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dered presumptuous in referring to a system of teaching the French language which I have adopted after many years' constant and extensive practice; nor am I less desirous to avoid all appearance of dictating to my confrères, many of whom are using the most praiseworthy endeavours to raise the profession, and to simplify the daily improving art of teaching living languages. I am well aware that a sound knowledge of the language has been acquired under masters who profess to instruct by methods apparently very opposite in their character, yet perhaps equally efficient under the able and zealous management of their promoters. “ Quant à la critique de mes devanciers en fait de système, je n'ai qu'un mot à dire : c'est que tout professeur qui a des lumières, du raisonnement et du goût, sait se créer un système à lui, convenablement approprié à la tournure de son esprit et aux intelligences qu'il dirige." (Dupont*.) It is therefore with every deference to the views of other professors that I offer a few observations upon the subject.
If we consider the means necessary to be used for acquiring a knowledge of language, we find them to vary according to the nature of the language itself. Thus the same means could not be indifferently used in the study of a dead and of a living tongue. The latter has its spoken existence as a model for the learner, the former is only to be found in books. A dead language only exists in writing, but with a living language the characters in which it may be written only represent the sounds of which it is composed. The most effectual mode of acquiring a living language is the same as that in which nature has taught us to acquire our mother tongue, viz. by imitating sounds, which are the immediate representatives of ideas. Therefore a good ear for
* The works of this author are published by Bossange and Co., Great Marlborough-street, London,
enabling us to distinguish sounds and retain them, and a ready flexibility in the organs of articulation (and such flexibility is greatest in youth,) in order to imitate foreign pronunciation with facility, are two of the most important qualifications for learning a living language. If, in addition, we are endowed with a retentive memory, and especially a self-confidence inducing us to reject all mauvaise honte in our first attempts at speaking; moreover, if we frequently hear a pure phraseology of the language which is the object of our study, its practice will daily become more easy and familiar to us, and its impressions on our mind will be found indelible and lasting.
In order to exemplify practically the application of the above, it will, perhaps, prove interesting to allude to the plans and details of a first or introductory lesson given to English youths. In a venerable Institution, widely diffusing the blessings of education, an unprecedented opportunity lately offered itself of practising a mode of instruction which, from the circumstance of all the students commencing to learn the French language at the same time, was unrestrained and unfettered by any previous impressions upon their minds: the homogeneity of the class was perfect; no bad habits of speech, so frequently contracted by beginners, had to be eradicated, no ennui to be overcome, no unwillingness to be subdued. It was an excellent opportunity, and I trust the liberty I am now taking of explaining the mode of proceeding on the occasion of this first lesson in the French language given at that Institution, will be attributed solely to my desire of illustrating the advantages of a system of imparting a living language possessing great simplicity and endless variety in its application.
* Christ's Hospital, London. The French language was added to the other branches of education in this Institution on the lst of June, 1838.
Considering that teaching the forms and peculiarities of the speech of a foreign nation consists mainly in developing to the mind of students the meanings attached to the foreign sound in the endless multiplicity of its combinations, I apprised the pupils that I was about to exhibit the manner in which the French people represent their thoughts by the voice. For this purpose I chose a few easy and familiar sentences, to the utterance of which I added the natural auxiliary of gesticulation, in order that the latter might assist in the interpretation of my meaning; mindful with the grammarian Paulmier that “ Les gestes précèdent et accompagnent la parole dans l'enfance et dans tout le cours de la vie en raison du plus ou moins d'imagination. ILS SONT L'INTERPRÈTE DES LANGUES*.” I soon perceived that sentences thus conveyed were rapidly comprehended, and that the practice of this familiar phraseology excited the greatest interest in the class. The pupils then simultaneously imitated the sentences after me, perseveringly reechoing the pronunciation, and by continued repetition produced a perfect and exact imitation of the original accent. The next step consisted in imparting to the class a correct idea of the nature of the words and sentences which formed the subject of our practice; this was an easy task, the students having by their previous
* Les professeurs qui se sont dévoués à l'enseignement du français' en pays étrangers, doivent être convaincus que le langage d'action explique le langage parlé, que les élèves saisissent facilement l'expression orale quand elle est accompagnée de gestes naturels et énergiques. La vérité de cette observation se fait plus sentir quand on se rappelle que “ Le muet parle au sourd étonné de l'entendre.”
education been well-grounded in classical attainments; they consequently analysed the language according to its grammatical subdivisions with the greatest accuracy; and the construction of the words and sentences offering to their intelligence a variety of peculiarities in the French language similar to the Latin, (whence it is chiefly derived) many of the rules of French grammar came to them as the natural result of their own observation.
To listen, hear and imitate, and to analyse, recompose sentences and practise them in new combinations, form then the basis of this system; and its application in the above-mentioned Institution promises to produce the most beneficial results.
To return to the immediate object of the present compi. lation; in reminding the student of the method of study contained in the Prefáce to the French Class-Book, I take this opportunity to direct his attention to the invaluable practice of recitation, the most efficient of all means for obtaining a good pronunciation. Recitations proceeding from the master and repeated by the student rapidly inculcate the accent upon the ear, provided the meaning of the recited or spoken language reach the mind by sounds only. To ascertain this, I generally have recourse to the learner's viva voce translation of the sentences as I utter them ; careful, at the same time, that the books containing the original remain closed. By this plan the pupil is compelled to listen with the greatest attention, and he thereby acquires the understanding of the oral language in all its varieties of intonation, with the greatest correctness and the utmost facility.
That “it is the ear which should cause the tongue to move,” may be considered an axiom in the study of a living language. The written language speaks only to the eye;
the characters which compose it are merely the representatives of sounds and articulations. The spoken language, as has been before said, is the immediate representative of ideas. A knowledge of both, namely the graphic and oral language, is necessary to constitute the full and desired information, but they are each to be acquired by a process of study perfectly distinct. When reading French, or any other spoken language, the alphabet of which is similar to that of his vernacular tongue, the English student is constantly deceived by its characters, which, to his eye, represent the sounds of his own language; hence the continual Anglicisms in his utterance, or English-French as the attempts of beginners are often termed. How, indeed, can it be otherwise, if the ear has not been cultivated by listening to, and endeavouring to retain the foreign accent ? How can it be otherwise, if the organs of articulation have not been well drilled to imitate with rapidity and ease ?]
In pronunciation the student must follow the master; books will never teach the language spoken, and the charlatanisme of those works, which pretend to teach the speaking of a language without the aid of oral instruction, must be as obvious as their professions are absurd. A living language is composed of sounds which are very imperfectly represented by graphic characters; as the word itself expresses, it is the tongue, and that alone, can teach it: besides, as has been before said, there are the adjuncts of gesture, the expression of the physiognomy, and endless familiar means, which might be called the tacit socialities that accompany speech,--and these cannot be found in books. Doubtless a student may acquire, with labour, a very extensive knowledge of French by books alone, treating it as a dead language, but he may rest assured that his information will always be limited to books.