and spelling we shall be obliged to associate words as sounded with their signs as normally printed or written, and it is a fair question when this association should begin. In teaching a foreign language, the sound should certainly come first; it should be practiced and repeated in connection with the thought until it is likely to be remembered, and then only is it safe to associate the word with the conventional spelling.

Whatever be the method employed, grammatical comprehension is demanded as soon as the words are grouped so as to express real thought. Fundamental concepts of action and actor, subject and object of a verb, adjectival and adverbial modifiers, the connectives of speech, various modes and times of action, etc., must be brought out with a clearness that in a child's mind is often absent, dormant, or vague in connection with the mother tongue. That inflectional forms are often necessary to express these varying concepts is not infrequently a discovery for the pupil, and the fact should give the concepts greater definiteness and importance in his mind. In the real education of the boy, clarifying and classifying these concepts and getting him to regard language objectively and to appreciate to some extent its mechanism, is far more important than the mere acquisition of a foreign tongue. So from the beginning sentence structure should be so presented that the elements of the word group stand out in their proper relations and that the inflectional forms carry with them a comprehension of those relations. Whatever be the method, the word groups presented should be simple enough to insure correct understanding of grammatical relations (syntax), progress should be sufficiently slow for the pupil to fix one form before others are introduced, and abundant swift illustrations, chiefly oral, each as short as possible, should spike together correct pronunciation and correct feeling for inflectional forms. Here, too, effective work must at the same time build a firm foundation for the new language and develop an appreciation of general speech-truths that will make the course profitable for him who drops out of the class as well as for him who continues therein. In arithmetic abstruse problems have no proper place with beginners; so, in language study, simple sentences with limited vocabulary and frequent repetitions should furnish the material for the first year. Long, complicated sentences, like puzzle problems, are an entertaining and perhaps profitable exercise for those who have a taste for them, but it is certain that we rarely have to deal with such problems, and if a pupil is not naturally clever in solving them, forcing him to attempt them involves a most unprofitable expenditure of time and energy.

Among general truths of language the importance of word order and the great significance of the pause, with its effect on what immediately precedes or follows, need to be especially studied by the pupil and in some cases, perhaps, pondered long and carefully by the teacher.


There exists a very wide difference of opinion as to the choice of material to be used with beginners. Aside from classes that for the first year study the grammar only—may their number ever grow less—the texts used may be roughly classified as—

(1) Conversation manuals, based on daily life, foreign travel, etc.

(2) Selections from historical or scientific readings, regarded as having intrinsic value.

(3) Fiction, fairy tales, etc., regarded as having little intrinsic value, but suited to interest and attract the pupil.

(4) Texts of literary reputation, as Télémaque.

However varying tastes and circumstances may influence the decision among these groups, it is reasonable to assume that the nation whose history, literature, or commercial importance makes its language worth studying should have elements of interest for every intelligent person, and that arousing this interest must play an important part both in opening a field of wholesome enjoyment and in stimulating a desire to continue the subject gladly and diligently. Since beginners can not be expected to have enough comprehension of a new language to appreciate literary style, and since high-school freshmen ought not to have had experiences that fit them really to feel great literature, most texts of literary reputation should be absolutely eliminated from first-year work. In choosing from the other three groups, phonetic and grammatical ends seem to be as well served by one as by another. The choice may therefore depend on our third aimarousing an interest in the foreign nation. For this aim, scientific reading must be of the simplest type, dealing with such topics as the geography or the inventions of the nation; historical selections must be equally simple and should deal with the popular features of the nation's history; and with most pupils this material can be used only sparingly without loss of interest. Some pupils look with scorn upon the fairy tale as beneath their dignity. This attitude is often merely a pose, and the folk tale especially has qualities of human interest

that, when set off by local color, rarely fail to attract old as well as young readers. Fiction exclusively, however, is apt to create an impression that the work is not of a serious nature.

There remains the field of realien, real things about the actual life of the people, and it is probably wise to draw upon this source for most of the material for the first year, as it combines the advantages of general interest with a feeling that what is read is of a real and substantial nature. An ideal text for the first year might then be described as one that, constantly employing the simplest expressions and constructions, gives attractive glimpses of the common life and scenes in the foreign land, with bits of its history, natural features, inventions, and folklore. The “guidebook” type must, however, be avoided as uninteresting to the large number of our pupils who expect never to travel abroad.


Having agreed that our first aims should be phonetic training, grammatical comprehension, and interest in the foreign nation, and that our text should treat largely of the life of the people and be of the simplest type, we come next to the question of details in the treatment of this material. Experience indicates that in this respect no universal agreement can be secured, but certain general principles of procedure may be suggested and certain dangers of common practice may be pointed out.

First, the time devoted at the beginning to learning accurately the sounds of the new language is usually quite insufficient. It would be advantageous if an arrangement could be made by which for several weeks no home study would be assigned in a foreign language, allowing teachers of other subjects to utilize that time in exchange for classroom time. In this way all work done in the new language might be done in class and under the direction of the teacher. If home lessons must be assigned during those first few weeks, they should be such as to involve the least possible danger of fixing wrong speech habits. The use of phonetic script probably makes it possible to assign home work with less danger of associating wrong sounds with the normal spelling. If it is not thought wise to use the phonetic script, keep the vocabulary small, repeat the same words again and again with all the variety of simple real uses that the ingenuity of the teacher can discover; let home work include nothing that has not been exhaustively worked over in class. Much copying of text and writing out at home the most useful inflections of a very large number of words will fill up the time out of class that some teachers feel obliged to demand lest pupils get at first the unfortunate impression that the new study is a “cinch.” This copying of text,


varied as soon as possible by changes of person, number, tense, etc., is a good introduction to the writing from dictation which should be soon begun and diligently practiced.

Many fierce battles have been waged over the question of translation. It is probable that translation can not possibly be avoided in the earlier stages of study. A child can not see a familiar object without having the name by which he has known it flash instantly into his mind. A thought is bound to seek expression in the language with which similar thoughts have been most closely associated, and once formulated in this language, subsequent expressions of that thought will be more or less a translation. As it is always best to face facts as they are and to reckon with them, no matter how displeasing they may be, the wise procedure here is probably to attack translation early and try to teach pupils how a translation ought to be made, passing from one language to thought, and from the thought to its expression in the second language. Left to himself, a pupil will certainly translate, and he is equally certain to do it wrongly, substituting English words for those of the text, and then guessing the meaning from the English (?) result. The two languages are the two slices of bread in a linguistic sandwich, and they should always be separated by a filling of meaty thought, so that the words of each language are in direct contact with the thought and not with each other. This insistence on joining thought and sound should apply as well to all use of the mother tongue, and failure in this respect accounts for many of the stupid utterances so common in our classrooms.

Using a vocabulary should mean more than merely finding an English substitute for the foreign word. The second and most important part of the process is visualizing or otherwise securing a clear and definite concept of what is meant, then associating permanently this concept, and not the English word with the foreign word. If this association of concept and foreign word can be secured as swiftly and certainly without the intervention of English, the English, of course, is superfluous; but, if English is the quickest and most convenient means of securing this association, there seems to be no valid reason for depriving ourselves of its aid. Only, with or without English, we must not fail to attain as our result a direct and accurate association of thought and the foreign word..

Here the Gouin-Bétis or psychological method differs widely from the extreme types of “natural” methods, which, in the attempt to create an atmosphere of foreign thought, rigorously exclude all English. In teaching “pendule,” for instance, Bétis did not show the pupils a clock, neither was he satisfied with merely saying "clock," but he cleverly used English to lead the class to visualize various types of clock known as “ pendule," and left them with a clear and abiding knowledge of the word. So, in a class of beginners, Walter, who has adopted many of Gouin's suggestions, uses the mother tongue freely in associating clear and correct concepts with the new word he is teaching. If then we finally get the direct association which we desire, we see that the question whether English is or is not excluded becomes an unessential detail of procedure and is largely a matter of economy of time. When the pupil's equipment fits him to understand an explanation in French as well as one in English, use the French, for with equal thought content an hour of French alone is better practice in learning French than an hour half French and half English.

Reference to the Gouin and the natural methods suggests another wide difference between them, in which the truth lies with neither extreme. For Gouin, the verb and the verb series are the soul of speech; for the natural methods, all revolves about the substantive, the tangible thing, that can be seen and shown in connection with the new word presented. In truth, verb and noun must go hand in hand, for an actor without action is as sterile as an action without an actor is unthinkable. In any concrete example word order and the construction of the sentence will show which is the more important in the mind of the speaker and which must be emphasized as the better key to his meaning.

Among other processes that are commonly employed we may mention grammatical study, reading aloud, writing from dictation, conversation, translation from and into the foreign language (version and theme), reproduction orally or in writing, paraphrasing, composition based on the text, and free composition. It is not intended to say what processes should be used or how they should be combined by any teacher, but the following suggestions are offered for making as effective as possible whatever work the teacher may decide to undertake.

Grammar can be regarded as an end by the philologist only. For all pupils in a secondary school it must be the handmaid of the text and must be regarded as existing solely in order to make clearer the language which it serves. The need of a rule and its application should be apparent to the pupil before he is required to learn the rule; words should be seen in use with a context before they are classified and memorized; the force of an inflection should be made plain from its use in a word group before the pupil is asked to inflect the paradigm; and in the unceasing repetition necessary to fix inflectional forms care should be taken that they are never parrot like repetitions, devoid of thought. Make the text the center of all instruction; base upon it grammar, conversation, and composition; and the grammatical knowledge derived from the text as a model will be applied intelligently in written and oral expression.

« AnteriorContinuar »