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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 3

[On the Method of Studying and Teaching Languages.]

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In the present Lecture, I propose to inquire whether there be any certain and universally applicable principles in the Method of Studying and Teaching Languages; or rather, assuming, from the regularity of a pervading intelligence visible everywhere in the universe, that such principles exist, I purpose, more curiously than is commonly done, to lay them bare, by analysis, and to classify them comprehensively. The frequency of great pretensions in this department of the art of education, combined with the ignorance, stupidity, or obstinacy of not a few regularly-trained teachers, and an unreflecting habit of routine that seems endemic among official men in our country, are reasons strong enough to justify me in stepping distinctly forward to declare what, by long thought and experience, I seem to have ascertained to be true in this matter. If I err in any point, those who have thought more deeply on the subject, and made more various and long-continued experiments, will oblige me by sending their corrections.

For the sake of distinctness, as well as that we may be page 2 sure of proceeding in a scientific manner, I will divide the whole inquiry into two parts:—
IThe Process of Nature in the Linguistic Training of the Young; or (if the Phrase be Preferred) in the Development of the Faculty of Speech in Rational Beings.
IIThe Process of the Didactic Art, or of Pedagogy, as it is Sometimes Called, in the Systematic Artificial Inculcation of Languages.

That this is the proper method of inquiry there can be no doubt. For man, in order to teach his fellow man, must first be taught by Him who is the teacher of all that are capable of learning—that is God; and Nature is the permanent living scheme of the Divine operations, which must be understood and imitated by all of us, the creatures of God, who will work to any purpose. Any other procedure, as it begins with dreams, so it must end in drivel. The multitudinous babblement of all kinds with which the reasoning world is full, comes from no other source than the substitution, in some form or other, of the private crotchet of the individual (which, no doubt, contains its own fragment of truth) for the grand and complete scheme of universal Nature. Let us, therefore, by all means, endeavour carefully to analyze, and, if possible, exhaust, the living process of nature acting by congenital, divinely-implanted, instinct, before we venture to invent a machinery, or pile up an architecture, from our own resources.

The natural process of acquiring the faculty of speech, as it appears in the instinctive learning of the mother tongue, seems to contain the following distinct elements:—
1.—The articulate utterance of certain sounds in the hearing of young persons capable of learning and attending.page 3
2.—The accompanying of these articulately uttered sounds with the direct and frequent exhibition of certain objects;
3.—these being objects in which the learner has naturally a constant living interest.
4.—The frequent repetition of these sounds by the speaker, and their frequent iteration by the learner.

Such, so far as I can see, are the only main and essential elements in the natural process by which the faculty of speech is acquired; for, as to the art of reading, and systematic grammatical study, these, though very useful in most cases, are by no means indispensable to the highest achievements of natural eloquence. Nations, whom we are apt to look down upon as half savage, have often a more vivid and forcible style of expression, and a more strikingly pictorial language, than the most civilized nations, who glory in the use of learned dictionaries and grammars. 'Tis doubtful if Homer, with all the burning glow of his Ionic soul, and the light of his sunny imagination, knew how to read or to write. Memory certainly, on the exercise of which the power of language so much depends, is often more weakened than strengthened, as Plato wisely foresaw, by the use of paper and written notes, now so common. Excluding, therefore, from our first consideration, the artificial appurtenances of reading and writing, we proceed to ask—On the existence of what qualities in teacher and learner does the progress of a young person in acquiring a spoken language depend?

It is certain, to begin with, that man is a speaking animal, and that all men, who are originally complete, may be taught to speak, and do, in fact, exercise, in a greater or lesser degree, the faculty of language. Phrenologists talk of an organ of language in the human brain; but, if such an organ exists, the fact must not be so understood as to imply that a particular personal gift is requisite for the learning of language; as for music, page 4 a special talent is demanded, for poetry, and for many other arts. Music is a special gift, given to more men indeed than our neglected æsthetical education may lead us to conclude, but not therefore a general faculty. Man is not a singing animal, though many men sing, and more might be taught. Some men even have ears which are affected by the sweetest harmonies, just as pleasantly as by any other noise. But, in the faculty of speech, common to the race, there exists every variety of quality and degree. The progress made by the infant learner in acquiring his mother tongue depends, therefore, in the first place, on the amount of his capacity for linguistical expression; and this depends, not only on the shape of his mouth, and the susceptibility of his ear, but also, and much more, on the sensibility of his mind, and the activity of his imagination. Persons without ideas may talk much, but they can never have a rich command of language. A susceptible boy must, in the nature of things, acquire the faculty of speech sooner than a dull one. He has more to speak about, and, therefore, unless intercepted by some premature moodiness, he will speak more. But, even with the finest faculty from nature, the amount of linguistical expertness developed in a boy will depend also, in a great measure, on the character and accomplishments of the persons with whom, in his earliest years, he is almost exclusively associated. Man is essentially an imitative animal; and speech essentially an imitative art. The old Egyptian monarch, a precocious experimenter in Comparative Philology, when, in ignorance or forgetfulness of this, he removed two infants from the society of men, that he might learn what language they would speak when left to themselves, only forced them to learn the word βεκos, from the goats whom their keeper milked. So the finest endowments for language in the world will bear small fruit, if the mother of the infant Cicero be taciturn, the father mute, and the nurse a mumbler. Quinctilian accordingly advises that the education of orators should commence in their cradle; and page 5 he advises well. The school will have a hard task, it the nursery and the parlour daily teach contrary doctrine; and sorely taxed will that learned professor be who has daily to undo the work of an ignorant or a careless schoolmaster. Nay, certain things in language, as daily experience shows, if they are once thoroughly learned, cannot, without a miracle, be unlearned, as, for instance, the broad Scottish accent, the high Cockney key, and other things of the same kind. So great, in this department, at least, is what a certain shallow sophist calls "the overwhelming weight of external circumstances." Our minds, in respect of language, are not only a sheet of blank paper, according to Locke's much-perverted simile, but they are composed of a tissue so delicate and fine, that, when certain impressions are once received, you cannot erase the character without tearing the scroll. Beware therefore, whosoever would educate the young to a pure quality of speech—beware of the first encroachments on the sensitive retentiveness of the ear; for depend upon it, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the master here, to those who are once fairly under his influence, will become their maker and their moulder.

Let us now enquire what effect the artificial machinery of Books has in modifying the linguistical development of the child.

Art, as was well remarked, in answer to Rousseau, is of the very nature of man. This is very plain; strength, courage, beauty, love, hatred, and all that host of strong instinctive powers by which the great movements of the world are originated, and its history acted, belong to nature, in the larger and more philosophical sense of the word; while steam-engines, railways, books, and other notable inventions, belong to art. What civilized man has, as distinguished from the savage, he has from art, not from nature. Books belong to one grade of civilization; printing to a higher; and cheap printing to the highest. The desire to give a stereotyped permanency to the fleeting impressions made by speaking on the car, gave rise to the page 6 invention of letters. Their use is wonderful; provided always, (what Plato had in view, as above hinted) we allow not the tool to lord it over the workman. What then does the raw student of language learn from books? Principally, I think, two things. First, through books the more vague sense of hearing has its impressions fixed, and made more permanent by the aid of the more definite sense of sight. Second, the use of books opens to the young scholar a wider range of ideas, and supplies him with a richer store of words. If, indeed, his father is a very intelligent man, and speaks much with his children, the use of books, in this second regard, maybe more easily dispensed with; but how few fathers are very intelligent! how few of those who are so have time to devote to the systematic education of their offspring! and again, how few even of the most intelligent parents can answer all the questions that a curious child may reasonably ask! Hence, the young talker ought to be well supplied with books—with Peter Parley and Mrs. Trimmer, if possible; but by all means with Robinson Crusoe, and Jack the Giant-killer. These are the proper food of juvenile eloquence.

As to grammar, and such like formal appliances of scholastic wisdom, they are of less consequence in the early development of the linguistic faculty;* but, as the understanding is more evolved, it will not be wise altogether to neglect them. Grammar, indeed, is more effective as a training of the unripe understanding, as a sort of "juvenile logic" (so we are fond of wording it in Aberdeen), than as a stimulus to the expansion of the power of expression. Nevertheless in the teaching of the dead languages, where

* "Verum ut Grammatices praccepta fateor necessaria, ita velim esse quam paucissima, mdo sint optima." Erasmus, de ratione studii. Works Ludg. Bat. 1703, Vol I. P. 512. "Optima tantum primum ac simplicissima pracipienda sunt." Idem, de instituendis pueris. Vol. I. p. 512.

page 7 practice is not easily obtained, and of the modern languages less commonly spoken, it materially shortens the labour of the learner to have systematically imprinted on the memory the grand fundamental types of verbal flexion, and syntactic dependence, which compose the peculiar organism of each tongue. And, even in the case of the mother tongue, the systematic study of grammar, if it give no additional richness or readiness of expression, cannot fail of ensuring greater accuracy and neatness—qualities which the most luxuriant verbal genius is not entitled to despise. The main object of grammar, when philosophically taught, is to bring the understanding and the logical faculty into play, as an accessory tool, to assist the mere memory, and the imagination, which are the natural faculties by which language is acquired. Taught by a mere word-monger and syllable-splitter, therefore, it will infallibly fail of its effect. There is no subject of puerile inculcation that more imperatively calls for a good teacher—none which must more frequently content itself with a bad one. Grammar, and all abstract sciences, are naturally odious to the young; if they are to be relished and digested (without which there is no proper teaching) they must be taught cunningly, with liveliness, and with moderation.

When the understanding of the learner is fully developed, the Study of grammar, strictly so called, will naturally expand itself into what is called Philology, in the modern sense of that word, according to which it may be defined the science of language, as the organ of human thought, viewed philosophically and historically. In its philosophical phase, this science is either a branch of Psychology, or verges very closely on it; in its historical phase, Philology unfolds the genesis of those laws of speech, which Grammar contemplates as a finished result. Each particular language has its own Philology, its own history, and its own organism—the study of which makes up the special science of that language; while the philological laws of several languages, or page 8 of all languages compared together, give rise to a more comprehensive science, called Comparative Philology. The results deducible from this study are often of the most curious and interesting nature, and lead to conclusions full of importance, with regard to the history of the great human family, and the connection of its various races. Comparative Philology, therefore, taken in connection with Physiology, Archaeology, and early history, gives rise to a new science, known in modern times, under the name of Ethnology. The study of these sciences furnishes materials of the highest kind, that the understanding can bring to the aid of the ear and the tongue, in the acquirement of the grand art of language.*

It is never to be forgotten, however, that, after all that books and science can do, the study of every language remains still a practical art; perfection in which is to be attained principally by use. Not the man who is most curious in dictionaries and grammars, but he who hears, and speaks, and reads, and writes, most largely and most sympathetically, will, in a given time, know the language best; and, in order to avoid pedantic blunders—unhappily too frequent—the careful teacher must constantly recur, from these artificial and secondary aids, furnished by abstract books, to the great concrete method of Nature, by living imitation. But, the procedure fit to be adopted by

* Hitherto the aids furnished to the practical study of individual languages by the scientific analysis of various cognate tongues, have been confined almost exclusively to highly cultivated adults; but, there is every reason to hope that, as the mechanism of language becomes more generally understood, and a race of teachers shall have been trained, more skilled in the philosophy of teaching, the method of comparative analysis will be found most extensively applicable, even to elementary teaching.—[See a paper on " the comparative advantages of some methods of teaching Latin and Greek": by John Robson. Classical Museum, No. XIV.]

page 9 the systematic teacher of languages, belongs to the second division of our subject, to which we now proceed. We are to inquire into

II.—The Process of the Didactic Art, or of Pedagogy, as it is Sometimes Called, in the Systematic Artificial Inculcation of Languages.

Here the conditions under which the work is done are in two very important points different; which will, of course, necessitate a corresponding difference of method. These points are,
1.—The existence of a greater maturity of intellect, and with that, a higher faculty of expression, on the part of the learner.
2.—The existence of a systematic purpose and plan, and a deliberate graduated procedure, on the part of the teacher.
These two advantages appear to tell strongly in favour of the more mature, as contrasted with the infantine and childish learner of languages; and in fact, if along with these special advantages of his age and position, the systematic student of language does not lose sight of the great method of nature, there is no question, but that a young man of sixteen, with fair talents, will learn more of a foreign language in three months, than a mere child, in twice as many years. Of this we have daily proof in the case of those young persons, who, residing for half a year in a foreign country, and daily forced to hear the language of the country spoken, return home with a fair practical command of the tongue, without much help from grammars and systematic teaching. If, further, a young man be sent over to Germany, for instance, without knowing a word of the German language, and forthwith commence attending regular lectures on some subject in which he takes an inter- page 10 est, and of which he has some previous knowledge; and if to this practice of daily putting himself within the living vocal element of the language, he adds an hour or two a-day of regular grammatical study, and systematic reading, in this case, as I know, by experience, three months is a sufficient space to give him both a practical command, and a scientific hold of the tongue, such as, by perverse methods, and under less favourable circumstances, he could not have acquired in six years. But mere puberty does not of itself assert such superiority; and the boy, with his instinctive and random method of acquiring his mother tongue, often completely outstrips the youth of sixteen, with his portentous apparatus of grammars and dictionaries, and tutors, public and private, and learned professors. Now, of this notable result, part, no doubt, is to be traced to the fact, that in the long and familiar process by which the mother tongue is acquired, the mind acquires a habit and a set, which makes it painful for it to attempt the familiar use of any other form of expression; just as we see persons of a certain age, by mere repetition of what was originally indifferent, acquire a habit of walking, sitting, or dressing, in a certain way, with which they will as soon part as with their skin; but before the age of thirty, at least, there is elasticity and flexibility enough in most minds, to adapt themselves, without much trouble, to a new form of expressing thought, provided only a right method be adopted, and care be taken, either to find or to create favourable circumstances. Here lies the difficulty: every study requires the student to move in a certain element. As Geology cannot well be studied by those who never saw a mountain or a quarry; nor Mineralogy, without stones; nor Botany, without flowers; so, the faculty of speech cannot be acquired without habitually moving in the element of articulated words. In this isolated island of Great Britain, we are generally backward at languages, because we have little converse with those who speak them. page 11 Our opportunities of learning foreign tongues, compared with those of a Hungarian for instance, a Dutchman, a Russian, or a German, are few; nor do we compensate for this deficiency by the high character of our professional teachers. How often are they stupid! and, where not stupid, how often careless, aimless, and planless! or, on the other hand, how often, when the understanding is brought into fine training by a scientific and systematic teacher, is the development of the great linguistic instincts of nature lost sight of, or unduly subordinated! The eye, the ear, the tongue, the memory, the imagination of the learner, are not stimulated to any natural healthy action; his interest is not excited; his affections are not engaged; so that with ten times the amount of profound labour, not one tenth part of the result is attained, that Nature, in her wisdom, causes us to pick up by chance. Consider only, what a small amount of available Latin and Greek the majority of boys carry off with them from a septennial, or it may be a decennial course, of formal linguistic inculcation at School and College! 'Tis really startling. The Utilitarians, and some men of far higher cast than these,* have some reason to cry out that so much time has been lost in "cramming the memory with dead vocables"—while the young soul lies otherwise, so far as formal teaching goes, all grey, and blank, and barren. This is a matter of great practical im-

* "Nothing can be so little calculated to advance our stock of knowledge, as our inveterate mode of education, whereby we all spend so many years in learning so little. I was, from the age of 6 to that of 20, learning Greek and Latin, or, to speak more truly, learning nothing else. The little Greek I had sleepeth, if it be not dead, and can hardly rise without a miracle; and my Latin, though abundant enough for all useful purposes, would be held in great contempt by those people who regard the classics as the scriptures of taste."—Southey. Life, iii. p. 96.

"Our people are the most prosaic people in the world, but the most faithful; and, with curious reverence, we keep up and transmit, from generation to generation, the repetition of what we call the education of a gentleman."—Tbackekat, (Pendennis, c. 3.)

page 12 portance; and therefore, we shall be excused for looking into it with somewhat of a curious detail.
I.—Reverting to the first step in the process of the natural method laid down above, (p. 2,) we shall find that the teacher of the classical languages is too much in the habit of forgetting it altogether, or placing it in undue subordination. The teacher of a living language will not so readily commit this mistake: to him recourse is generally had by persons whose object is both to speak the language themselves, and to understand it when spoken by others; in which circumstances, that he shall speak readily and pronounce well, is his prime recommendation. But the main object of the classical teacher being to enable the learner to read written books, and by means of such reading to prosecute learned researches privately, he is only too apt to imagine that his disciple must learn what he learns principally by the eye and by the understanding, and so the teacher needs not trouble himself much with frequent vocal appeals to the ear. But there is hasty logic here, and not a little carelessness. For, first of all, it is plain that by neglecting the education of the ear in the teaching of the dead languages, we leave unemployed one great avenue, and that the original natural avenue, to the knowledge of language: we throw ourselves altogether on the artificial and secondary, and (in matters of sound) less dramatic machinery of the eye and the understanding. The consequence will be, unavoidably—for Nature is never mocked—a great deal of unnecessary trouble, with a comparatively meagre result. A striking exemplification of this we see, unfortunately too often, in the method of teaching Prosody, as it is practised even in the best schools.* Prosody is neither

* I cannot pretend to an extensive acquaintance with the methods of teaching practised in English Schools. These Institutions, indeed, with characteristic exclusiveness, often forbid the entrance of a stranger into their classes; and in this way I was prevented from seeing the system at Rugby, though I went there for the purpose of getting information. I only speak, therefore, of evils which have come under my eye every where in Scotland, and specially in Aberdeen. As little do I pretend to have examined all the Grammars, Greek or Latin, that have been published, and are now used in this country; but the only one known to me that strongly enforces the, natural method of teaching Prosody urged in the text is that of Dr. Peithman, London: Orr & Smith. 183.0, 2d Edition.

page 13 more nor less than part of pronunciation, that part namely, which prescribes, according to the use of each particular language, the longer or shorter duration of the voice upon each component syllable of a word. Thus, when I say, the word Female is, according to the technical style of Prosodians, a Spondee, I mean that in uttering this word both the syllables are extended or prolonged by the dwelling of the voice for a longer time on each syllable, than is the case in such words as Venom, where both the syllables are short, and the whole word composes what, in Prosodial phrase, is called a Pyrrhic, the antipodes of a Spondee. Now, common sense will teach any man, that, if this be so, as it unquestionably is, the plain, direct, and natural method of teaching Prosody, is to pronounce every word properly, according to the quantity of the several syllables of which it is composed, and, by frequently repeating this impression on the ear, to make it permanent.* This is, in fact, the way by which we learn the Prosody of our native tongue, learn to make the same vocal utterance a, short in the word Hal, and long in the word Hall. But if we inquire into the method by which learned schoolmasters and professors have often taught Prosody, we shall find that, from whatever source they derived their method, it certainly was not from Nature, or from common sense.

* "The Ear Causes the tongue to move; the ear is the root of the memory."—Nature displayed in her mode of teaching language to man. By N. G. Dufief, 2 Vols. 8vo, 6th Edition, London: 1823. Dufief, as a man of one idea, and a Frenchman, rides his hobby with a little too much sound and fury; but nowise teacher will scorn to look into his book.

page 14 Their method is this: For the first three or four years of the pupils' indoctrination, they leave the matter, in a great measure, to chance, or to a "systemless system," which, like higher things in higher places, has reigned in the schools, by the sole right of a stupid tradition, for centuries; then, after the ear has remained either altogether uncultivated, or, what is far worse, perversely cultivated, (for the schoolmaster must speak), through this triennial or quinquennial space, suddenly a new revolution is made to the juvenile understanding, and, in the shape of a formal science of harsh and crabbed rules, the proper pronunciation of syllables in the abstract is now for the first time taught, while the improper pronunciation by the boy's tongue, and by the master's, is allowed to retain its old established sovereignty in the concrete! Here is wisdom. Nihil Est Tam Absurdum Quod Non Fecerit Aliquis Grammaticorum.

I advise the classical teacher who is not a coward, and who has not by the long habit of teaching forgot the not less important art of learning, at once to break with this system of traditionary perverseness, and to teach Latin and Greek Prosody, as he himself learned the Prosody of his mother tongue, by a direct and frequent appeal to the ear. Let the proper quantity of every syllable of every word go along with that word, the first time the pupil uses it. Let Prosody be a living practice with which the study of language begins—not a dead theory with which it ends. Let there be no time lost in teaching that painfully by rules afterwards, which may be learned without rules by agreeable practice at first. If, for instance, you pronounce the syllable Os, at the end of a Latin word, regularly long, your pupils, by the nice instinct of the ear, will pronounce it long also, and will be saved in after years a just expenditure of vexation at the stupid science of Prosody, with which pedants so perversely torture them. Take another step also, in the path which Nature points out, and, instead of confining your pedagogic superintendence to the more lazy art of hearing lessons, come actively forward your page 15 self, as often as possible, and use the tongue, that you are teaching practically before your pupils. * Believe me, if you will but try, with any small amount of courage and common sense, it is as easy to speak Latin or Hebrew, as to speak English. Begin with what you know, and perseverance will soon carry you a length of which you have no conception. Never be content with knowing profoundly that such and such curious rules are to be found lying there on the bookshelf. The language is not yours, till you have it in your ear, and on your tongue. However thoroughly you have studied the art of self-defence, conceit yourself not a fencer till you can use the foil.

II.—Going back to the second great step of the natural process of language-teaching, (p. 3,) the direct and frequent exhibition of interesting objects with which the words are to be associated, we find that here also the classical teacher labours under very serious disadvantages. These arise, no doubt, in a great measure, from the nature of his subject; but so much the more is it necessary that he should be aware of them, and seriously set himself to do what he can for their remedy. The subjects of which classical books treat, are, in general, remote from our common field of observation and interest: we read of names that are far from our feelings, and of things and places that no longer exist. Now there are two methods which the classical teacher can employ in order to diminish this evil. To paint up and gar-

* On this point the Hamiltonians are strong. "Instead of teaching, our modern master of languages orders his pupil to learn, and thinks he discharges his duty when he punishes him for not doing so. Thus the burden of tuition is thrown on the pupils, instead of being sustained by the teacher."—The Gospel of John. By James Hamilton. London, 1824.

See a curious account in Morhof's Polyhistor, of Clenard's method of teaching Latin by lively and sportive conversation, translated by me in my article "on the teaching of languages."—Foreign Quarterly Review, No. LIX., p. 170.

page 16 nish his grey Philology, which speaks only to the ear and the understanding, he will call in the aid of various-visaged Archaeology, which speaks principally to the eye. By means of drawings, plans, and vivid imaginative descriptions, he will bring the many-coloured life of the Greeks and Romans bodily before the eye of the modern student.* The eye of a boy—unless it be dulled by long-continued groping through Latin dictionaries—is naturally quick and eager. The teacher should provide food meet for it. Again, in order to excite the pupil's interest in what is past, the teacher should omit no opportunity of connecting it with the present. In teaching ancient geography, for instance, he ought not to cram the boy's memory with obsolete names only, but he must bring strikingly before the young imagination the glowing features of Nature, as they exist now in the regions known by those storied designations. A classical teacher, when he can afford it, ought to travel, and see the present state of those countries of which he has to speak so much. "When I was at Babylon, and stood upon the tower of Belus"—dropt accidentally from a professorial mouth, will cause a pricking in the heels of the dullest boy, and make him limp through his Curtius for the moment, with a less painful feeling of lameness. The young have a strong appetite for reality; and the teacher who does not make use of that appetite is not wise.
But the great advantage of teaching languages by means of objects or pictures of objects, is, that this is the only method which immediately and effectively breaks the scholar from the evil habit of continuing to think in his

* Fabulas et apologos hoc discet libentius ac meminerit melius, si horum argumenta scite depicta pueri oculis subjiciantur, et quicqaid oratione narratur, in tabula demonslretur.— Erasmus.

Quod judicabit maxime gratum pueris, maximeque cognatum et amabiley ac, ut ita dicam florulentum, id potissitnum magister propona.— Erasmus.

page 17 mother tongue, while he is studying, or assuming the attitude of studying, a foreign one. According to the method of Nature, the student of language, from the very first hour of his education, begins to form a living habit of associating such and such familiar objects, directly with such and such recurring sounds; whereas, according to our common school methods, a new language is too frequently acquired only through the intervention of the mother tongue, which, pre-occupying the train of thought, renders it a cumbrous and painful operation for the organs of speech, when required to perform their proper function, in reference to the new language. This is not merely an evil thing in itself, by preventing the accomplishment of ready expression in a language which the student may otherwise well understand; but it acts as a positive bar to the easy and frequent iteration of the vocables once received into the ear; and, of course, becomes a powerful and constantly acting cause in retarding the young linguist's progress. Every Professor in a Scottish University must, I am sure, have made the observation—how slow even good students often are in giving the Latin extempore for some of the most common English words; their learning is seldom forthcoming at the call; they have to go and hunt for it. Nor is this strange. For the fact is that, during five years of a course of grammar, though they may have been taught to apply the rules expertly, they have never been taught to use the language; they have been accustomed to make a laborious search for it always through strange English idioms, and perplexing dictionaries. Now, this evil is at once cured, if the classical teacher, instead of sticking like a limpet to his Accidence, and working always pedantically through books, will, on the very first day of a Latin course,' start with the direct naming and pointing out of any interesting objects or pictures of objects that may command the eye of the scholar. For this exercise the mother tongue does not require to be used either by teacher or learner; for the page 18 teacher has merely to name the thing in Latin, and the learner has, in the first place, merely to repeat the sound accurately; afterwards, short sentences will readily be made, describing first one part of the object, and then another, till the scholar shall be able, without the precedent of the master, and without ever thinking of an English phrase, to pour forth a full and free description of the whole object, in elegant and idiomatic Latinity. In this manner the ear will be daily and hourly besieged by the sounds of the foreign idiom, coming directly from the tongue of the teacher with all the fresh and plastic power of a vernacular; and the tongue will have daily and hourly practice in the pleasant art of playing with a new instrument. Only it requires a dexterous and lively instructor to use this method effectively—an accurate man too, and a man of a certain amount of honesty, and moral courage. A clumsy fellow and a coward, or a shallow pretender—such as too many of our teachers have been—need never attempt it.

I have one more remark to make on this part of the subject. Why are classical teachers generally so exclusively "classical" in their sphere of thought, and in the books which they use? Why are they so averse, for instance, to Natural History, and those sciences whose subject is real visible objects, and not words expressive of things that cannot be handled? If I were a schoolmaster, so far from feeling any of this jealousy of what the Germans call "real" sciences, I would encourage them, not only as introducing a pleasant variety into the monotony of grammatical training, but as a signal aid in the acquisition of the Latin and Greek languages. Everybody knows that the whole terminology of these sciences is borrowed from one or the other of those tongues; and the cunning philologist, if he has no better reason, may wisely admit them into the school curriculum for this cause only, that they open another and most inviting passage for the smuggling of page 19 Greek vocables into the brain. * Boys who come to College, with no vocabulary but what they have learned from Cæsar and Livy, are often sadly puzzled when they make their transit (as is the order with us), in the second session, to the Natural History class. I would have this science, so interesting to the young, taught for two hours a-week, during the last three years of the Gymnasial course. To this, classical monopolists will, of course, object, urging that their time would be curtailed; but they have more time than they know how to use wisely—as their method of teaching Prosody sufficiently declares.

III.—But the grand reason why so little linguistic progress is made by boys in schools and colleges is plainly this, that not a few of the students have no interest at all in what they are about, and even the best scholars have a very secondary and a very interrupted interest. A child has a constant and strong interest in its toys, and in the objects of the external world that daily surround it; hence it pleasantly and readily learns the names of these objects. With the grammar school boy, however, and the university student, it is too often quite the reverse; and the progress is in this case as slow and painful, as in the other case it is rapid and delightful. Of this radical evil, there are several causes, some of which certainly may be remedied,—others, it seems likely, will remain. I shall mention four, which principally strike me.

* Those teachers who wish to use Natural History or visible objects of any kind as a means of varying the common meagre routine of a "Grammar School" in the old style, will find much assistance from the famous German school-book, the Orbis Pictus, (Reutlingen, 1838,) being merely the modem and improved shape of the Janua Linguarum (Lon. 1662.) by Amos Comenius. Concerning this celebrated teacher, (whose motto was "Res Non Verba,") I may refer the German scholar to Raumer's admirable Geschichle der Pœdagogik, where full information may be had on the didactic principles and practice of all the most famous teachers of modern times, from the revival of letters down to Pestalozzi.

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The master, in the first place, is sometimes dull and stupid, or a precise and wiry pedant, who is unable to deal sympathetically with young minds. The interest, whatever there be in the school work, cannot come from him, from whom certainly it ought to come, in a grand all-sweeping stream, as certainly as the warlike inspiration of a great battle, ending in victory, comes from the commander-in-chief. Alexander with his thousands conquered Darius with his millions on the field of Arbela, simply because he was Alexander. So, if you find one school where the scholars are alert and exact, while in another they are somnolent and loose, you may depend upon it the cause of this difference is to be sought for in the master, not in the boys. Those, therefore, who wish their sons to be inspired with a love of learning, should, above all things, look to it that they provide him with an intelligent, active, lively, and blithe-hearted teacher. How much, then, are we to blame in Scotland for the low status in which we have hitherto kept the teachers of youth! As matters now stand, it is extremely difficult, say rather, in most cases, impossible, for the teachers, even in the best grammar schools of our most flourishing cities, to assert their position as gentlemen. They are practically a proscribed race. Say what you please of your respect for education and educators, your daughter understands better what you mean, and she will not" lower herself by marrying a schoolmaster." And no wonder. For your respected pedagogue, profoundly versed in Homer and Demosthenes, has only £100 or £200 a-year, while your daughter cannot live comfortably under five hundred pounds—or, at least, four. When will this respectable Scotch world learn that to diffuse sunshine and rain on the youthful budding mind is as respectable, and as useful a vocation, as frowning punishment upon thieves, or looking sternly on the rack-rented tenants of a thriftless landlord? In my opinion, it requires talent of as high an order, and moral character much higher, to make a young man love learning, as to shoot a Sikh, or to cut page 21 down a Caffre. But the world has hitherto been of a different opinion; and, till it choose to alter this opinion, we must expect to find inferior teaching of languages, as of everything else, predominant in the schools. Your smart son will be of the same opinion as your daughter. He will be an advocate; he will be a doctor; he will be a preacher; nay, he will prefer to earn a precarious guinea from Chambers and Hogg, from Blackwood and Tait, rather than sink his position in society, by becoming a school-master. The only way to remedy this evil is, to raise the £200 a-year to £500; and teaching will at once become a gentlemanly profession.

But the scholar may be at fault, as well as the teacher. He also is sometimes dull and stupid, or, it may be, inconstant and erratic; consequently incapable of having his attention fixed, or his interest excited, even by a lively teacher. For this evil I know no remedy, except one which certainly would succeed in some cases, though in others it would prove inefficacious. I mean change of study. That some youths cannot have their faculties stimulated through the medium of Latin and Greek, or any other language, may, from the known diversity of human capacities and tastes, as they appear in after years, be assumed as a fact. "The boy is father of the man." Let the hopeless dunce of the Grammar School be tried with Natural History, with Geography, Drawing, Music, Turning, Fencing, and perhaps, he will display the latent instinct which your portentous machinery of grammars and dictionaries has hitherto smothered. * There is too much of a routine in

* "Dunces have nothing to do with Greek and Latin; for studies that yield neither delight nor improvement, are not only superfluous, but hurtful."—Dr. Beattie, on the usefulness of classical learning.—Wise-most wise; but half-starved Schoolmasters and under paid Professors are not over-apt to make any regulations that have a tendency to prevent dunces from "having to do with Greek and Latin." Parents also are not without folly; and therefore, the eye of a wise teacher in this country is continually vexed by seeing dull hoys, year after year, employed in being drilled through a course of study that is not merely superfluous to them, but positively hurtful.

page 22 our Schools and Colleges. The optional principle, now at length, after much stiff fight with pedantry, being introduced into Oxford and Cambridge, is founded on nature, and ought not despotically to be disregarded by schoolmasters.

Again, it sometimes happens that even a clever teacher wants sense to put proper books into the hands of the learner. He knows what interests himself, but does not always sufficiently consider what is likely to interest the youthful mind. Perhaps he is a Ciceronian, who will not read the most interesting books in the language, because the tenses are not used always in the same sequence that was most affected by the ear of the great orator. For this evil I know no remedy, but such as will naturally spring from a general elevation of status, and consequent enlargement of ideas, in the whole teaching body.

Lastly, under this head, persons are often sent to study the classical languages, and to read the works of the highest classics, at an age when it is impossible even for clever boys—not to mention the slow majority—to read them with intelligence and sympathy. Here lies the great defect of the Scottish system of classical education. I do not know how it is elsewhere; but I know that in Marischal College, Aberdeen, young men generally abandon their classical studies at that very age, when, according to the laws of nature, they become first susceptible of what is most sublime and beautiful in composition. Puberty has more to do with the intelligence of a Greek chorus, than even Passow's Lexicon, or Porson's Hecuba. Our whole system of teaching Greek in Scotland, and our academical system generally, as based on classical study, must be fundamentally remodelled, before Scotland can ever hope to send forth a race of scholars, thinkers, and theologians, whom Europe shall respect. We have degraded ourselves from our proper position by doing school-work at the Universities; and the proper University work is not done at all. Under a healthy system, no person would think of coming to college before the age of seventeen, eighteen, or nine- page 23 teen; and I think also, that the age for commencing Greek and Latin might, with great propriety, be postponed for a year or two in the schools. The mind is not ripe, even for the elements of those studies, before the age of eleven or twelve; and the time previous to that might be much better employed in giving the puerile mind that general culture belonging to a man and an Englishman rather than to a scholar, which, when classics are commenced earlier, is only too apt to be neglected. For your regular Greek and Latin man, as I have known the creature, is the greatest of all monopolists, and will tolerate nothing in the school-world but himself, and his grammar.

IV.—Another great defect in the systematic inculcation of languages is the want of a proper machinery for the frequent iteration of the strange sounds with which the learner is to become familiar. Think only of the number of times the most common words are repeated before a child, and by the child, during the first six or seven years of its existence! That it has learned so much by mere accident, and altogether without plan, will then appear nothing wonderful. Contrast with this grand iterating process of nature, the common process of studying language, either privately, or in a grammar school, and you will no longer think it strange that grammatical science, with all her stiff and wiry appliances, after six or seven years' hard labour, has produced so poor a result,—a result so exceedingly meagre in many cases, that men, who would seem particularly wise, are not ashamed to say, that the object of studying Latin grammar for such a length of time in a grammar school, is not to learn the Latin language, but to have the crude understanding properly drilled by the only logic of which the puerile mind is capable! Thus people learn to sing, we suppose, not that they may produce sweet sounds, but that they may strengthen their throats! But, whatever may be thought of this wisdom, one thing is plain, that the classical teacher, who really wishes his pupils to learn the page 24 classical languages, and not merely to be drilled by grammatical rules, must set his mind to work for bringing into play every possible sort of method, whereby the once-impressed sound may be repeated. Every trade has its tricks; and I have no doubt that, when the philosophy of education shall be more deeply looked into than has yet been the case in this country of traditionary routine, schoolmasters will find that they are yet far from having exhausted all the devices that an imitation of the method of nature furnishes for the attainment of this necessary repetition. One thing only I will notice here, as it has special reference to the system of teaching Greek in our Scottish Universities, and involves an evil so clamant, that sensible men have long ago determined that it shall no longer be tolerated. I mean the practice of teaching the elements of Greek, for five or six months of the year, in our Universities; a practice which, besides other evils, is directly adverse to that continuity of the natural process of repetition which, in the first stages of linguistic progress, is absolutely indispensable. Not to mention that it is altogether degrading to Professors in a University to teach the elements of Greek at all, it is quite obvious that, at whatever stage of progress the students shall have been left at the expiry of the first Session, they will be found (having been left to themselves), at no further stage six months afterwards, when the second year of their curriculum commences; nay, of this we may be sure from universal experience, and from the very nature of the case, that the great majority of them will have retrograded considerably. They have been out of training for a period as long or longer than they were in it; and what this means let pianists, and rope-dancers, and prize-fighters tell. Then, when they return to College, and commence the second fit of their Hellenistic drill, they have so many new subjects of study—as, in Marischal College for instance, Mathematics and Natural History—that any real progress in the languages (except with one or two who study privately), is not to be looked for; and the fact is page 25 that the great majority, even of the good scholars, only keep up the small measure of Greek which they have got during the first year of the course, for the sake of leaving College with the title of A.M., and passing the entrance trials (happily now at length existing in some Divinity Halls), and Presbyterial examinations. The proper remedy for this gross absurdity is not, as some may be ready to suppose, the lengthening of the Academical Session, though to this I am in no wise opposed, provided the general Academic standard be raised,* but the banishment from the Universities of the elementary teaching of Greek, and the remitting of it to the schools, to which it properly belongs. Then the first Greek class will be able to start with the reading of the higher Greek authors; and the second Greek class may with safety assume the discursive form of learned prelection, which is the main feature that distinguishes Academical teaching from the elementary inculcation of schools. Till this be done, it is in vain to hope, as I have already said, that Scotland shall ever produce a generation of scholars, thinkers, and theologians, whom Europe may look on with respect. We shall remain, what we have hitherto been, as Dr. Chalmers, with his usual deep insight, expressed it, "weak throughout, because weak radically."

From this combined view of the essential elements of the natural method of learning languages, and of the most common defects in their systematic artificial inculcation, we may draw out the following practical rules for the study of languages, and with that conclude.

* If the standard he not raised, I oppose the lengthening of the Session decidedly, as having a direct tendency, in the present puerile state of matters, to convert the Professors in arts more and more into mere schoolmasters.