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DOCTEUR ÈS LETTRES ET EN DROIT, DIRECTEUR DE L'ÉCOLE
NORMALE DES LANGUES
Étudiez le code de la langue dans les maîtres de la langue
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
E. W. CHRISTERN
BOSTON : CARL SCUNHOF
Il n'y a guère qu'une année que je publiais une brochure intitulée Introduction to the teaching of living languages, without grammar or dictionary. Cela peut faire trouver étrange que je produise aujourd'hui des Entretiens sur la grammaire. Cependant, les personnes qui ont lu la brochure savent que notre système d'enseignement consiste à apprendre à parler une langue vivante sans le secours de la grammaire, et sans que jamais un mot d'anglais soit prononcé. Cela est rigoureusement imposé par le système, et nous ne reconnaîtrons jamais comme appartenant à notre école le maître qui s'écarterait un seul instant de l'un ou de l'autre de ces deux points fondamentaux. Mais quand les élèves parlent, lisent et écrivent, quand leur pratique de la langue les a mis en possession du génie de la France, et qu'ils sont devenus familiers avec ses idiotismes, le moment est venu pour eux d'étudier les lois du langage français.
Comme les personnes qui n'ont pas lu ma brochure pourraient croire, sur son titre, qu'elle condamne absolument la grammaire, et m'interdisait d'écrire les Entretiens, je reproduis le passage suivant de cette publication:
“At the point at which we have arrived, it is not amiss, it is even useful, to study the grammar. I do this in my classes the third term of every year. It is one of the most interesting parts of our work, both for my pupils and myself. I see them come to the class, in spite of the heat of June, with a persistency which almost astonishes me, and which I admire; they ask me for a lesson in grammar as one of the greatest of favors. It is easily understood. These dear companions of a year's journeying through France and among the French, are acquainted with our grammar before the day on which we open it. There only remains for us to examine the great questions, the points which are difficult even for the French. It is from that time a work of the intelligence, which is full of serious enjoyment. We do it, besides, in an original manner, in one which is not imagined by the existing grammars. Thus we have studied this year the subjunctive in a volume of G. Sand. This appears strange to persons who are acquainted only with the routine, and who seem to ignore that the works of the masters have preceded grammars, that the epoch which one calls in literature the epoch of grammarians is already an epoch of decadence, because the grammarians soon forget the masters and know only the grammarians whom they study and copy. These people seem to ignore that the grammars come only after the books, as the generalization comes after the facts of observation, and that it is to the books one must resort constantly, since that is the only source.
“It is then only the great writers who can make us comprehend this elegant and incomparable beauty of
our language. “The French,' said to me one day Professor Hadley of Yale, that illustrious savant whom America has recently lost, “is perhaps the most beautiful of the living languages, and assuredly the most elegant, thanks to its subjunctive. We English have almost entirely lost ours, and with it the delicate shadeso of thought. Well! I defy any teacher to make us realize these shades, this use so delicate of the subjunctive, from the grammars: they know nothing of the niceties of the language. We must learn to feel them, to appreciate them, and to love them from the great masters.
“ As for the question of the participle, interminable, almost unintelligible, and an affair of memory in the grammars, it has been reduced to a single rule, and I have seen my pupils resolve promptly with this one rule, once thoroughly understood, all the cases of the Grammaire des Grammaires by Girault-Duvivier. I affirm that the pupils who have understood this rule, employ the participle more correctly, beyond comparison, than the young people of the best colleges and schools of France. For there, one is shamefully ignorant of the participle, because there, as here, one is acquainted only with the absurd and powerless method of the grammars. One does not even consider that man is a being endowed with intelligence, and without ceremony he is treated as a parrot.
“I will perhaps some time give this portion of my teaching to the public; my pupils have frequently urged me to do so this summer, and I can excuse myself for not having fulfilled this duty, only by saying that I am not, as yet, entirely prepared. Every origi