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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 3

Practical Rules for the Study of Languages

Practical Rules for the Study of Languages.

I.—Never commence the study of a language without page 26 the assistance of a master (where it can be had) who understands both the science and the practice of his department of Philology. If you cannot find a good master answering this description, then, if your object in studying the language be purely speculative and scientific, (as for the purposes of comparative Philology and Ethnology,) choose the master who is most profound in the science of the language; otherwise, that is, if your main object be, as is generally the case, the practical use of the language, choose a master who is clever in its practice, and supply what he wants in scientific knowledge, by the private study of grammars and philological treatises.

II.—Study a living language, if you by any means can, only in the place and among the people where it is spoken.* You will thus save yourself a great deal of time and trouble; and every expense of labour will tell with a tenfold power.

III.—If you cannot command this advantage, you must seek the society of natives of the foreign country whose language you would learn, living in your own country; as, for instance, of Germans or Greeks, (for Greek is not a dead language, as some ignorantly suppose,) in London or Manchester; and in default of these, you should associate yourself with other learners for the purpose of frequent expression, writing, and conversation, in the foreign phrase, if possible all under the eye of a dexterous teacher. Familiarity with a language, and a ready command of its stores, is, with most people, more easily attainable in the social way, than in the way of solitary study.

IV.—In your use of books, do not practise silent reading merely, but read as much as possible aloud, thus filling

* "Ad linguae cognitionem plurimum habet momenti, si inter bene loquaces discipulus educctur."—Erasmus

page 27 your own ear with the greatest possible amount, so far as depends on yourself, of the living fulness of the language.

V.—Make your book supply the place of a speaking model by shutting it at intervals, and declaiming any part of its contents that may strike your fancy, as nearly as possible in the words that are written; or you may shape these words to your own ideas, as they may happen to suit, and adapt your thoughts in short sentences as they occur to the language of the author whom you are reading. You will thus make for yourself a sort of speaking practice in the monologic form, (as Demosthenes used to declaim to the waves,) with the constant assurance that you are using only the best words in the best way. You will likewise habituate your mind at once to seize on the foreign idiom, as the direct living tool of thought—without that constant cumbrous and confounding interposition of the mother tongue, which must be mercilessly interdicted, before the easy command of any foreign idiom can become possible.

VI.—Closely connected with these monologic exercises, is the habit of committing passages of considerable length, especially poetical passages, verbally to memory, much encouraged in some of the English schools,* and the exercise of translation and re-translation recommended by the famous Roger Ascham. The former of these exercises ought

* The famous Gaspar Scioppius in his "Conshltatiores de scholarum et stadiorum ralioneAmstel: 1660, recommends, that after the first two months of linguistical study, occupied in committing to memory the paradigms of declensions and conjugations, young Latinists should, during the next eight months, occupy themselves "memoriae wandardis mille acducentis sententiis in Mercurio nostro bifingui." To this I have little objection, provided descriptions of interesting external objects be largely mixed up with the maxims; for hoys are not capable of mere moral philosophy.

"The way is this. After the three Concordances learned, as I touched before, let the Master read unto him the Epistles of Cicero, gathered together, and chosen out by Starmius for the capacity of children.

"First, let him teach the child cheerfully and plainly the cause and matter of the letter; then, let him construe it into English, so oft, as the child may easily carry away the understanding of it; lastly, parse it over perfectly. This done thus, let the child, by and bye, both construe and parse it over again; so that it may appear that the child doubteth in nothing that his Master taught him before. After this, the child must take a paper book, and sitting in some place, where no man shall prompt him, by himself, let him translate into English his former lesson. Then shewing it to his Master, let the Master take from him his Latin book, and pausing an hour at the least, then let the child translate his own English into Latin again in another paper book. When the child bringeth it turned into Latin, the Master must compare it with Tally's book, and lay them both together; and where the child doth well, either in choosing or true placing Tally's words, let the Master praise him, and say, Here you do well. For, I assure you, there is no such whetstone to sharpen a good wit, and encourage a will to learning, as is praise.

"But if a child miss, either in forgetting a word, or in changing a good with a worse, or misordering the sentence, I would not have the Master either frown or chide with him, if the child have done his diligence, and used no truandship therein. For I know by good experience, that a child shall take more profit of two faults gently warned of, than of four things rightly hit; for then the Master shall have good occasion to say unto him, Tully would have used such a word, not this; Tully would have placed this word here, not there; would have used this case, this number, this person, this degree, this grader; he would have used this mood, this tense, this simple rather than this compound; this adverb here, not there; he would have ended the sentence with this verb, not with that noun or participle &c.

"In these few lines, I have wrapped up the most tedious part of Grammar, and also the ground of almost all the rules, that are so busily taught by the Master, and so hardly learned by the scholar in all common schools; which after this sort, the Master shall teach without all error, and the scholar shall learn without great pain; the Master being led by so sure a guide, and the scholar being brought into so plain and easy a way. And therefore we do not contemn rules, but we gladly teach rules, and teach them more plainly, sensibly, and orderly, than they be commonly taught in common schools. For when the Master shall compare Tully s book with the scholar's translation, let the Master at the first lead and teach his scholar to join the rules of his Grammar hook with the examples of his present lesson, until the scholar by himself be able to fetch out of his grammar every rule for every example; so as the Grammar book be ever in the scholar's hand, and also used of him as a dictionary for every present use. This is a lively and perfect way of teaching of rules; where the common way used in common schools, to read a grammar alone by itself, is tedious for the Master, hard for the scholar, cold and uncomfortable for them both."

page 28 not to be pressed equally on all, because there is the greatest possible variety in the method whereby the memory acts in different individuals, but will prove of immense ad- page 29 vantage to some, and very useful to most.* The latter cannot be too much recommended to those who wish to attain an idiomatic accuracy, and are not able to obtain the assistance of a skilful master.
VII.—In your choice of books be determined more by what interests yourself, and what you decidedly like, than by what you may think you are bound to admire, because the world has stamped it as classical. The world may be, and in these cases generally is, quite right; but in the thorny matter of acquiring a new language, all needless difficulties are carefully to be eschewed; and the only question for you, as a learner, is, what books, or what style of books you can read (provided always they are not too difficult for

* Jacotot's method of learning a whole author (say Fenelon's Telemachus for French) by heart had the advantage of frequent repetition, and of not confounding the learner by a variety of inconsistent styles, (see Rule viii. infra;) but it is liable to the objection mentioned in the text, of being unsuited for certain memories, besides being apt to be in the end not a little wearisome, even to those with whose mental constitution it best agrees.

Translation may be practised two ways—(I.) Into plain good idiomatic English, but with the most exemplary accuracy.—(2.) Into literal English, retaining the foreign idiom—the Hamiltonian method. For the purposes of re-translation, both these methods should be practised, and the two idioms carefully compared with one another, even in the minutest points. See some excellent practical directions on this subject by J. Price in the Classical Museum, Nos. 24-5-6.

"In eam igitur partem est adjuvanda natura in quam suapte aponte prima est."—Erasmus.—" Nee quia Ciceronem nomino, eo praescripsero omnibus lectionem Tullii, ut unico duel Nihil crim invita faciendum Minerva."Gerard Joannes Vossius de ratione studiorum, Trajecti ad Rhen: 1658.

page 30 your grade of grammatical acquirement,) with the greatest amount of interest, profit, and delight. If you love the book, you will read it much, and read it often; by doing so, you will master the vocables it contains in a speedy and agreeable way. And though it is proper, as a general rule, to commence with an easy writer (such as Xenophon, in Greek,) and proceed to a more difficult, (Thucydides,) yet such is the power of passion and enthusiasm—amor omnia vincit—that quick progress is ensured more by beginning with a difficult task, which you are eager to undertake, than with ail easy book to which you are indifferent. In this view also, it may be useful to hint, that students of any particular profession, such as Theology or Medicine, who, it may be, have neither time nor taste for studying the classic writers, strictly so called, may easily maintain a familiarity with the classic languages, by reading Greek or Latin books, whose name is legion, appertaining to their particular business. It has often struck me as strange, that this very obvious device for combining linguistical with professional study, should be so little practised.

VIII.—Read the same author, as much as may be, continuously from beginning to end; because the continuity of subject is favourable to the continuity of interest; and also, because every author has a style in which he more or less repeats himself, and, by doing so, of course aids you in the natural process of repeating his phraseology. Those teachers who are continually jumping from book to book do their scholars ill service; and books of motley extracts from different authors, except in a few special cases, (as in Anthologies of lyric poetry,) and used with discrimination, are not to be commended.*

* "With regard to the use of miscellaneous extracts, which were so much used a few years ago, most experienced teachers will concur with me in thinking that we have done wisely in substituting for them the continuous perusal of Attic or Atticistic works."—Donaldsox: Preface to Arrian in Farker's Classical Texts: London, 1847.

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IX.—With regard to the use of grammars and exercise books, it is absolutely necessary, in the first place, that the common flexions of noun and verb should be accurately imprinted on the memory; (without this indeed, and also some knowledge of the irregular verbs, it will generally be found impossible to use a dictionary readily;) and the indolent disposition or irregular temper, that refuses to submit itself systematically to this memorial drill, will generally be found incapable of making great progress in Philological study.* As for Du-Fief, Hamilton, Ollendorf, and the whole troop of those who have made a noise as patent language-inculcators, they are all right, in so far as they have brought the much-neglected practical method of nature by direct living imitation prominently forward; all wrong, in so far as they would dispense with the use of dictionary and grammar, and other systematic aids to the scientific knowledge of language, Besides the mere

* "Man soll die Grammatica den Kindern wohl einbilden. Denn we solchcs nicht geschicht, is! alies Lcrnen verloren nnd vergeblich. Es sollen auch die Kinder solche regulas Grammaticsœ, auswendig aussagen, dass Sie gedrungen undgetrieben werden die Graimnatica wohl zu lemen."—Martin Luther. Raumer's geschichte der Paedagogik, p. 175.

On the method of Ollendorf and some others that have achieved a temporary notoriety, I have spoken somewhat more at length in the Foreign Quarterly Review, as quoted above. With regard to the Hamiltonian System, so far as it facilitates the progress of the student, by interpreting the author for him, instead of forcing him, by help of grammar and dictionary, to interpret it for himself, this method was practised ages before Hamilton, by the great Byzantine refugees, who taught Greek in Italy, by publicly prelecting from the text of some classical author: and the same method is extensively practised by the living Philological professors of the German Universities, who, however, in this, as in other departments of intellectual action, are apt to fail in practical effect, by an over curious minuteness about trifles. With regard to our Scottish usage in this respect, I have been informed that the late eloquent Professor of Greek in the University of Glasgow—Sir Daniel Sandford—with that happy instinct which characterised his teaching, practised this method of translating publicly from famous Greek authors, with great effect; but I rather think the prevailing tendency with Scottish classical teachers, whether in school or college, is to make the scholar do all, and to do nothing for him. Now, if the Hamiltonian system be justly chargeable with making the learning of languages too easy, and not bringing the intellectual activity of the learner enough into play, surely there is a stiff pedagogic severity on the other side, which refuses to remove the brambles from a road, that of itself will always be rough enough for the delicate feet of the majority. Robson, in the essay we have quoted, approves of the use of interlinear translations, after the Hamiltonian fashion, in the earlier stages of linguistical progress; and special vocabularies, prepared expressly for the author read, seem to serve pretty much the same purpose. Certainly the Hamiltonians were right in exclaiming against the cruelty of sending mere tyros, in their first stage, at large into the wide sea of such dictionaries as we have been accustomed to use.

page 32 forms and flexions, it is also highly desirable to make a regular study of the syntactical laws of the language and its peculiar idioms. But this is not in all cases absolutely necessary, as quick persons, especially if acquainted with the general laws of syntax from the accurate knowledge of one language, will readily pick up most of these idioms from practice, and form, as they go on with their reading, a syntax for themselves. But with regard to the use of systematic grammars and exercise-books, two cautions are of the greatest importance:—First, that they should never be used as things independent, and by themselves, but only as a continuous running comment 011 the daily practice of hearing, speaking, and reading:—Second, that they should be taken according to a certain wise and calculated gradation, as may be necessary for the purposes of an ascending practice. Of this principle many schoolmasters, in the days not far gone, when the world slept, showed a woeful ignorance; and I fear that the effects of that long opiate are yet but too clearly visible in many places; but the best and most recent classical school grammars used in Germany and among ourselves, are constructed strictly and consistently on the principle that the grammar is to be learned, step by step, so far only, as it page 33 affords materials that can immediately be turned to use.* Nothing that is not to be used, and that immediately, ought to be taught. For the language was not made for the sake of the grammar, but the grammar for the sake of the language.
X.—When the grammar has been well studied, and a stock of words acquired by frequent and various reading, original composition, in as free a style as possible, may be tried. Attempts at this should, indeed, be made occasionally by the student in the earlier parts of his course; and, with regard to these attempts, a wise master or his own feeling of his power will be the best director. It is best, as a general rule, to commence with free viva voce descriptions, (afterwards carefully written down), of visible objects, such as the map of a country, objects in Natural History, archaeological drawings, or models from the antique, and so forth. But it is altogether perverse, and a painful inversion of the process of Nature, to attempt writing or discoursing largely in any language without a large stock of words to start with, which can only be got by a course of large and various reading; for to pick words out of a dictionary is fretful, and the choice slippery, sometimes blind. In the early stages of mere syntactical exercise, the student should always be supplied with the proper vocables, or at least be able to gather them from his previous reading; but, with regard to original composition, properly so called, the best way to commence is the way previously hinted, viz., to take

* This principle is distinctly enunciated in the preface to the 1st Edition, (Hanover, 1837), of Kühner's Elementary Greek Grammar of which the 10th German edition (1851), is now before me; and strongly supported by Robson, in the paper above quoted. Of course, as the pupil can find no book sufficiently simple for the commencement of his reading exercises, a graduated series of exercises, both for reading and writing, must be prepared by the teacher; and it is here that his practical mastery of his profession; will be most severely tested.

page 34 a favourite author, or a book on a favourite subject, as a model, to shut the book at intervals, and to write what will flow from the pen, as the traces of the phraseology are yet fresh in the brain. Thus, for instance, if you wish in the easiest way to speak or write Greek, take a map of Greece, and hang it on the wall; then take Strabo, and read his description, first of the whole country, and then of any particular division, as Attica; note, with a pencil, the words and phrases that particularly belong to geographical description, or make a collection of them on a separate paper. Then shut the book, and try how much of the description you can go through without the assistance of the original books, or your paper of jottings. Supply what is deficient; and repeat the exercise to-morrow and next day, till you are perfect. You will thus find yourself, in a very short time, able to describe any map or real district of country, in classical Greek, with perfect fluency and accuracy. From simple description, you may proceed to spontaneous imitative outbursts of oratorial argument and invective, for which you will find the most admirable materials in Cicero, Livy, or Demosthenes, according to your taste.* The steps from this free imitation to a per-

* I cannot refrain here from quoting the admirable remarks of Vossius, in the treatise above referred to. After recommending the system of translation and re translation for the earlier stages, he proceeds to speak of the finishing processes in the formation of a good Latin style, as follows:—

"Posterior exercitatio est, guando puer epistolam, vel hisloriolam sumit, non disconvenientem multum suis rebus: atque cam mutatis aliquibus suo accommodet instituto, e. g. Cicero varios in epistolis consolatur: exharum una, vel pluribus corsolaturo fas erit sha excerpere, etiam verbatim periodos totas. Sie ex Tullio melius discet likeamenta sermoris Romani, et formare ipshm ortion's corpus. At majoribus jam viribus est opus, quando in orgumento multum diverso imitatio fit eaque instituitur, ut non alleri pene omnia, sed multa etiam nobis debeantur: et quae ex altero desumpta, ea etiam nostra plane videantur, quia, at artificiosi fures solent, iis novam plane formam tribuimus."

page 35 fectly independent and manly use of a foreign language, so as Latin was wielded by "Wolf and Herrman, are not difficult. Anything like writing slavishly from some chosen model (as Bembo and some other Italian stylists did from Cicero), is, in the most advanced stages of linguistical culture, to be carefully avoided. 'Tis better to stumble occasionally on your own legs, than to live only as the correctly pictured shadow of another man's movements.

XI.—Bear in mind, that though the practical command of any language, whether living or dead, is and must remain in a great measure an empirical art, yet he has no conception of the peculiar function of a teacher of youth, nor of his own duty to himself as a rational learner, who does not strive from the very beginning of his linguistical course, to take along with him as much philosophical principle, as the necessity of practice will conveniently allow. Study therefore, always, not only to know the standard rules of a language accurately, but to obtain an insight into the metaphysical principle from which they proceed; and farther, be studious to compare the idiom of one language with that of another, not only as one of many facts in the phenomenon of human utterance, but as an index to the various and cunningly-complicated play of thought in the human mind. Strive after a really scientific Etymology; a branch of philological science, which, when cultivated with the requisite learning and subtilty, and not without a constant wise caution, is the only true key to the organic structure of language; and, at the same time, wonderfully simplifies the laborious processes of memory, by embracing a number of otherwise chaotic details, under a common law of order. A good etymologist, in fact, will learn a dozen words, for every one that an empirical student acquires; and learn them not only on the tongue, but in such a way as through them to feel himself planted on the loftiest pinnacles of speculation, and close to the central glowing-heart of humanity.

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XII.—Lastly, remember that the study of language, with all the aids which the profoundest philological science can afford, is not a study that in the nature of things can be carried on independently, and of itself. Words are but the signs of things; and the best dictionary in the world can convey to your mind no distinct conception of the sign, till you have, by a living experience, thoroughly penetrated the nature of the thing signified. "Die Philosophie," says Goethe, "muss geliebt und gelebt werden;" and so must Philology. Unless your imaginative susceptibilities have been properly stimulated, neither Facciolati, nor Freund open to you the true secret of the genius of Virgil or Ovid. Aristotle's Analytics will be dumb to the man who will not take the trouble to analyze the process of thinking in his own mind; and the Politics of the same great thinker will be unintelligible to the profoundest scholar, to whom the parties of Church and State, and the war of great social principles, at the present hour, are indifferent. In general, your capacity of scholarship, after the first rudimentary drill, will depend on your capacity of soul. A narrow intellect, a cold heart, and a meagre imagination, will never get beyond "the grammatical flats and shallow's "of the vulgarest school-learning. Endeavour, therefore, to bring out the whole vital power within you harmoniously and luxuriantly. Sacrifice not the fleshy consistency of an arm or a leg, much less the inner heart of your moral and religious nature, "out of which come the issues of life," to the enormous growth of a brain, or the preternatural volubility of a tongue. Strive with all laudable ambition to make yourself a scholar, but with a holier jealousy watch to keep yourself a man. Your erudition, however much you may have of it, or however little, will then be not appropriated merely, but assimilated; will make itself felt as the pulsing life-blood of a vital organism, not as a sapless architecture of cards.