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In publishing the “ " BEGINNER'S COMPREHENSIVE FRENCH Book," my object has been to provide schools with a work which might advantageously supply the place of the four books indispensable to every beginner, viz. an Elementary Grammar, a Book of Exercises, a Reading-book, and a Dictionary.
In this I hope that my efforts will be found to have been in some degree successful. But I have had another, and a no less important, aim in view; I have endeavoured to make the study of French an attraction; as children require such an inducement to enable them profitably to pursue a study, which is often forced upon them, and they should not be repelled by the dryness of the first lessons.
To secure this, I have adopted the following plan :From their first lesson our young pupils can be made to understand, by the help of a literal translation, one of those beautiful fables which Fénélon, the goodhearted and clever Archbishop of Cambray, wrote for the education of the Duc de Bourgogne, when he was only ten years old; or one of the easiest fables of La Fontaine, which all French people know and all their children stammer out. Instead of giving as exercises sentences taken indiscriminately and from miscellaneous sources, every word is selected out of the fables already trans
lated. I must observe that it would be unwise to give English exercises to be rendered into French before the pupils have mastered the translation and the meaning of the fables out of which those exercises are taken. The teacher ought not to miss any opportunity of acquainting the pupil, whilst reading or translating, with the gender of the nouns met with in the fables, in order that in future the learner, by exercising his memory, may have a better method of finding out the gender of the nouns than by the m’s and f's, which in many elementary books are placed at the top or foot of the page containing the exercise. The latter resource is generally of no advantage; as when the page is turned over, the pupil is left in the same perplexity as before. But more than this; the ease with which the exercises can be translated by means of the heading, the foot-notes, or the interlinear help, found in such books, renders the mind of the pupil idle, and makes him ready to shrink before the least difficulty. On the contrary, if the pupil has already prepared a fable, by means of the literal translation (which is so disposed in the book that he cannot consult it whilst translating with the teacher) he knows that he has only his preparation to rely on, and is therefore induced to work, and thus every lesson will be made to contribute its share to increase his stock of knowledge. Besides, if the teacher, after first distinctly reading every sentence, makes each pupil repeat it himself, correcting the defects in pronunciation as they are made, I feel confident that by the time the last pupil in the class has taken his turn, the sentence will be known by heart by most of the scholars. I have but seldom met with pupils unable to say by heart on the
following day the lesson thus thoroughly impressed on them.
What an advantage does not this method afford in teaching a modern language! When professors of the dead languages think it useful to make their pupils learn Greek and Latin verses, how much more should the French teacher make his pupils commit to memory short passages complete in themselves, a task both easy and pleasant. It is thus that he can best impart accuracy of pronunciation. Were Greek and Latin spoken languages, how useful, as reference for pronunciation, would be the first hundred verses of the “Iliad” and of the “ Æneid,” which some of us may have learnt, and which will never be forgotten, though the unconnected sentences of any delectus have long ago vanished from memory.
The plan suggested is a very simple one; namely 1. To make the pupils read French aloud; 2. To make them translate French into English; 3. To incessantly refer to the numbered rules, while
reading and translating; and 4. When those rules are well understood and mastered,
to have the English exercises translated into
French. The teacher will by these means succeed in a very short time in enabling the pupils easily to translate French into English. And more, the pupils will soon begin to make themselves understood in French by choosing their sentences from pieces written in the purest style; and though they may often go astray and be unable to compose in French, they have nevertheless reached, through an agreeable path, the point where the young French boys are when they have put into their hands a French grammar, written entirely in French. I mean to say, that English pupils who have mastered “ The Beginner's Comprehensive French Book," will be able to take in hand a grammar entirely French.
An experience of twenty years as a teacher, ten of which have been passed in London, has proved the success of
method. I beg to be allowed to add that all the examiners (including the last I have seen, the Schools Inquiry Commission Delegate) who have done me the honour of examining my classes, having approved my method and reported favourably on the successes I am daily obtaining, I have been requested to publish the present book. I beg to offer it to the good reception of my brother teachers. I hope they may
be convinced that I have tried to be useful, and that they will not condemn my English as not being elegant, considering that I wrote for young people, and that before all things I wished to be easily understood.
Christ's Hospital, London, May 15th, 1866.