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Title: How to Teach a Foreign Language
Author: Jespersen, Otto
Language: English
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Transcriber's Note

Superscript letters are preceded by caret symbols (^). Italics are
indicated by _underscores_, and bold text by @at symbols@.


  @PROGRESS IN LANGUAGE with special reference to English.@ By
  OTTO JESPERSEN, Ph.D., Professor of English at the University of
  Copenhagen. @7s. 6d.@


“It appeals not only to specialists, but to all who concern themselves
with that most fascinating of modern questions, the origin and
development of speech. The opening chapter shows us the independent
thinker and original investigator. Throughout, the destructive
criticism is clear, incisive, and cogent. It cannot fail to affect
in time even the manual-mongers and the examiners who expect the
innocent school to reproduce the fictions of the cram-books. A
philologist, who sees with his own eyes and sees straight, is a rare
combination.”--_Journal of Education._

“Mr. Jespersen, who is still young, has long ago gained a high
reputation as a phonetician. The introductory essay prefixed to the
tracts before us will, we believe, secure for him a distinguished
position among philological thinkers. It is long since we read so
brilliant a performance of its kind.”--_Academy._

“Our readers will find the book as instructive as it is far removed
from the dryness characteristic of most philological treatises. It
furnishes material for deep thought and may almost be called a new
starting-point in philology.”--_Asiatic Quarterly Review._

“The book is historical in its method, and attempts to show, by
an examination of the typical characteristics of languages in all
stages of development, what the general drift of language has





  _Professor of English in the University of Copenhagen_


  “This was sometime a paradox, but now the time
  gives it proofe.”--_Hamlet._




When, in accordance with a wish expressed by English and American
friends, I determined to have my _Sprogundervisning_ translated into
English, I found it difficult to decide what to retain and what to
leave out of the original. So much of what I had written appeared to
me to apply more or less exclusively to Danish schools and Danish
methods, and I had too little personal experience of the practice
of English teachers or of English school-books to be quite sure of
the advisability in each case of including or excluding this or that
remark. I have, however, made my choice to the best of my ability, and
if some parts of my criticism are not altogether applicable to English
methods, I hope I may be excused on the plea that what is now the
really important thing is less the destruction of bad old methods than
a positive indication of the new ways to be followed if we are to have
thoroughly efficient teaching in modern languages.




About twenty years ago, when I began to be interested in a reformation
of the teaching of modern languages, there were not, as there are
now, numerous books and articles on the subject, but merely scattered
hints, especially in the works of Sweet and Storm. It was not long,
however, before the movement found itself well under headway,
especially in Germany. In Scandinavia it began at the appearance of
the adaptation which I had made of Felix Franke’s capital little
pamphlet, “Die praktische spracherlernung auf grund der psychologie
und der physiologie der sprache.” At just about the same time, Western
in Norway and Lundell in Sweden came forward with similar ideas, and
at the Philological Congress in Stockholm in 1886 we three struck a
blow for reform. We founded a society, of course, and we gave it the
name _Quousque tandem_ (which for the benefit of those not acquainted
with Latin may be rendered “Cannot we soon put an end to this?”), that
Ciceronian flourish with which Viëtor had shortly before heralded his
powerful little pamphlet, “Der sprachunterricht muss umkehren.” Our
Scandinavian society published some small pamphlets, and for a time
even a little quarterly paper. But the movement soon reached that
second and more important stage when the teachers began to put the
reform into practice and when the editors of school-books began to give
it more and more consideration, until at present it may be said that
the reformed method is well on the way to permanent favour, at least as
far as younger teachers have anything to say in the matter.

What is the method, then, that I allude to? Well, if the question
means, what is it called, I find myself in some embarrassment, for the
method resembles other pet children in this respect, that it has many
names. Though none of these are quite adequate, yet if I mention them
all, I can perhaps give a little preliminary notion of what the matter
is all about. The method is by some called the “new” or “newer”; in
England often “die neuere richtung”; by others the “reform-method,”
again the “natural,” the “rational,” the “correct,” or “sensible” (why
not praise one’s wares as all dealers do in their advertisements?); the
“direct” comes a little nearer, the “phonetical” indicates something
of its character, but not nearly enough, likewise the “phonetical
transcription method,” for phonetics and phonetical transcription
is not all; the “imitative” again emphasizes another point; the
“analytical” (as contrasted with the constructive) could perhaps
also be applied to other methods; the “concrete” calls attention to
something essential, but so does the German “anschauungsmethode”
too; “the conversation-method” reminds us perhaps too much of
Berlitz schools; words with “anti,” like the “anticlassical,”
“antigrammatical,” or “antitranslation” method, are clumsy and stupidly
negative--so there is nothing left for us but to give up the attempt
to find a name, and recognize that this difficulty is due to the fact
that it is not one thing, but many things that we have to reform, and
that is of course the reason why the reformers themselves fall into
so many sub-parties: the one lays all the stress on one point, the
other on another point. However, there is certainly enough to do for
any one who wants to get better results out of the teaching of foreign
languages than have hitherto been the rule.

It also speaks much in favour of the reform that it is impossible to
name the “new” method after some founder, just as in olden days we
had Lancaster’s, Hamilton’s, Jacotot’s methods; later, Robertson’s,
Ollendorff’s, Ahn’s, Toussaint-Langenscheidt’s, Plötz’s, Listov’s
methods, and as we of later years have Berlitz’s and Gouin’s methods
for the teaching of foreign languages. If in old Norse mythology,
the god Heimdall had nine mothers, our reform-method has at least
seven wise fathers. In this respect it differs essentially from all
the methods just mentioned: each one of them is named after a single
man, and he in return is as a rule only remembered as the originator
of his method. Our method, on the other hand, owes its origin to men
who, for other reasons, may claim a place among the most eminent
linguistic scholars of the last decades (Sweet, Storm, Sievers, Sayce,
Lundell, and others), and the ideas which they have conceived have
been adopted and applied to life with many practical innovations and
changes by a large number of educators and schoolmasters (I may mention
almost at random Klinghardt, Walter, Kühn, Dörr, Quiehl, Rossmann,
Wendt, Widgery, Western, Brekke); on the boundary between both groups
stand especially Viëtor and Paul Passy. That shows that it is not
with theoretical sophistries that we have to do; it is not the whim
of one man, but the sum of all the best linguistical and pedagogical
ideas of our times, which, coming from many different sources, have
found each other, and have made a beautiful alliance for the purpose
of overturning the old routine. Modern languages, which were formerly
treated like Cinderella in our schools and universities, begin to feel
of age, and want to have a word to say, because they cannot put up with
various arrangements which may have been more or less satisfactory for
the classical languages, but do not suit modern languages at all. These
want to be treated as _living_, and the method of teaching them must be
as elastic and adaptable as life is restless and variable.

What is the _object_ in the teaching of modern languages? Well, why
have we our native tongue? Certainly in order to get the most out of
a life lived in a community of our fellow-countrymen, in order to
exchange thoughts, feelings and wishes with them, both by receiving
something of their psychical contents and by communicating to them
something of what dwells in us. Language is not an end in itself, just
as little as railway tracks; it is a way of connection between souls,
a means of communication. And it is not even the only one; expression
of countenance, gesture, etc., yes, even a forcible box on the ear can
tell me what is taking place in the mind of one of my fellow-creatures.
But language is the most complete, the richest, the best means of
communication; it bridges the psychical chasm between individuals in
manifold cases when they otherwise would wander about isolated and cut
off from all intelligent sympathy.

The purpose in learning foreign languages, then, must be in order to
get a way of communication with places which our native tongue cannot
reach, for there too may be persons with whom I, for some reason or
other, desire to exchange thoughts, or at least from whom I wish to
receive thoughts. And herein really lies already the answer to the
question: which languages shall we give the preference? Compare the
advantage of being able to talk with the inhabitants of the Fiji
Islands in their own language with the advantage of being conversant
with French or German. If all that we desire or all that we can ever
hope to attain in any one language is to receive thoughts, to acquaint
ourselves with the works of foreign authors, while we ourselves neither
expect nor wish to be able to impart our own thoughts in it, it is
always a question if it is not better to use translations than to learn
the language itself, especially in the case of the dead languages. A
translation is, to be sure, no perfect substitute for the original, but
on the other hand one has to know the foreign language pretty well in
order to get more out of the original than out of the translation. Then
how does the balance stand between the debit-side--the work of learning
the language--and the credit-side--the extra profit thus to be got from
the authors’ works? It is of course a question which must be decided
separately for every individual case, and there are many circumstances
which may have to be considered; but most people will not lose anything
if they read Tolstoi or Omar Khayyám in English.

The objection may be raised that there are also other reasons for
learning foreign languages. A student of comparative philology, for
instance, studies languages for their own sake, without caring if
they can serve him as a means of learning anything that he did not
know before, or that he could learn much more conveniently in some
other way; he may often be very much interested in languages which
have no literature at all, or which are spoken by peoples with whom
he never comes into contact. But this study, which may be compared
to the study of other means of communication for their own sake,
locomotive-construction, railway signal-service, etc.--only that it is
probably much more interesting--is clearly a special study, which has
nothing to do with the reasons why people generally learn languages.
Although it undoubtedly is an advantage for every educated person to
know something about the life of language, yet I think it will suffice
for me merely to touch upon the theoretical study of languages here and
there in the following pages, so much the more as it is never with this
end in view that any language is placed on the school programme.

Neither were Latin and Greek introduced into our schools for the sake
of training the pupils in logic, no matter how much it may occasionally
be insisted upon that exactly this is their real value. But it is not
necessary to waste many words on this matter, especially since all
competent classical scholars--also those who insist upon a privileged
position for the classical languages in our schools--have long ago
given up as unscholarly the idea that the Latin (or Greek) language
should be more logical in construction than, for instance, French or
English. And there is no doubt much truth in what Robert Browning says:
“Learning Greek teaches Greek, and nothing else; certainly not common
sense, if that have failed to precede the teaching!”[1]

But on the other hand it must not be overlooked that everything which
is learned with a sensible end in view, and according to a sensible
method, tends in itself more or less directly to develop valuable
faculties, and that especially the teaching of languages, in addition
to the actual results which it gives through the contents of what one
reads in foreign languages, is an excellent means of training such
important faculties as--

  the faculty of observing (of observing correctly, of observing

  the faculty of classifying under different points of view that which
  has been observed,

  the faculty of deducing general laws from the material collected by

  the faculty of drawing conclusions and applying them to other cases
  than the ones hitherto met with,

--all, of course, faculties that are nearly related--also

  the ability to read in general, to read intelligently, and with

In the construction of our method of teaching, especially if it is to
be used in schools, we must also take these things into consideration.
Any instruction in languages which merely consisted in a parrot-like
repetition of the words of the teacher or the book, if indeed such
a method is conceivable, would not be in place in our schools, and
besides, no one, so far as I know, has ever tried to introduce such a
pure parrot-method there.

The teacher must make the pupils feel interested in the subject; they
must have a vivid conception of the reward that their work will bring
them, so that it will seem worth while for them to exert themselves.
They must feel that their instruction in languages gives them a key,
and that there are plenty of treasures that it will open for them; they
must see that the literature to which they have gained access contains
numerous works which also have messages for them; and they must, to
so great an extent as possible in the course of the instruction in a
certain language, also have got an interest in the land and people
concerned, so that they themselves will make an effort to extend their
knowledge about these things. There is thus laid a good foundation
for their whole life--and the saying “non scholæ sed vitæ” ought not
to be interpreted, as too many (especially parents) do: learn not for
the school, but in order to pass a good examination, so that you may
prosper in life, and by virtue of your examination get a good position.
The school ought to equip its youth in the very best manner for
life, and the teacher ought not out of consideration for examination
requirements to neglect or hinder anything which otherwise is good. A
word about examinations later; here I simply want to warn the teacher
against troubling the examination until the examination troubles him.
Many of the things which I have to recommend in the following pages, I
have time and again heard teachers recognize as really sensible, but
they are only afraid of them on account of the examination for which
they have to prepare their pupils. The answer to that is, teach in the
right way, then there will be life and love in it all, and when the
examination comes your pupils will know more than if your teaching
from the very beginning had been fettered by examination requirements.
The pupils really learn most when they continually have a feeling that
it is all something useful and valuable, and that it is not too far
elevated above that actual life which they either know or are beginning
to get some notion of.

We learn languages, then (our native tongue as well as others), so
as to be enabled to get sensible first-hand communications about the
thoughts of others, and so as to have for ourselves too (if possible)
a means of making others partakers of our own thoughts; and if we
consider what kind of communications we may be more likely to get
through a foreign language than through our own, the highest purpose
in the teaching of languages may perhaps be said to be the access to
the best thoughts and institutions of a foreign nation, its literature,
culture--in short, the spirit of the nation in the widest sense of
the word. But at the same time we must remember that we cannot reach
the goal with one bound, and that there are many other things on the
way which are also worth taking in. We do not learn our native tongue
merely so as to be able to read Shakespeare and Browning, and neither
do we learn it for the sake of giving orders to the shoemaker or
making out the washerwoman’s bill. So likewise in the case of foreign
languages, we ought not exclusively to soar above the earth, nor on
the other hand exclusively to grovel on the ground; between those two
spheres there are large fields in manifold shades where it might be of
great value for us to stand in direct communication with other nations.


[1] Preface to his translation of the _Agamemnon_ of Æschylus.


We may already from what has been said draw some conclusions as
to the method which we ought to use. We ought to learn a language
through sensible communications; there must be (and this as far as
possible from the very first day) a certain connection in the thoughts
communicated in the new language. Disconnected words are but stones
for bread; one cannot say anything sensible with mere lists of words.
Indeed not even disconnected sentences ought to be used, at all events,
not in such a manner and to such an extent as in most books according
to the old method. For there is generally just as little connexion
between them as there would be in a newspaper if the same line were
read all the way across from column to column. I shall take a few
specimens at random from a French reader that is much used: “My aunt is
my mother’s friend. My dear friend, you are speaking too rapidly. That
is a good book. We are too old. This gentleman is quite sad. The boy
has drowned many dogs.” When people say that instruction in languages
ought to be a kind of mental gymnastics, I do not know if one of the
things they have in mind is such sudden and violent leaps from one
range of ideas to another.

In another French schoolbook we find: “Nous sommes à Paris, vous êtes
à Londres. Louise et Amélie, où êtes-vous? Nous avons trouvé la lettre
sur la table. Avez-vous pris le livre? Avons-nous été à Berlin? Amélie,
vous êtes triste. Louis, avez-vous vu Philippe? Sommes-nous à Londres?”

The speakers seem to have a strange sense of locality. First, they say
that they themselves are in Paris, but the one (the ones?) that they
are speaking with are in London (conversation by telephone?); then they
cannot remember if they themselves have been in Berlin; and at last
they ask if they themselves are in London. Unfortunately, they get no
answer, for the next sentence is, “Pierre, vous avez pris la canne.”

Or take some of the books which are supposed to help Danes learn
English. They are no better. In one (which appeared in 1889) we find:
“The joiner has made this chair. What a fine sunshine! For whom do you
make this bed? Which of you will have this box? I should like to have
it. Of whom have you got this cake? I am very fond of cakes. I have
borrowed a great deal of books from a public library.”

From a “practical” primer in English, which appeared in its second
edition in 1893, I take the following specimens: “Are the king’s horses
very old? No; but the duke’s carriage is old. Is it older than your
friend’s?... Has the nobleman told you the news? No, sir; but the lady
has told me the news about the business and the wedding. Why do you not
give the negro a house? No, sir; but I can tell you that the German
has given each of the negroes a pretty little house. Has the lady a
knife? Yes, the lady has two knives. Why do you not give the ladies the
German’s keys to the church? The noblemen have the German’s keys.”

I could give you almost any number of that kind of specimens. The
ones I have chosen are not even of the very worst type, since there
is (some sort of) meaning in each sentence by itself. But what shall
we say when, in a German reader, to the question _Wo seid ihr?_ we
find the answer, _Wir sind nicht hier!_ The author of that book also
seems to have had a very vivid imagination when it came to the use of
pluperfects. “Your book had not been large. Had you been sensible?
Your horse had been old.” We ask ourselves in surprise, when did
this wonderful horse then cease to be old? But that kind of material
information is not given in the book; it stops at the sphinx-like
remark: _Dein Pferd war alt gewesen._ Could it really have been that
kind of schoolbooks that the Danish writer, Sören Kierkegaard, alluded
to when he wrote that language had been given to man, not in order to
conceal his thoughts, as Talleyrand asserted, but in order to conceal
the fact that he had no thoughts?

Now it must immediately be admitted that there may be a big difference
in the schoolbooks made, even according to this single-sentence system.
It never seems to have occurred to the authors of some of them that
there might be a limit to the amount of rubbish that can be offered
children under the pretext of teaching them grammar. Others again try
to give sentences which are both sensible and in accordance with a
child’s natural range of ideas. With respect to the latter principle,
there has been steady progress from the times when the sentences
either were moral rules of conduct and philosophical profundities, or
selections about Greek heroes, etc. But even in the best modern books
the exercises are often strangely disjointed (cf., for instance, this
exercise from one of the better books: “My brother had not many lessons
yesterday. Where had you been? The weather had been fine for a long
time. This boy had only been in our house three or four weeks. Has your
uncle had many tulips this year? How long had you had this frock?”),
and even if they are not so glaringly nonsensical as some others, yet
their very disconnectedness makes them bad enough.

It is easy enough, however, to find something to make fun of in all
such books. Let us then rather ask the reason why this system has
so long been dominant. Its defenders will, of course, refer to the
difficulties in all connected reading exercises; even the simplest
stories contain so many grammatical forms, and so many words, that the
beginner would be overwhelmed and confused by having them all thrown at
him at once. There must be gradual progress in difficulty, that is, the
material for instruction must be arranged in stages from very easy to
more and more difficult things, and this is supposed to be attainable
only by means of disconnected sentences. The principle is sound, but
it is unsound to put it into practice in such a manner that other
pedagogical principles which are just as sound are neglected. Should
pedagogy not also demand some sense in what one treats the children
to? But, as we have seen, it is not always so easy to find the sense.
And should it not also be of some significance to attract the interest
of the pupils? Nothing seems hard to a willing mind. That which is
associated with pleasant recollections has a firmer place in the memory
than dry stuff. But exercises where it alternates between the Frenchman
who has taken the Englishman’s hat and the Englishman who has taken
the Frenchman’s cane, or where either Marie sees Louise’s dog or Peter
sees Henry’s horse--they cannot be anything but boring, even if they
give the pupils ever so gradual practice in the use of the genitive.
Grown persons can, of course, put up with a little boredom, if they
think they can attain anything by it; but in their heart of hearts they
find such things killing, and so they are; yes, even killing for the
linguistic sense. Children can, of course, put up with a good deal,
too, when they have a teacher who can win their respect and affection;
they also put up with many things only for the sake of getting good
marks, or when they are stimulated by other equally unsound means. But
still, it is better to avoid boring them.

I suppose it is also of pedagogical importance for the teaching to be
correct. But here we have just one of those points where we see what
evil results may come of the system of disconnected sentences: it is so
extremely easy for them to become stilted; indeed, even incorrect. Some
examples may be found in the exercise already cited on p. 12, where
the sentence, “For whom do you make this bed?” is not good English,
at any rate, and where “a great deal of books” is a bad blunder for
“a great many books.” It is really easier to write a long connected
piece in a foreign language about something that one is interested
in than to construct merely eight disconnected sentences for the
illustration of a couple of grammatical rules, and without using other
words than those the pupils already have had. As impossible, even if
not positively incorrect, I consider such sentences as the following,
to which any one can find many parallels:--“Tie. Do not tie. Fetch.
Do not fetch.... Give. Do not give.”... Judged as thoughts they
are unfinished or half-finished ideas. Judged as language, they are
also very problematical. Such questions, as “Do I take?” require the
necessary information as to what and when. Such fragments of sentences
are never heard in real life.

Finally, sentences of this kind give the pupil quite an erroneous
notion of what language is on the whole, and of the relation between
different languages. He is too apt to get the impression that language
means a collection of words which are isolated and independent, and
that there must be a corresponding word in his native tongue for each
new foreign word that he learns. These words are then shoved about
without any real purpose according to certain given rules, somewhat
after the manner of a puzzle that was popular some years ago. The
mistake thus made is by Sweet called the arithmetical fallacy, because
languages are taken as collections of units where the order of the
addends and the factors is immaterial. Everything that is idiomatic
in the languages is quite set aside, at all events for the time
being, without consideration for the fact that the most indispensable
expressions often are those irrational groups which cannot be
constructed merely of words and grammatical rules, expressions like
“What’s the matter? I couldn’t help laughing. Serve you right. Ça va
sans dire. Ça y est. Voilà qui est drôle. Wie spät haben Sie? Wer
ist jetzt an der Reihe? Sie sind dran. Was ist denn los?” Where the
Englishman circumstantially says “ring the bell,” the Frenchman has
the short “sonnez,” etc., etc. When the pupil does not get a good deal
of that kind of thing as soon as possible, but for years continues
translating word-groups of the arithmetical kind until he is well
drilled in all the rules of the grammar, the result is that when he is
left to his own resources he takes each word of the English phrase that
happens to occur to him and translates it literally into the language
which he is trying to speak.[2] That is how we come to hear such
ridiculous things as “Ich konnte nicht helfen zu lachen.”

It is grammar that plays the chief rôle. A characteristic teacher’s
report is: “In the course of the school-year we have gone through
accidence as far as the third class of verbs.” The raison d’être of
each sentence lies merely in its value for the grammatical exercises,
so that by reading schoolbooks one often gets the impression that
Frenchmen must be strictly systematical beings, who one day speak
merely in futures, another day in passé définis, and who say the
most disconnected things only for the sake of being able to use all
the persons in the tense which for the time being happens to be the
subject for conversation, while they carefully postpone the use of the
subjunctive until next year.

Now, as misfortune will have it, although the whole system is planned
for drilling in grammar, this end is by no means attained by these too
systematical exercises. The pupils get the scent of what is to be used
in a certain exercise, and they use it mechanically there, but they do
not learn how to transfer it to other connexions, so if they suddenly
have to use a future in an exercise on the pluperfect the future form
is apt to bear a suspicious resemblance to the pluperfect form; when
the pupils are being drilled in the endings of the fourth declension,
and a word belonging to the third declension happens to have crept
in, it is very difficult to get it correctly declined without any
reminiscence of fourth-class endings, etc. I once read a pedagogical
article by a German schoolmaster, I think it was, who had discovered
that the reason why there were so many poor Latin exercises written was
that the pupils often had to apply several rules of syntax in one and
the same sentence; if the sentences were only so made that each one of
them contained but one grammatical phenomenon, it would soon be seen
how clever the pupils could be. Yes, how pleasant it would be if life
too could be so arranged as to have the difficulties come one at a time.

As previously remarked, there is too little attention paid to what
is idiomatical, and sentences constructed by non-natives are apt to
be of the kind that never would occur to a native, even if it may be
difficult enough to find positive “mistakes” in them. Many of the
French and German sentences in our schoolbooks must surely have the
same air of unreality for a native as not a few of those found in
English primers published abroad have for an Englishman.

Very closely connected with the idiomatical elements of a language are
its characteristics of style, and in this respect too our schoolbooks
are clumsy enough, for words which belong merely to elevated or
specially poetical style are bundled together with every-day words in
the very beginning of the first primer without any caution to the pupil
against using them. A foreigner who wants to learn English has first
of all use for words like “grief, sorrow,” but he had better postpone
acquaintance with “woe,” otherwise he is as likely as not to make
himself ridiculous by saying “it was a great woe to me.” “Unwilling” is
more necessary than “loth,” “wash” than “lave,” “lonely” or “forsaken”
than “forlorn,” etc. But on one of the very first pages of Listov’s
English Reader which is written for beginners, we find “I bid him go,”
which is altogether old-fashioned, stiff and bookish (for: I told him
to go, I asked him to go, or I ordered ...), and in the same book
“foe” is preferred to the ordinary, indispensable “enemy.” And in
several English primers the unnatural “commence” is used all the way
through instead of the natural “begin”; likewise the rare “purchase”
for the everyday “buy”--the only reason which I can think of is that
the ordinary, indispensable words follow irregular declensions and

The beginner has only use for the most everyday words; he ought to have
nothing to do with the vocabulary of poetry or even of more elevated
prose; like everything superfluous, it is detrimental, because it
burdens the memory and hinders perfect familiarity with that which
is most necessary. It will, moreover, be impossible for him to get
a proper conception of the linguistic effectiveness of poetry and
elevated prose, when he is so far advanced as to read the good writers,
because from his very first lesson in the language he has learned the
literary expressions side by side with the phrases of normal prose
and everyday conversation. But even among words not belonging to the
language of literature, many may without scruple be postponed in order
to make room for the most necessary words, which must be learned
in such a manner that one always may have them on hand without the
slightest hesitation. In Miss Goldschmidt’s picture-method (which is
now used a good deal outside of its native land, Denmark, and also in
large part deserves the popularity and praise which it has won), I
find, for instance, not less than 58 words for that many more or less
intimate articles of women’s clothing; and when I in the same book
under the heading “cuisine” find 46 words, among others, “bouilloire
tamis, passoire, pelle à main, puisoire, lavette, canelle évier,
coquetier, écumoire, entonnoir, pilon, râtelier, râpe, billot, manne,”
I cannot help feeling thankful that no one ever tormented me with
learning them; it seems to me I have got along pretty well in Paris
and elsewhere in French conversations, just as I have read many French
books, without knowing all these technical words. But, on the other
hand, I have a strong notion that I should not have got along so well
in conversation, and should not have been able to read French so well,
if my vocabulary had been limited to the one in Miss Goldschmidt’s

The usual treatment of grammar, too, involves the learning of a number
of words that one has no use for. There are few words which even the
stupidest pupils in French and English have so pat as “louse,” and
the reason is that the plural of both “pou” and “louse” happens to
be something out of the ordinary. For as soon as a word is declined
differently from the usual paradigms, it has to be learned for the
sake of so-called completeness. Thus we had to learn in school the
rigmarole: “amussis, ravis, sitis, tussis, vis” and usually also
“febris, pelvis, puppis, restis, turris, securis,” where “vis vim”
(perhaps also “sitis sitim”) would have sufficed; the others (with
meanings like ruler, hoarseness, rope), I am sure, never occurred in
what we read of Latin literature, and as far as the last words are
concerned, why it would not have made any difference anyway if we had
let the accusative end in “--em,” if we had to use the word in a catch
exercise. And then there was the “long rigmarole” which it was our
pride to be able to run through without winking: “amnis, axis,” etc.,
and which doubtless has cost us all some hours of drudgery before
we could quite make it stick. Of the words in it, “scrobis, sentis,
torris, vectis,” at least, were entirely superfluous for us--aside from
the fact that if by some wonderful chance we should come across one of
the words in the course of our reading, we were sure enough to remember
that the word stood in the long rigmarole, but why it stood there or
what the word meant, that was apt to be quite forgotten. Well, it did
not make much difference in so far as the chances were a thousand to
one that for understanding the passage in question it was absolutely
of no consequence if we had remembered that the word was masculine. (It
may be of some comfort to add that some of them may also be feminine:
the old Romans were not always as big pedants as Latin teachers would
like to make them out to be.) Sweet writes: “In the German grammar I
began with the word _Hornung_, ‘February,’ was given as an exception
to the rule that nouns in _-ung_ are feminine, and for many years
no German word was more familiar to me, except perhaps _petschaft_,
‘seal,’ whose acquaintance I made at the same time and in the same
way. But to the present day I cannot remember having met with either
of them in any modern German book, still less of ever having heard
them in conversation, _Hornung_ being now entirely obsolete except in
some German dialects. At last, when I began Middle High Grammar, I met
with it for the first time in my life in a poem of Walther von der
Vogelweide, but by this time I had forgotten all about it.”[3]

In most English grammars for foreigners, the word _caiman_ plays such
an important part that the children never can forget it, and this is
just because it is not _caimen_ in the plural; likewise it is carefully
inculcated on the pupils that _die_ meaning “a stamp used for coining
money” has the plural _dies_, but it is scarcely probable that one in a
thousand will ever have any use for the word in this sense; cf. Storm’s
remark on _travail_ quoted below.

Much of that kind of thing has fortunately been removed from the
schoolbooks of later years, but there is no doubt still some weeding to
be done.


[2] A funny instance of the arithmetical fallacy is the following sign
in Copenhagen:

  Stövle--og skomager.
  Boot--and shoemaker.
  Botte--et cordonnier.

[3] Sweet, _Practical Study of Languages_, p. 110.


On the basis of the above negative criticism, we may perhaps formulate
the following positive requirements for those reading selections which
are to be the foundation for instruction in languages, namely that as
far as possible they must

  (1) be connected, with a sensible meaning,

  (2) be interesting, lively, varied,

  (3) contain the most necessary material of the language first,
  especially the material of everyday language,

  (4) be correct French (German, etc.),

  (5) pass gradually from that which is easy to that which is more

  (6) yet without too much consideration for what is merely
  grammatically easy or difficult.

This order does not indicate the relative importance or value of the
requirements, which might be difficult to determine. If there should be
any disagreement between them, I suppose it is generally best to try to
find some practical compromise. We must now pass on to examine some of
these requirements more closely.

The use of _connected_ texts in the elementary teaching of languages
has already previously been tried, but it seems as if in the effort to
avoid the Scylla of disconnected sentences it has been impossible to
escape the Charybdis of such texts as Chateaubriand’s _Atala_, Dickens’
_Christmas Carol_ (Méthode Toussaint-Langenscheidt), the New Testament,
or Cæsar’s _Gallic War_, etc. How often after such experiments, when
the pupil was overwhelmed and did not learn anything because he was to
learn everything at once, has not the teacher returned in despair to
the disconnected sentences.

But between the two extremes there is no doubt room for the golden mean
of beginning with quite short connected pieces, and then gradually, as
each lesson may be lengthened, passing over to longer texts--of course
this does not necessarily mean that a whole piece must always be taken
for each lesson; the breaks in the lessons do not need to correspond to
the breaks in the text-book.

Anecdotes meet the requirements in so far as they are short connected
pieces, and therefore they play such an important part in many readers.
But yet they are not quite the thing, especially when they are used in
too great numbers. A pointed anecdote can only be really funny once;
if it is to be repeated many times, it soon becomes stale and indeed
more tiresome than most other things. And just the very quality which
makes it amusing makes it less valuable for teaching purposes; that is,
an anecdote must by its very nature contain as few words as possible;
but it is better for beginners to get a little broader colouring, so
that the most necessary words and phrases may recur frequently. If many
anecdotes follow one upon the other, it is not easy to avoid frequent
jumps between totally different spheres of thought and accordingly
between totally different worlds of words; this increases the
difficulty, and the result is apt to be that words and expressions once
learned are soon forgotten. Anecdotes depending upon puns cannot be
appreciated at all without full familiarity with the words resembling
each other, and that can only in a minority of cases be assumed for our
pupils. The best way to use anecdotes in teaching languages is to let
them serve as spice in or in connection with other pieces, especially
descriptive pieces, so that the words used in the anecdotes may there
appear in their natural surroundings. This can best be done in short
stories about animals; in my own books for beginners in English, I
have taken several such pieces from purely scientific works by Sir
John Lubbock, Romanes, Tylor, etc. I mention these as examples of a
kind of texts which seem to me to be especially attractive (but which
are neither so easy to get hold of nor to concoct), because they
give entertaining and sensible information about things which are
often neglected in the natural science instruction itself, and at the
same time they give an opportunity of learning a good deal of useful
language-material without being too difficult. The pieces which are
merely descriptive of nature, and which Sweet lays so much stress upon,
have the advantage that they in a still greater degree allow of the
employment of the most indispensable material of language, and that
a number of the sentences may be made self-explanatory (_v._ below).
There are, however, but relatively few subjects that can be dealt with
in this way--the most elementary natural phenomena--and when they are
not written in such a masterly manner as in Sweet’s _Elementarbuch des
gesprochenen Englisch_, there are apt to be so many well-known truths
told in these pieces that the interest flags.

In deciding on what will be of interest as a selection for reading,
differences in age must of course to a great extent be taken into
consideration. But it is an experience which I myself have had, and in
which many teachers bear me out, that beginners in a foreign language
may very well be interested in certain reading matter even if they are
beyond the age when corresponding things would interest them in their
native language. So one must not be afraid of childish texts; but by
this I do not mean to recommend a certain kind of juvenile literature
which flourishes in all countries, and which aunts, especially the
unmarried ones, often think that children appreciate, and so they
themselves also proceed to produce it in large quantities, that is,
milk-and-water stories and verses about the reward of good children
and the frightful punishment of the naughty ones; both young and
old find such “literature” nauseating, and it were best to avoid it
in text-books in foreign languages. But there is another class of
literature, that collected by folklorists, which is orally transmitted
from generation to generation, and which shows its vigour by being
continually amusing and by continually shooting new shoots. Much of it
can successfully be used in teaching languages; and that which amuses a
French child of five or six years may often amuse an English child of
ten or eleven or even more, because in the foreign language it gets
the charm that always is connected with the unknown.

Much of this material--and of other material, which, without belonging
to popular tradition, is related to it--is in verse-form, which has
the great advantage for our purpose, that rhythm and rhyme naturally
rivet the words and expressions fast to each other, so that the
memory gets hold of them like an unbreakable chain. It is only with
great difficulty and with much repetition that prose sentences can be
inculcated in a certain given form; but to learn verse is like play--it
learns itself. If therefore the poetry of art, with its more or less
unnatural language, is unsuitable for the beginner, the little witty
natural verses of the genuine children’s literature are, on the other
hand, excellent. But of course not even these are always pure pearls,
and there are many of them to be rejected as containing impertinences,
nonsense-words, fragments of antiquated language, or words which
beginners have no use for; it seems to me, for instance, that Viëtor
and Dörr should not have transferred the nursery rhymes wholesale (even
the old forms with _--th_ in the third person, and much more) into
their otherwise excellent English reader.

With respect to the requirement that the reading must be _easy_--or
rather that there must be gradual progress from easy to difficult--it
must be recognized that difficulty may depend upon several different

In the first place, the subject-matter may be too difficult; it ought
never to be beyond the horizon of the pupils. As previously remarked,
in the very beginning, one may even take something simpler than what
would otherwise be suitable for persons of that age. But later, on
the other hand, the subject-matter ought not to be too light; it is
well, as soon as possible, to use matter which really has a permanent
value of its own. A large part of the reading will no doubt always
be taken from lighter literature, and most of it will not cause any
real difficulty as far as the comprehension of the subject-matter is
concerned. But in addition to that, there ought surely to be read to a
far greater extent than has hitherto been the case in modern language
instruction, matter which cannot be understood without some serious
thinking, articles on natural science and on human relations in the
widest sense of the word, political speeches, etc. Many teachers seem
to be afraid to read anything else with their pupils than the most
insignificant novel-literature whose contents furnish starvation food.
A little friend of mine seven years old once said to his mother: “I
like that best which I can scarcely understand.” He thereby expressed
the same thought as Dante when he said that man is not happy unless
he strains every nerve, or Stuart Mill in his remark: “A pupil who is
never required to do what he cannot do never does what he can do.” All
instruction must spur the pupil on with problems that are not too easy;
in the first stage of instruction in languages, there are problems
enough in the purely linguistic difficulties; later on the contents
of the reading, too, ought to require some independent powers of
assimilation. Sometimes it may even be best to choose selections where
the language is very easy, but the matter rather weighty--especially
in teaching according to the reform-method, where subject-matter is
necessarily assigned a more important part than hitherto, and where
even an easy text can in various ways be advantageously employed as a
means of training in purely linguistic skill.

Even linguistic easiness or difficulty may depend upon different
things. Difficulties in pronunciation ought not to be piled up, a
caution applying especially to selections for the very first beginners.
Some teachers try to begin with words which may be almost or wholly
pronounced with sounds occurring in the native language of the pupils.
Aside from the fact that in most cases it only leads to disappointment
to exaggerate the resemblance between the foreign and native sounds,
this principle may easily lead to slovenliness at a stage when it might
involve the most dangerous consequences. The pupil ought from the
very first lesson to have the clearest sensation of being on foreign
ground, and he ought to realize that the foreign sounds cannot be
learned without work. But the difficult sounds ought not to occur too
many in succession or in too difficult combinations. It is perhaps best
to begin with words of one syllable, but this need not be strictly
carried through. I do not, however, attach so much importance to mere
difficulties in pronunciation that I would advise an otherwise suitable
opening selection in a French reader for beginners to be discarded
because it contained such difficult words as _manger_ and _chien_. It
cannot be long, anyway, before the pupils must make acquaintance with,
and, what is more, master all the sounds in the language they are about
to learn. By difficulties in pronunciation here I mean the real ones,
and not such apparent difficulties as are due to freaks of orthography;
it is equally troublesome for a German to pronounce English _pear_ and
_pair_; such difficulties as are found in English _scarce_, _fatigue_,
_victuals_, French _eut_, _pupille_, _pitié_, _balbutier_, etc., may be
overcome by a panacea which I shall come to later, namely, phonetical

Furthermore linguistic difficulty may be due to the use of too many
new words, and in this respect the best principle at all stages is: as
few new words as possible. Every one who has read such pages as often
occur in Zola or Daudet, where technical expressions are abundantly
piled up, will have had the experience that even with the most careful
reading or study it did not take long before all the new words were
just as unfamiliar as before the selection was read. Likewise, when one
sets to work to learn systematic vocabularies like Plötz’s _Vocabulaire
Systématique_, it requires enormous exertion and a long time to learn
them, and it takes an amazingly short time to unlearn them again. But
if, in the course of one’s reading, the new words turn up occasionally
at relatively large intervals, then the mind is able to absorb the
one before the next appears; the intervening passages, which contain
only familiar things, manure the soil, as it were, for the new things
that are to be sown in it. Ten or twelve new words are more easily and
more thoroughly learned when they are scattered over five pages than
when they are crowded into ten lines, and then besides there is the
benefit to be derived from the recurrence of a number of usual words,
to say nothing of sentence-constructions, etc., so that he who has read
those five pages has had more opportunity to familiarize himself with
the idiosyncrasies of the foreign language than he would have had in
ten lines; the apparent waste of time in reading the longer piece has
really been profitable, for the capital which had already been acquired
in the language has in that time borne interest and compound interest.

Now since it is also better, as we have said, to learn five absolutely
necessary words than twenty-five of less importance, it is of course
the duty of the editors of text-books in large part to revise the
selections which they reprint, so that that which is of linguistic
value for the pupils may be cultivated at the expense of everything
that is unusual or odd. Texts whose subject-matter is good, but whose
language makes them impossible for our purpose, may often be made
pedagogically practicable by means of curtailing, paraphrasing, and
adaptation in various ways; many popular fairy-tales in the collections
of folklorists may be used if one only will take the trouble to
translate them from the dialect in which they are written. Such a
splendid little story as Mrs. Ewing’s _Jackanapes_, which is frequently
read as it stands in German and Swedish schools, is, according to my
judgment, too full of literary expressions and unnecessary words to be
easily comprehended by our little pupils. In the passage which I have
selected for my own primer, I have therefore in several places made
considerable omissions, and the style has throughout been made more
colloquial and direct, by means of corrections like these for instance:
having _ceased to entertain_ (given up) any hopes of his own recovery.
| Tony tumbled off _during the first revolution_ (before he had gone
round once). | And what bright eyes _peeped out of his dark forelock
as it was blown by the wind_! (he had!) | told him that he must _be on
his very best behaviour_ (behave properly) during the visit. If it had
been _feasible_ (possible) to leave off calling him Jackanapes and to
get used to his _baptismal_ (real Christian) name of Theodore before
the day after to-morrow _it would have been satisfactory_ (she would
have done it) | said J., shaking his yellow _mop_ (hair), and leaning
back in his _one of the two Chippendale_ armchairs _in which they sat_
(the italicized words left out) | _took their early promenade_ (went
out for their walk) earlier than usual | His golden hair flew out, _an
aureole from which his cheeks shone red and distended with trumpeting_
(left out). It is very probable that on comparing the original with
the revised text, it will be found that some of the colouring has been
lost; I merely maintain that the pupils gain thereby. The more it is
insisted upon (as according to the reform-method) that the selections
are not only to be read but also to be mastered, so that their language
becomes the mental property of the pupil, the more necessary is such
revision. It is clear that as the pupil progresses, the texts may
become more and more literary, and for various reasons the advisability
of such curtailing and adaptation becomes more questionable.

As a sample of such revision, I shall reprint a part of an anecdote,
(A) as it ought not to be given in a book for beginners (but as it
stands in a certain English reader for foreigners) and (B) as it stands
in Sweet’s excellent edition:--

  (_A_) His table, however, is constantly set out with a dozen covers,
  and served by suitable attendants. Who, then, are his privileged
  guests? No less than a dozen of favourite dogs, who daily partake
  of my lord’s dinner, seated very gravely in armchairs, each with
  a napkin round his neck, and a servant behind to attend to his
  wants. These honourable quadrupeds, as if grateful for such delicate
  attentions, comport themselves during the repast with a decency
  which would do more than honour to a party of gentlemen; but if by
  any chance one of them should, without due consideration, obey his
  natural instinct, and transgress any of the rules of good manners,
  his punishment is at hand.

  (_B_) Every day he used to have dinner laid for twelve guests besides
  himself; but no one was ever invited to the house. Who were the
  twelve covers laid for then, do you think? For twelve dogs. Each dog
  had a velvet chair to sit up in, and a napkin round his neck, and
  a footman behind his chair to wait on him. The older dogs always
  behaved in the most gentlemanly manner, but it sometimes happened
  that one of the younger dogs forgot his manners, and snatched a chop
  or a piece of pudding off the plate of the dog that was sitting next
  to him.

Finally the difficulties may be grammatical. These are the difficulties
that teachers have been most afraid of according to the old methods,
so that they have even preferred to give up almost all sense and
connection in the subject-matter rather than make a break in the
systematical progress in grammar. Such a form as _pu_ was not allowed
to occur before the pupils had learned the whole conjugation of
_pouvoir_ _pouvant_ _pu_ _je peux_, etc.; these forms must be learned
connectedly, it was said. But the irony of it all is that this
“connectedly” means that they are learned out of all connection--and
therefore to little profit. When the pupil is required to “understand”
the forms which occur in his reader, it will be found on closer
examination that this means merely that, for instance, _il a_ is
understood by the one who knows that it is 3 pers. sing. pres. of
_avoir_, or who at least knows the formula _j’ai_, _tu as_, etc.;
that _yeux_ is “understood” by the one who has learned that it is an
irregular plural belonging to the singular _œil_, etc.; in short, to
“understand” means here to know where the form in question belongs in
the grammatical system; and the forms must be given in exactly the same
order in which they are arranged in the grammar, the present before
the past tense, etc. But what has the beginner got to do with all this
system? The idea is not carried out consistently either, for when all
the exercises on accidence have been gone through, it is generally
the rule to pass over to connected (unrevised) texts, where such a
form as _puisse_ may occur, but the only thing that the pupils get to
know about it is that it is subjunctive, for it may easily take a year
or two before they learn why the subjunctive is used. Why is syntax
less important than accidence? To be quite consistent, it ought no
more to be permissible for a syntactical phenomenon than for a form
in accidence to occur before the corresponding grammatical section
has been learned. But since it seems to be inevitable that we must be
inconsistent on some point or other, it is no use beating about the
bush; in other words, we must not be afraid of using irregular forms
in the very first selection.

Grammatical irregularities, viewed from a pedagogical point of view,
fall into two entirely different classes, which are too apt to be
treated as if they were co-ordinate. In the first place, all languages
contain a number of irregularities which play a most insignificant part
both in life and in literature, because they occur so seldom. When the
users of the language produce them at long intervals, it is generally
with the utmost caution, because they merely have a hazy conception of
what the proper form of the expressions ought to be. But they are taken
up in the grammars, and as soon as one grammarian has caught sight of
one of them, it is carefully copied in all succeeding grammars for
the sake of completeness. Foreign grammarians are even more inclined
than the natives to pay attention to everything of that kind because
they have no instinctive feeling of what is rare and what is common.
In some English grammars which are used on the Continent, there may
still be found _I catched_, _I digged_, _I shined_, _I writ_, as the
preterite forms of _I catch_, _I dig_, _I shine_, _I write_; in one,
I find given as two different verbs _I weet_, _wit_ or _wot_, past
tense _wot_, and _I wis_, past tense _I wist_. What a big mistake it
is to include such musty and impracticable forms, we can best judge
from our own language--but in those French and German grammars which
we ourselves write there are things which are just as bad as the above
offences in English. When I went to school, I learned the following
rule about the plural of _travail_, “_Travail_ has _travails_ in the
plural when it means a report from a minister to the king or from a
subordinate official to the minister; likewise when it means a machine
to hold unruly horses, while they are being shoed.” This rule is thus
criticized by Storm: “Now I must say I have read many hundreds of
French books in my day, but so far as I remember, I have never come
across _travails_ in modern literature! In the sense of report, it
occurs in Mme. de Sévigné. An educated Frenchman, when asked if the
word was used with that meaning, answered me that he thought it was
no longer used. So one would expect that the word had long ago ceased
to have any show in modern grammars, but it seems to be continually
creeping in again.”

However, it is easy enough to take a position with respect to this
first kind of irregularities; they ought to be removed from the
instruction as radically as possible; they ought to be weeded out
root and all to a far greater extent than has yet been done in most
text-books, even if it must be admitted that something has been
done in this direction of late years. It is quite another matter
when we come to the other kind of irregularities, which are found
in the very commonest words, in words like German _ist_ _war_,
_kann_ _konnte_, _geht_ _ging_, _ich_ _mein_, _mann_ _männer_. Those
irregularities the pupil must learn, and learn thoroughly--there is
no doubt about that. The only question is, at what stage? before or
after the regular inflections? Most teachers will answer, after.
That a systematic grammar first gives what is normal, that which can
be expressed in general, comprehensive rules, and then afterwards
mentions the exceptions, the isolated phenomena, that of course is
all right. But it does not necessarily follow that the pupils ought
to familiarize themselves with the forms in the same order. What is
won thereby? Perhaps some advantage for the theoretical knowledge
about the language. But the loss incurred by this method of procedure
is undoubtedly far greater. For it will be found to be absolutely
impossible to arrange texts which are the least bit suitable without
using irregularly inflected words, so indispensable are they. The dread
of being unsystematic by taking up exceptions immediately is one of
the causes of the prevalence of the disheartening series of detached
sentences without any sensible meaning. It is only by freeing ourselves
from this principle which requires rules first and exceptions later
that we shall be able to get good texts for the teaching of beginners.
Furthermore, by beginning with the regular forms, we perhaps run the
risk that the pupils will analogically apply the rule even to the
exceptional words, whereas the irregular forms generally deviate so
much that they preclude the possibility of such mistakes. Those who
have learned that the plural in English is formed by adding _s_, may
perhaps construct such improper forms as _mans_, _childs_, but the
plural forms _men_ and _children_ are not apt to tempt the pupils to
inflect other words after the same pattern. But the moral of this is
not that we are to turn the customary method of procedure upside down,
and systematically learn the exceptions first. Here, too, nature must
be our guide; just as persons talking within a child’s hearing never
stop to consider if the words they are using are regular or not, so we
ought not to be too painfully careful in selecting or arranging the
first reading-exercises in a foreign language; we ought to choose what
is otherwise good and take the forms as they come, wasting no words
at this stage to explain their place in the system. In other words,
the deviating forms must be learned as if they were merely matters of
vocabulary. If in one of the first pieces there stands _Il y avait
une fois un roi et une reine_, it is enough for the time being if the
pupil is told that _il y avait_ = there was; the forms for “there is”
and “there has been” he can learn another time when he has use for
them, and then the teacher can refer back to this early piece and
remind the pupil about the related form which he learned before. For
beginners in French, _peux_--“can” is just as difficult (or easy) as
_peu_--“little,” and _faire_--“make, do,” as _fer_--“iron,” and it
makes no difference if the one is regular and the other irregular.
Indeed, an irregular plural like _geese_ is even easier for Danes than
the regular _bees_ (on account of the z-sound); likewise, it is easier
for an Englishman to learn the German irregular forms of comparison
_besser_ _best_ than regular forms like _süsser_ _süssest_. Later
when the time has come for a more systematic study of the grammar, it
will be rather an advantage that a number of the “exceptions” already
have occurred at so early a stage that they are not at all felt to be
strange and unusual.[4]

On the other hand, the beginner ought to be spared such grammatical
difficulties as are due to complicated sentence-structure. All
sentences ought from the very beginning to be constructed as evenly,
simply and clearly as possible; co-ordinate independent clauses ought
to be, if not the only, at least the predominating type of sentence.
Not even, for instance, in the second year of Latin instruction,
although there are just as many hours devoted to Latin in a year as
generally fall to the share of modern languages in the course of two
or three years, is it justifiable to let the pupils read the long
passages of indirect discourse in Cæsar; they ought not to occur until
the pupils are so far advanced that they could easily understand the
same matter when directly presented. This is also a point to be kept in
mind for any one who undertakes to revise the selections for reading
according to the suggestions given above.


[4] It will be noticed that in the whole of this argument I agree with


So much for the reading selections--now for the way in which they
ought to be used in the classroom. I have a very vivid recollection
of how most of the language lessons were conducted when I went to
school, and I have a suspicion that this method of procedure has not
yet quite died out, even if in many places it has more or less felt the
influence of the law of change. First the “old lesson” is gone through,
and that must take as little time as possible, therefore the pupil is
required to be able to translate it fluently without reading it aloud
first. Then we come to the “new lesson.” A boy stands up and reads a
little piece out of the reader--stuttering; the words are separated
from each other by pauses and various unaesthetic hm- and er- sounds,
and sometimes by the teacher’s corrections, or “now hurry,” “what a
terrible pronunciation!” “how do you pronounce g before e? well, you
know that just as well as I do, you blockhead,” etc. All that the boy
thinks about, whenever he gets an opportunity, is, what in the world
can be the meaning of that word I am coming to. Then he translates,
interrupted by the teacher’s corrections, or “look out,” “where is
the verb,” “but what case is it,” etc. Then there are, perhaps, some
grammatical questions; he is to give the principal parts of a verb
or two, explain the use of a subjunctive, etc.; the questions are
not asked in the foreign language and are not to be answered in that
tongue. The next boy is called upon to recite in the same way, and so
on until the lesson has been gone through; if there is time enough,
perhaps we go through it once more, but that must be in a hurry, so we
do not stop to read it first this time. The last five or six minutes
are devoted to looking through the lesson for next time; the teacher
translates it while the pupils follow it in their books, and perhaps
exert themselves to write down the meaning of some difficult word in
the margin of the reader or in a note-book.

The most prominent feature of the teaching is haste; there is much
to be done, especially as examination draws on. It seems to be an
established custom that the examination marks are determined by the
quality of the translation, and it is in order to get practice in
translating that the reading selections are gone through as many
times as possible. There is not much time for reading aloud; why,
when one has only learned the main principles of pronunciation, one
can generally infer the pronunciation of any word from the spelling,
especially in German, but also in French. I suppose it is more or less
in this confidence that the teachers let a piece be translated three or
four times for every time it is read aloud in the original.

How much of the foreign language does the pupil hear in the course of
such a lesson? The teacher says a word now and then--for instance, when
a pupil translates incorrectly; but then the attention is not directed
to the pronunciation; besides, it is generally only one word that he
says, and that word occurs most likely in a sentence in the pupils’ own
language. Now, it is a matter of fact that even one who pronounces very
well cannot get the proper French swing of a French word when it occurs
in company with words of another language. The basis of articulation
is different in the two languages, and it is not easy to shift from
the one to the other in a moment. So it is but little that the pupil
hears from his teacher. From his classmates he hears a little more, no
doubt; but theirs is not exactly exemplary pronunciation, and besides,
it does not interest him to pay attention to it. If he only can manage
to keep the place in the book where the others are for the moment, he
can very well think about other things while the others are reciting;
he can, for instance, review the difficult words in the next piece, if
he does not prefer to dream about his stamp collection or his bicycle.
Finally, on rare occasions, he is permitted to read a couple of lines
aloud in class, but it is considered merely as a sort of introduction
to the main business in hand, translation. He never gets an opportunity
to say anything himself in the foreign language outside of what stands
in the book, and he very seldom hears others say anything that he is
not following in print.

So it is no wonder that such instruction scarcely cultivates at all the
pupil’s ability to understand a foreign language as it is rapidly and
naturally spoken by a native. If he should hear the simplest every-day
sentence in a foreign language, correctly and naturally pronounced,
and he should be asked merely to repeat it, he would in nine cases out
of ten betray the strangest perplexity, although he would have had no
trouble whatever with a far more difficult piece which he happened to
meet with in print.

But that is not all; this method has other disadvantages. The foreign
words gallop past the pupil’s eye; his main object is to be able to
recognize them in a vague sort of way so that they may give him the
clue to the translation. Oftentimes one word thus vaguely remembered
even gives him the clue to the translation of a whole sentence which he
knows by heart because there was something special about it. What he
gets hold of is the translation, and the whole translation often comes
to his mind when he has only looked at the beginning of the sentence
in the original--sometimes, however, only on condition that it stands
in the same place on the page (at the top to the left, etc.), where
he is used to seeing it. There is not the same inducement to remember
the forms of the foreign expressions exactly. If you take a clever boy
who has been taught according to the usual method and, after he has
translated a little piece of his lesson, close his book and ask him
to give the original of the last sentence which he has translated,
it will in many cases be impossible for him to do it. I reported an
example of this at the congress in Stockholm in 1886; a clever pupil
was translating a piece of Mérimée’s _Colomba_ at sight, and was doing
it very well, when I made the experiment. He apparently remembered the
sentence well enough in the translation, but it was slowly and with
difficulty that he ventured the French: _Et il pleurait comme le fils
de Pietri pleurait._ But in the book there stood: _Et il pleura comme
pleurait le fils de Pietri._ It is clear that it is impossible for a
pupil to get a correct conception of the radical difference between
passé défini and imparfait, or of the effect of the order of words,
when he pays so little attention to the French forms that he meets
with. One can never get any real appreciation of the idiosyncrasies of
a foreign language as long as the translation is the main object.

Let us consider for a moment the workings of a boy’s mind when it is
his turn to recite and he has to translate such a sentence as, for
instance: _cet homme, dont elle ne voyait jamais les enfants_. _Cet_,
this, _homme_, man, _dont_, whose--now he discovers that it will not be
English if he continues to take one word after the other in the French
order, so he looks ahead, tries every word hurriedly; finally he finds
_les enfants_, the children; no, I forgot, we must not have the article
there in English, so merely children; back to _elle_, she; now he sees
that _ne jamais_ must be taken first: never; _voyait_, saw. So instead
of taking the French words in the natural order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,
8, 9, he has to skip backwards and forwards in order to get them in the
order 1, 2, 3, (8), 9, 4, 5, 7, 6. In an English text-book for German
schools the following sentence[5] is given for translation with numbers
indicating the order in which the words are to be taken in English:
^1Würden ^2Sie ^3nicht ^6viel ^7zeit ^5gehabt ^4haben ^8wenn ^9Sie
^{11}nicht ^{15}jenen ^{16}brief ^{13}zu ^{14}schreiben ^{12}gehabt
^{10}hätten. In other cases, it is the pupils themselves who by means
of numbers and letters (“paving letters”) smooth the difficulty of
translation. Anyone who is accustomed to translate German at sight
knows how when he has translated the subject of a dependent clause he
silently runs through what follows, often several lines, in order to
find the verb, which according to English usage must not be too far
separated from its subject, and how in hastily trying each single word
his attention is drawn to a number of subordinate thoughts while the
main thought stands and waits, as it were. This mental process is made
even more complicated by the fact that only in a minority of cases does
every word in a sentence (like the simple sentence given above) in any
way correspond to an English word; as a rule the translator also has to
think about such questions as, does _sich_ here mean him, or her, or
himself, or herself, or itself, or oneself; does _si_ mean so, or as,
or if; is _il fait_ to be taken as he does, he makes, he has (something
done), or it does, or it is, or in still another way, etc., etc. This
mental process, which is much more complicated than would generally be
supposed, is far beyond the ability of the children. Therefore they
often remain contented with the text-book’s, the teacher’s or the
parent’s translation, which is learned partly or entirely by heart;
otherwise the translation is apt to swarm with the well-known offences
against the mother-tongue, word-formations, phrases, expressions,
order of words, etc., which are not English. Since the teacher of
course cannot put up with this murdering of the King’s English, a large
part of every lesson in the foreign language has to be spent in the
troublesome task of rooting out these barbarisms.

That is why it is so often said that instruction in foreign languages
always is, or ought to be, at the same time instruction in one’s
native language, or, as the matter is sometimes more pointedly put,
that the main object in learning other languages is to get a correct
knowledge of one’s own. Of course there is much truth in this last
statement, if it is the theoretical understanding of languages
that we are thinking about; for it is only natural that we cannot
appreciate the richness of our mother-tongue, or have any opinion
about its structural advantages or disadvantages, or even give a
correct description of its structure or understand its historical
development, when we have no other languages to compare it with.[6]
Yet all this ought not to close our eyes to the fact that as soon as
it is a question of the practical command of the mother-tongue, the
assertion is utterly false. In this respect instruction in foreign
languages does not help us, and it is not the people who are most
accomplished in other languages who are the best stylists in their
own. On the contrary! Only compare the language used by the same pupil
in his English essays and in his translations from the Latin; in the
latter, you will find a number of offences against good English usage
which could not possibly have occurred in the former. So the errors are
in reality not due to a deficient command of the mother-tongue, but
solely and alone to the restraining and confusing influence brought
to bear upon the pupil’s thoughts by the foreign forms of expression;
the strange language lures him in upon linguistic paths where he
would never set his foot otherwise, and which only lead him into a
mire. It is the school with its translation-method that has sown the
dragon’s teeth, and it must now reap the consequences. Instruction in
foreign languages, according to the prevailing method, is so far from
being a help to the pupils in their treatment of English, that, on
the contrary, in spite of all the energy which is put in on combating
Germanisms, Latinisms, etc., in the translations, it often makes them
uncertain and vacillating in their feeling for what is good English.[7]

The acquirement of a certain intuition for good usage in a _foreign_
language had best be left out of the discussion here; a really thorough
knowledge of French or German habits of expression is, of course,
not to be obtained as long as we are unable to see anything in these
languages without straightway turning all our attention to something
quite different, namely, the English rendering.[8] We get no further
than to a “nodding acquaintance” with the component parts of the
foreign language, so that we know them pretty well by sight and can
repeat their names, but we do not become quite intimate with them, we
do not live together with them, they do not become flesh of our flesh
and blood of our blood. If something difficult is to be learned, the
very first essential is to be much occupied with it; therefore the
first condition for good instruction in foreign languages would seem to
be to give the pupil as much as possible to do with and in the foreign
language; he must be steeped in it, not only get a sprinkling of it
now and then; he must be ducked down in it and get to feel as if he
were in his own element, so that he may at last disport himself in it
as an able swimmer. But what is most characteristic for the prevailing
methods is that the translation with its accessories swallows up so
much time, that there is none left for this free disporting in the
foreign element.

Then why does translation play such an important part? We must first
find an answer to this question before we proceed to ask if it can and
ought to be thrust into the background, and by what means. Now the
ability to translate may either be considered the end of instruction in
foreign languages, or translation may be regarded merely as a means of
instruction (one of several means or perhaps the only means).

Now is it right to say that the _purpose_ of instruction in a foreign
language is that the pupils may learn to _translate_ fluently and
exactly (from and into the language)? The answer must be an emphatic
No. The popular opinion among those who have not thought the matter
over, or who have not given sufficiently careful attention to their
own mental processes, is that a foreign language can be understood
only by transposing it into one’s mother-tongue; but this is not so.
Those who read foreign authors in the original with real advantage
do not actually first translate each word, still less each sentence
or each period, into English before they proceed further. Those who
are listening to a French lecture or seeing a play in Paris have no
time to translate to themselves, but it is not necessary for them to
do it either. And finally, it goes without saying that the Englishman
who really speaks French and German well does not first construct
his sentences in English and then translate them in the same way
as a schoolboy translates his exercises. No; in all these mental
processes, English occupies a place in the background and is just as
superfluous as for instance German is for me while I am reading or
talking French. How often are we not asked the meaning of some foreign
word or expression which we know very well and would neither pay any
special attention to in a book nor hesitate to use in conversation but
yet we cannot give any English equivalent for it without resorting
to some vague uncertain circumlocution; then suddenly, after a good
deal of speculation, we hit upon the correct English expression. Or
the questioner may suggest first one and then another translation of
something French or Latin; we do not feel satisfied, but cannot mention
anything better; then he attempts a new suggestion and instantly it
flashes upon us that this is the best. In all these cases, then, we
have clearly and distinctly understood the foreign expressions without
being able to translate them (or before we could translate them). Of
course the German word _fall_ is only one and the same word for me
whether it be used in such a manner as to be best rendered by English
_case_, _instance_, or by _fall_, _decline_, _descent_, or in still
another way (_unglücksfall_, accident; _schlimmsten falles_, if the
worst come to the worst; _auf keinen fall_, on no account, etc.).
When I come across the word _gegen_, I do not consciously stop to
decide if it “means” _towards_, _to_, _about_ or _against_; nor in
the case of _bleiben_, if it is to be rendered by _remain_, _stay_,
_stop_, _continue_, _keep_, or _survive_. _Il a dû se taire_; _elle
a le cœur serré_; _il traite le sujet avec la compétence qu’on lui
connaît_--should I really have to hunt for the proper translation every
time such an idiom occurs? Should I stop at every perspicuous German
compound until I had found the cumbersome English circumlocution that
is often needed to render it? No; in all of these cases, I directly
and spontaneously connect the idea with the language in which it
is expressed without going any roundabout way through the words of
my native language. Any one who introduces a foreign word into his
English either because there is no exact equivalent in English or, at
least, because he cannot recall it for the moment, also thereby shows
that people really can, and very frequently do, learn words in other
languages without getting at their meaning through their mother-tongue.

“Il trouva la pauvre fille dans un état à faire pitié.” “On a voulu
trouver dans ses œuvres un pessimisme de parti pris.” “Pour lui, il y
allait de la gloire de cette maison qu’il servait depuis sa jeunesse.”
How many a man will understand without difficulty such sentences as
these and a hundred others, and yet hesitate at once when asked to
translate them! We must on the whole make a distinction between the
ability to feel at home in a language and skill in translating from or
into it; even if these two accomplishments may be found in one and the
same person, yet they are not seldom to be seen separated. If I may be
allowed to talk about myself, I may say that my ability to translate
quickly and well is so decidedly inferior to my ability to understand
and to express my thoughts in those languages which I have studied,
that I should scarcely like to have my linguistic attainments judged by
my skill in translation.

The lately deceased art-critic, P. G. Hamerton, the author of that
interesting book _French and English_, says about himself: “As my wife
was a Parisian with a strong taste for the classical literature of
her own country, I became her pupil in French and she became mine in
English. We made it a rule in our private conversation never to allow a
fault in either language to pass uncorrected, and we read aloud to each
other a great deal.... In the use of languages I have one faculty which
seems to be rather uncommon: that of keeping them entirely separated.
When speaking or writing French I am, for the time being, like one
totally ignorant of English, as English words do not occur to me, and
I never translate anything, not even weights and measures, or money,
or the thermometer, from one language to the other, but think in each,

When Hamerton here says that this ability is unusual, he no doubt means
that it is unusual in so high a degree as he had it. Perhaps it is not
all people who get so far that _dix-huit degrés_, for instance, awakens
in them just as precise a conception as the corresponding degrees of
heat in terms of Fahrenheit; and yet, no doubt, by habit, this too
will become quite natural for those who care very much to have the
temperature expressed in degrees. It is just like the foreigner in
France who, after a very short time, involuntarily begins to calculate
with French money, so that he does not have to transpose _deux francs
cinquante_ into English shillings and pence before he can judge as to
whether the price of an article is high or low.

Though I may admit, however, that this ability to feel at home in a
strange language is not altogether common in so high a degree, yet I
think it may be said that the same ability only in a less degree is
not unusual. I mean that it is rather the exception than the rule for
people who read foreign books to any extent at all to have to translate
to themselves in order to understand what they are reading, with the
exception, perhaps, of some difficult lines here and there. And even in
the difficult places, where they have to resort to their mother-tongue
in order to understand the meaning, it is generally only one or two
words which have to be looked up, so they generally do not even pause
to translate the whole clause in which those words have occurred; still
less frequently do they stop merely to untangle some involved sentence
construction. When a whole population has to make constant use of two
languages, the circumstances are no doubt always the same as among
the Wends in Lusatia: “They speak both Wendish and German with equal
fluency; yet the common people generally refuse when they are asked to
translate something from one language to another: ‘he cannot do it,’
or, as one of my informants expressed himself, ‘he is afraid to.’ He
can, however, without difficulty repeat in German a tale which he has
heard in Wendish, and _vice versâ_, and likewise he can give the exact
translation of single words.”[9]

While there are countless persons who have use for the ability to
understand a foreign language directly, and while there is at all
events a constantly increasing number of people who need to express
their thoughts in a foreign language, there are really very few who
will ever have any occasion to exercise skill in translation. There
are many who write private letters in German, etc., but they do not
compose an English text first which they then proceed to translate
with exactness. Even those who have foreign business letters to write
for someone else are not generally given every word that is to stand
in them, but merely a rough draft of the contents, which they are to
clothe in a foreign language as best they can. There remain, then,
the few translators connected with the law-courts, the providers of
translated novels, and finally the very small number of choice spirits
who have the courage to grapple with the valuable and charming art of
transplanting poetry in a poetical rendering. But they may all find
comfort in the fact that skill in translation at the very bottom rests
on that same direct command of language that we all need,[10] so there
is no need for them to feel dissatisfied if we refuse to recognize
skill in translation as the end and aim of all instruction in languages.

Our ideal must rather be the nearest possible approach to the native’s
command of the language, so that the words and sentences may awaken the
same ideas in us as in the native--and these ideas, as we well know,
are not the same as those called forth by the corresponding words in
our own language. The relations between languages are not like the
relations between mathematical equivalents; _cœur_, _herz_, _heart_
do not all cover the same ground, to say nothing of the difference
between _sens_, _sinn_, _sense_, etc. Even when the literal meaning
may be said to be the same, the suggestions associated with the words
vary in the different languages, suggestions arising from related
words, from words that are similar in sound or similar in some other
way, from frequent combinations in which the words occur, etc. The
same animal is in English called _bat_, in French _chauvesouris_, in
German _fledermaus_, in Latin _vespertilio_, in Danish _flagermus_, but
what a difference in the suggestions! The French, the German and the
Danish words call attention to the animal’s resemblance to a mouse,
the Danish word besides to its flapping movement (a suggestion which
must be lost for the Germans since _flattern_ has taken the place of
_fledern_), but the French word to its bald appearance; the Latin
word makes us think of the time of day when the animal is abroad, but
the English word _bat_ is rather an abstract expression without any
suggestiveness, and we can understand why Tennyson declared that the
provincial word _flittermouse_ was far more suitable for poetical use
than _bat_. These “undertones” of the words sound more distinctly in
puns, rhymes, etc., but still they always lie lurking in the background
of our conscience. It is all such things as these, together with the
fact that some languages carefully distinguish between certain shades
of grammar or meaning which are of no consequence in other languages,
where the finesses seem to be extended to totally different points, and
furthermore together with different habits as to order of words, etc.,
etc., which, taken all in all, make it impossible for any translation
ever to be a perfect reproduction of the original: _traduttore

For all these reasons, it is not translation (or skill in translation)
that we are aiming at in teaching foreign languages.


[5] Quoted in _Englische Studien_ VIII., 175.

[6] Wer fremde sprachen nicht kennt, weiss nichts von seiner eignen.


[7] Ch. Darwin had the strongest disbelief in the common idea that a
classical scholar must write good English; indeed he thought that,
the contrary was the case. (_Life and Letters_, i. 155.) See also
the strong expressions to the same effect in H. Spencer’s _Facts and
Comments_, 1902, p. 70.

[8] Der geist des schülers muss eine ganz wunderliche turnerei
treiben, immer hin- und herhüpfen zwischen den beiden sprachen, in
keiner recht zur ruhe kommen. Das mag eine treffliche übung sein zu
mancherlei anderen verstandesleistungen (? O. J.), nur gerade für die
spracherlernung ist der gewinn zweifelhaft.--G. v. d. Gabelentz, _Die
Sprachwissenschaft_, 1891, 73.

[9] F. Polle, _Wie denkt das volk über die sprache_. Leipzig, 1889,
p. 35. The languages are as different from each other as English and

[10] Only by understanding the connexion in which they occur is it
possible to know what is meant by English _light_, or _bow_, French
_montre_ or _fin_, German _thor_ or _lieben_. So the language must be
understood before it can be translated.


But for all that translation might still be a useful and indispensable
_means_ in the service of language instruction. In order to judge of
this we must have a clear conception of the different ways in which
translation can be and really is used:

  (_a_)--Translation _into English_ is a means of getting the pupil to
  understand the foreign language, as for instance, when I tell him
  that _cheval_ means “horse,” or when I translate a whole sentence for

  (_b_)--Translation into English is a means of testing whether the
  pupil understands, as, for instance, when I ask him what _cheval_
  means in English, or when I let him translate a whole sentence;

  (_c_)--Translation _from English_ is a means of giving the pupil
  practice in producing something in the foreign language;

  (_d_)--Translation from English is a means of testing whether the
  pupil can express himself in the foreign language. It is really
  a subdivision of this when the teacher lets a pupil translate an
  English sentence in order to see if he understands some grammatical
  rule in the foreign language.

It is clear that _a_ and _b_ are right closely connected, likewise _c_
and _d_; yet it will be seen later that the one does not necessarily
presuppose the other, as is no doubt generally assumed.

Advocates of the routine-method will throw _a_, _b_, _c_, and _d_
together indiscriminately and say about them all that translation is an
excellent and indeed the only practical means.

But their opponents, now, maintain that in none of these four cases is
translation the only means--very far from it!--and that besides it is
not equally valuable in all instances.

  (_a_)--There is always danger in translation; but in spite of this
  there are many who in certain cases will use this means as being the
  surest and quickest way of getting the pupils to understand, but in
  other cases will try to do without it; some teachers even think that
  in all cases they can find other and better means of getting the
  pupils to comprehend the meaning of foreign expressions.

  (_b_)--As a means of testing whether the pupil understands the
  foreign language, it is a tolerably good thing to let him translate,
  but only tolerably good; it is not always reliable, and ought in many
  cases to be a last resort.

  (_c_)--Translation from English is, for beginners at least, an
  extremely poor means in comparison with the many other hitherto
  generally neglected ways in which the teacher may get a pupil to say
  (or write) something in the foreign language. “Das übersetzen in die
  fremdsprache zum zwecke der erlernung derselben gehört einfach in das
  gebiet pädagogischer sünden und verirrungen” (Bierbaum, _Die neueren
  sprachen_, i. 57).

  (_d_)--As a test of whether the pupil can express himself in the
  other language, an oral or written exercise in translation is either
  illusory or is at least suitable only for the most advanced pupils.

These assertions must now be made good, especially by the suggestion
of other means which may be substituted for translation. I shall
not continue strictly to observe the distinctions between the four
categories, _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_. In order to avoid tedious repetitions
of expressions like “the foreign language in question,” I shall in the
following pages say in short “the language” in contrast to English.

Are there other means by which I can get the pupil to comprehend the
meaning of foreign words and sentences? Yes; in the first place by
means of _direct observation_ or immediate perception (what the Germans
call anschauung). This applies to substantives which designate objects,
etc., to be found in the school-room: fenêtre, porte, banc, chaise,
tableau (noir), craie, livre, plume, crayon, montre, élève, maître
(professeur), etc. All that is necessary is to point to the objects
with such remarks as _c’est_ (or _voilà_) _la craie_, _on appelle
ça le tableau noir_, etc., and the pupil cannot mistake the meaning
of each word. Furthermore, this is the best way to teach the most
necessary words relating to the human body: tête, cheveux, nez, yeux,
bouche, lèvres, barbe, joue, oreille, bras, main, doigt, etc. But in
addition to the many substantives there are also a number of words of
other classes which can be learned in this manner: voilà une fenêtre,
et voilà une _autre_ fenêtre; Pierre est un élève, Paul est un autre
élève; words like _ici_, _là_; especially a number of verbs of action:
_j’écris_; Victor écrit. je _prends_ la craie; Jean prend la craie. je
me _lève_; Pierre se lève. _je m’assieds_, je _marche_ (vers la porte),
_j’ouvre_ la porte, je _ferme_ la porte; je _donne_ le livre à Pierre,
Pierre me donne le livre, etc. At the same time as the teacher or the
pupil says something or other, the teacher illustrates the action. In
that manner, already in the first stage, before the pupils have any
French vocabulary to operate with, a number of words and sentences
may be learned without the use of a single English word. Yes, even
the various tenses of the verbs can be explained by this method. If,
for instance, in the course of their reading, the pupils come across
_il a pris_ and they do not understand it, the teacher can show what
it means--this of course does not apply to the very first lessons--by
first taking the chalk and saying: je prends la craie, then a book: je
prends le livre de Jean, then his hand: je prends sa main, and then
saying: d’abord j’ai pris la craie, puis j’ai pris le livre de Jean,
et enfin j’ai pris sa main. With a little ingenuity a good deal can be
brought in in this way; some material in French has been well arranged
in P. Passy and T. Tostrup, Leçons de choses. I shall later come to
the question as to whether and how the pupils are to repeat what the
teacher says in this way, as likewise to the objection that the pupils
in reality understand these words in English. Here I shall merely
caution against taking too much material of this kind at a stretch; it
is best to intersperse it with other things.

In the second place, the meaning of the words may be communicated
through _mediate perception_, through pictures. This is what Miss
Goldschmidt with so much energy has put into practice in her
“picture-words” and in other books on the same plan, which have been
edited partly by her and partly by others. Each page contains a
collection of pictures representing a series of objects belonging to
the same sphere of ideas. Sometimes they are joined together to make
a whole scene; sometimes the objects remain separated, without being
brought into connection with each other; some of the pictures are well
put together; others present several curiosities, as, for instance, a
telescope freely hovering in a rainbow. Each object is supplied with
a number referring to lists where the corresponding French (English,
etc.) words are given. In many German schools, and in several places
in Denmark now too, large picture-charts are used to hang upon the
schoolroom wall, especially the Hölzel charts, where, for instance, on
a winter-picture are collected representations of the most important
things belonging to winter. Then the teacher can point to one of these
things and at the same time explain it in the language which is being
studied. Finally pictures can also be used to illustrate a narrative
or descriptive text, as in the English primers published by Sarauw and

There have been several objections raised against the
perception-method. Thus Sweet says that the idea is not so sharply
defined as in the case of translation. If we see _chapeau_ by the side
of (the picture of) a silk hat, we do not know if it merely designates
that kind of hat or other kinds too, so that the translation “hat” is
more apt to suggest the correct idea. Or if the teacher points to
his mouth and says _bouche_, the pupils might just as well think that
it means lip, etc. The objection comes from a closet philosopher, who
has not seen the thing in practice; there is almost no danger except
for one who would try to learn a language by himself and exclusively
through pictures. In oral instruction, such mistakes are scarcely
frequent enough to be worth mentioning, even if it might be a good
thing perhaps for teachers to realize that they are possible--they even
occur now and then in a child’s apprehension of his native language,
which in large part follows exactly these same paths. If the teacher
understands his business, no mistake at all occurs or else it is soon
corrected, for of course he will never stop at merely pointing to the
object and giving the word, but he will immediately use it in sentences
and connections in which the meaning becomes perfectly clear; for
instance, if he only says _tu as une bouche et deux lèvres_, or, after
having pointed to his mouth and said _bouche_, he asks one of the boys:
_Combien as-tu de bouches?_ there will be no danger of such mistakes;
indeed all danger is generally precluded from the very beginning, for
when the teacher points to his mouth, he is not apt to say merely
_bouche_, but _voilà la bouche_ or _voilà ma bouche_, where the
singular form _la_, _ma_ unmistakably indicates the correct meaning.
Such misunderstandings as in the case of _chapeau_ are no doubt of
rare occurrence, but at all events, the teacher may prevent them too
by talking about his own and the pupils’ hats with the use of the same

Another opponent of the perception-method has said that it causes
disturbance in the class when the teachers in modern languages now get
up, now sit down, open the door, close the door, blow their noses, pull
their boots off and on (?) etc.

A third opponent carefully depicts all the asides a pupil will think
of when the teacher, in order to teach him the word _gants_, pulls his
gloves out of his pocket: “They are pretty bad specimens,” or “Oho! he
has brought his best ones along to-day because he knew he was going to
use them,” etc. Of course the method can be driven to caricature, and
of course the discipline can become lax if the teacher goes through the
various actions with too much restlessness, but in general the method
does not require very different or more disturbing movements than those
which take place in every or every other lesson: a pupil goes to the
blackboard or the door or opens a window. And if there is any spirit in
the teaching, the pupils indulge in no more irrelevant asides than in
other lessons.

There seems to be greater weight in the objection that only apparently
is the foreign word directly attached to the idea by means of the
perception-method, since either a real hat or a picture of one
immediately suggests to the pupil the English word _hat_, so that after
all we do not avoid the roundabout way through the native language,
as we desire; the hobgoblin moves with us. Well, if we think it is
possible entirely to prevent English words from turning up in the
children’s consciousness, we certainly deceive ourselves. But if we
are more modest in our demands and simply want the foreign language
to be kept as much as possible in the foreground and English in the
background, then it cannot be denied that it must make for this end
when it is not necessary for either the teacher or the pupil to mention
the English word. And the more they both become accustomed to this
method of teaching, the more previously learned words there are for the
new ones to be associated with, and the more ingenious the teacher is
to vary the whole, the more seldom do the English words occur to the

With the pictures as a basis of suggestion, there can and ought to be
conducted talks in the language, at least after the very first lessons
are past. It is but seldom necessary to resort to the native language,
and the time is almost exclusively occupied in hearing and saying
something in the language. But this can best be done when the pictures
not only suggest single words but are rich in content. Thus Mrs.
Freudenthal, in Finland, has to a large extent in her teaching used
reproductions of genre paintings, which give occasion for spinning out
whole narratives suggested by the pictures. Perhaps it is still better,
as Sarauw and I have done in our book for beginners in English, to
supply the tales (or other selections) with little illustrations; they
may occasion conversations which have more or less to do with the text
and which can be conducted with essentially the same vocabulary; and
the teacher ought also to return now and then to previously discussed
pictures, which may be treated more fully than before on account of the
progress made by the pupils in the meanwhile.

Pictures, then, are of undoubted significance in the teaching of
languages, even if their scope must not be overrated and they must
not be used as the only means of explanation--all one-sidedness
is hurtful. But the pictures ought to be characteristic of the
foreign land and people, especially when they are to be used
beyond the beginner stage. I am not the first one to reproach Miss
Goldschmidt because she gives pictures showing, for instance, a
Danish sitting-room, a Danish postman, etc., and lets the pupils use
the same pictures in learning all three foreign languages, something
which is not exactly calculated to win interest but must be pretty
monotonous whereas exactly what should be done is to open the pupil’s
eyes to the manifold and characteristic differences existing between
the various nations. Schools ought to be well supplied with pictures
on the walls and illustrated works which may serve to give the pupils
some enlightenment about French and German conditions of life, natural
scenery, buildings, art, institutions. Foreign illustrated papers
will be found to contain much useful material, and the teacher ought
frequently to use 5-10 minutes or more of the lesson to discuss such a
picture in the language with the pupils. That would be an excellent way
in which to supplement the teaching based on the text-book.

But not only such ready-made pictures may be used in teaching
languages. The teacher can often, by means of rough chalk-drawings on
the blackboard, illustrate various things in the text which is being
read and base his explanations (in the language) on them. The few times
I have done it, the pupils immediately took to it, so that I began to
deplore my great lack of skill in drawing. If there was any subject
that was neglected when I went to school, it was drawing. Now people
have, fortunately, begun to get their eyes open to the importance of
this branch, first and foremost for teachers of all subjects as a help
in their teaching, and, secondly, for the pupils as the good thing it
is from an educational point of view for them to learn to see an object
correctly and to reproduce what they see in a drawing. And just as in
the case of natural history and geography, the drawings of the pupils
now are an important feature of the instruction, so they might play a
similar part in the teaching of languages. It is a splendid idea that
has been put into practice in “Det danske selskabs skole.” I shall
quote from its “Beretning,” 1900:

“Exercises in drawing have also played an important part. Before the
lesson begins there is written on the blackboard one subject for each
pupil to illustrate by a drawing. Each one has a certain amount of
space apportioned to him. The pupil is ordered to draw only such things
as he can mention and explain in German. But of course the intention is
that much more is to be drawn. For instance, if the subject is a wagon,
the pupil naturally draws both wheels, wagon-pole, stud-stave, side
pieces, seat, driver with whip, horses, harness, etc. The pupil has to
explain his drawing to the class, and of course he gets into a tight
place; the result is that his interest is aroused for what all the
things are called, and he pays close attention to the words when the
teacher says them. Fourteen boys in a class can finish their drawings
in 10 minutes, and it takes 30 minutes to go through the 14 drawings.”
(C. Lambek.)

Here it looks as if the subject were given in Danish; and perhaps the
words learned in the exercise have been taken up too much in detail. I
should think it might be still better to announce the subject orally
and rather fully in the language, to say, for instance, to a Danish
pupil who is learning English--You draw a picture of a two-storied
house with three windows in each story and one door; outside the house
a man is to stand smoking his pipe; or, you draw a carriage and pair,
inside the carriage is a gentleman, but you see only the tip of his
nose; a dog is running fast behind the carriage. If there is--as there
always ought to be--blackboard space enough for several pupils to
execute their drawings at the same time, so much the better; the rest
of the class can be occupied with something else until the drawings
are finished; then they are first explained by the drawer, thereupon
by one or several of the other pupils; of course both the teacher and
the pupils call attention to anything that has been forgotten in the
drawing, and new points are brought up, as suggested by Mr. Lambek.
Also in connection with little stories, the pupils may be asked to make
drawings to show that they have understood what they have been reading.
In speaking about the use of pictures, I have wandered a little from my
point of departure, namely, the ways in which (aside from translation)
the pupil may be taught the meaning of a foreign word.

All of us who are further advanced must confess to ourselves that in
reading foreign books we have often omitted to look up an unfamiliar
word in the dictionary, because its meaning was perfectly clear from
the _context_. And we have all learned thousands of words in our
mother-tongue in the same way. Then why not use this experience in
the teaching of foreign languages? Because it leads to guesswork,
to carelessness in studying, to an approximate and uncertain
comprehension, is the answer we get. Granted--as far as some cases
are concerned! There are many combinations where the meaning of a
word may be “scented” through the context, and where a conscientious
teacher cannot remain satisfied without some proof that the pupil
really understands the word; and there are cases where the teacher
imagines that the pupils cannot help seeing the meaning immediately,
and yet their guesses are all wrong. But still the ability to arrive
at the meaning of an unfamiliar word through the text is valuable and
does not deserve to be neglected, but should, on the contrary, be
cultivated--under control, of course. At all events, there can be no
danger in using really self-interpreting sentences where the meaning of
an unfamiliar word may be assumed with unfailing certainty and without
guesswork. In a sentence like “Il y a _douze mois_ dans _l’année_,” the
pupil who is acquainted with any two of the three italicized words will
be able to reason out the meaning of the third with as great accuracy
as in the equation a + b = c the unknown quantity may be found when the
two are given. And if you continue: le premier s’appelle janvier, le
second s’appelle février, le troisième s’appelle mars, etc., then it
is no guesswork at all if the pupils gather both the ordinal numerals
and the names of the months. The same may be said of the following

Le jour se divise en vingt-quatre heures; l’heure se divise en soixante
minutes, et la minute en soixante secondes.

Soixante secondes font une minute; soixante minutes font une heure;
vingt-quatre heures font un jour; sept jours font une semaine;
cinquante-deux semaines et quelques jours font une année; cent années
font un siècle.

Here the pupil can infer the meaning of a number of words without
needing the teacher’s translation. So it is only a waste of time to let
the pupil himself translate such pieces--for he can do that half-asleep
without looking very much at the French, and he does not learn much
that way. No; let him repeat them in French until he can say them
fluently, then let him isolate the ordinals: le premier, le second ...,
thereupon the names of the months: janvier, février ...; thereupon go
through both series backwards, and then finally answer questions at
random: Comment s’appelle le troisième mois? Quel est le dixième mois?
etc. Or in connexion with the second selection, let him go through
all the divisions of time, first beginning with the smallest and then
with the largest (with the use of the article _un_, _une_); then ask:
Comment se divise l’heure? Comment se divise le jour? Combien de
secondes a une minute? Trois heures, combien de minutes? Deux années,
combien de mois? etc., etc. In this way it seems as if a teacher can
with complete confidence continue for a long time to keep even those
pupils occupied who do not know much French, without needing to mention
a single English word.[11]

Now of course there are only few subjects which can thus be talked
about in one self-interpreting sentence after the other: Sweet has,
in his Elementarbuch, got hold of more of that sort of thing than
any other author of similar text-books that I know of; but almost
any text will be found to contain sentences where the general sense
unmistakably indicates the meaning of the new words; the more of that
kind of combinations the pupil commits to memory the better for him.
The ability to infer the meaning from the context ought rather to be
encouraged and practised than ought the tendency to go by resemblances
to words in the mother-tongue or in other languages; even if much may
be learned in this way (Eng. _send_, German _senden_; Eng. _ruin_, Ger.
French _ruine_, etc.), yet there is still reason to caution against too
much confidence in resemblances, for they often lead us astray (even
in the case of “etymologically identical words”). Most of the really
valuable associations of this kind come of their own accord.

But to continue, the new words may simply be explained in the language
to the pupil--this of course really means that the teacher puts the
word into a self-interpreting sentence, so it is merely a subdivision
of what we have just been speaking about. Anyone who has been
accustomed to use the excellent French and English dictionaries, large
or small, all the way from Littré and Murray to the little Larousse
or Annandale’s Concise, knows how often he has been able to find in
them quite sufficient explanations of unfamiliar words. Why not use
this experience too in the teaching of foreign languages? Thus, for
instance, explain _veuf_: Un veuf est un homme dont la femme est morte;
une veuve est une femme dont le mari est mort. This explanation, to
be sure, contains no more information than is to be got out of the
simple translation “widower” (“widow”); but there are cases where an
explanation gives better information than a translation. It is not
improbable that many Englishmen, when given the translation _primage_
or _hat-money_ for German _kapplaken_, will remain just as wise as they
were before, but they will immediately understand it if it is explained
in German: prämiengeld, das früher dem schiffskapitän ausser der fracht
gezahlt wurde, ursprünglich freiwilliges geschenk, dann vertragsmässig
bestimmt. The English word _dentil_ is in English-German dictionaries
translated by _kälberzahn_, but I suppose that most Germans would
get more out of Annandale’s definition: “the name of the little
cubes or square blocks often cut for ornament on Greek cornices,” or
Funk-Wagnalls’ definition: “One of a series of small square tooth-like
ornamental blocks in the bed-moulding of the cornices of some Ionic
and other entablatures” (here even an instructive illustration). Well,
such technical words, where we do not even know the English term, we
shall scarcely have much use for in school; but sometimes on account of
the chance vagaries of language a translation does not give as exact
an idea as an explanation. If I say that _stockwerk_ means _floor_, I
run the risk of getting an exercise with _stockwerk_ used where there
ought to be _fussboden_; but if I explain it as “eine der horizontalen
einteilungen eines hauses,” or something like that, there is no danger
of any misunderstanding.

On the other hand, it must of course be admitted that there are many
words where an English translation gives the information required more
quickly and more clearly than it could be given in a long explanation
in the foreign language; and the teacher ought to consider in each
separate case which of the two ways of helping the pupil is to be
preferred. Still he must not let laziness influence him to give the
translation, which of course is always easiest for him, but he must
remember that an explanation in the language always has the great
advantage that the pupil, in addition to the new words, hears a number
of others which he thereby reviews, as it were, and that the pupil is
for the time being wholly occupied with the foreign language. Besides,
these explanations amuse the pupils because they get more intellectual
work out of them than out of translations, which are given to them

However, such explanations ought perhaps not to be used to any great
extent in the glossaries of text-books, especially in readers for
beginners; here it is best to weave them into the text itself. In the
first place, in such glossaries or notes, the explanations naturally
become drier and more like definitions than is necessary; in the second
place, the pupil who does not feel inclined to read those few lines
through is tempted to get some comrade, a parent, or a sister to tell
him in short the meaning of the word: that is, to translate it. To
counteract this by _always_ requiring the pupil to commit the given
explanation to memory is not exactly a wise plan, since it may easily
lead to mere thoughtless memory-work. For the glossary ought to play
no more important part in really good teaching for beginners than as a
help to the forgetful pupil in his home-preparation, where he can look
up the meaning (and pronunciation) of a word which he cannot remember,
I do not hesitate to use translation there.[12]

The explanations in the foreign language are especially in place
when the teacher assigns the lesson and goes through it orally. This
must be done with the greatest care and with a view to giving the
pupils a really full and all round insight into the new selection to
be read--with as much life and as few English words and sentences as
possible. Much depends upon the way in which the teacher reads the
piece; many pieces can be read in such a way that the pupils cannot
help understanding them: for instance, by the use of stress, emphasis
of contrasts, change of voice, etc. And then he can point to various
things by way of illustration--and it does no harm to point at the
window, for instance, on coming across the word _fenêtre_, even if the
class has had that word before. Many words can be made clear by means
of gestures, etc.; _scie_, for instance, can be illustrated by a sawing
movement accompanied by a wheezing sound; for _tailler_, it is only
necessary to cut for half a second with an imaginary knife; thus the
meaning of _boire_, _chanter_, _coup de pied_, _grimper_, _joyeux_,
_mécontent_, _pleurer_, _dormir_, _taper_, and many other words can be
given; as a rule, merely little (not noisy!) suggestions are necessary
for the class to understand immediately.

Finally there are circumlocutions in the language, not straightforward
definitions as in the dictionaries, but also other explanations;
often it is only necessary to lead the thoughts of the pupils in upon
the right track. On coming across German _hauptstadt_, for instance,
the teacher can say: London ist die hauptstadt Englands, Paris
ist die hauptstadt Frankreichs, und Kopenhagen ist die hauptstadt
Dänemarks--and then ask one of the pupils: Heinrich, weisst du jetzt
was hauptstadt bedeutet? Perhaps he will answer, “Capital,” but then
the teacher can say: Ganz richtig, aber kannst du nicht das wort
auf deutsch erklären? The pupil: Ja, die hauptstadt ist die grösste
stadt eines landes. The teacher: Ja wohl, es ist die erste stadt, die
grösste stadt, die wichtigste oder bedeutendste stadt eines landes.
Then he may add: Nun, Johan, kannst du andere hauptstädte Europas
anführen, and when he has mentioned a few, the teacher says: Schön,
das genügt, and passes on. Even if many words are used, yet they are
not superfluous because they are foreign words, and therefore a few
minutes’ conversation in this manner is about just as useful as if a
whole page had been read in the language. And the pupils will ever
after remember the meaning of the word _hauptstadt_ much better than
if the teacher had simply told them the translation and then continued
with the reading. In every separate case, the teacher must feel his way
to decide where there yet remains something that is not understood, and
where further explanation would be superfluous or tiresome; that is
also one of the reasons why such circumlocutions had better be left to
the teacher than included in the text-book.

Of course it is necessary to have practice and a good deal of tact
in order to give this kind of explanations naturally and well, and
carefully adapted to the needs and standpoint of the class; the teacher
must have a pretty good idea of what the class knows beforehand, and
thereby which words and expressions he may use with certainty; the
easier and the more colloquial the words are which are used in the
circumlocution, and the more concretely it is expressed, the better.
It is better to explain too much than too little, and one must not be
afraid of using a number of words when they only are in the foreign
language. There is some truth in Gabelentz’ remark: “Gesprächige
leute von engem gedankenkreise sind für den anfang die besten
lehrmeister”[13]; the teacher must not exactly make himself stupid, but
he must admit that no matter how high he himself stands intellectually,
he can very well learn something from the nursery-method of teaching
languages: for instance, that taciturnity or conciseness of expression
do not lead to the goal. It pays to give some attention to this form
of instruction and to find out what kind of explanations are of the
greatest linguistic benefit to the pupils. It is not difficult, as a
rule--even without direct questions, which, however, the teacher ought
not to be sparing of[14]--to feel what is understood and what is not,
just as the boys can easily be trained to say so immediately when
there is something that they do not understand. All that is necessary
is to make them feel confident that their teacher is always willing and
glad to answer their questions, and that they will never be made fun of
for asking. Sometimes, of course, he may also make another pupil answer
the question if it is an easy one.

The following may serve as a connected specimen of the method of
procedure, even if I have, perhaps, explained a word or two which for
an English class would need no explanation.

  _Devant la porte d’une maison forestière_ [c’est à dire une maison
  située dans une forêt. Vous ne savez pas ce que c’est qu’une forêt?
  Eh, bien, c’est plus grand qu’un bois, une très grande collection
  d’arbres, ça s’appelle une forêt. Adolphe, peux-tu me nommer une
  forêt en Angleterre? La maison dont nous allons parler, était située
  dans le milieu d’une forêt, et devant la porte] _une jeune femme, les
  bras nus, cassait du bois à coups de hache sur une pierre_. [Elle
  avait les bras nus, il n’y avait rien pour couvrir ses bras, elle
  n’avait pas de manches. Pierre, dis-moi si Jean a les bras nus? Elle
  cassait du bois (shown by a gesture) et elle employait pour ça une
  hache (if the word is not known, and is not understood at once, you
  may give the translation); chaque fois qu’elle fait un coup de hache
  elle casse un morceau de bois.] _Elle était grande et bien faite, une
  fille de forêt, fille et femme de forestiers_ [son père et son mari
  étaient des forestiers, ils avaient des emplois dans la forêt; et
  elle avait été élevée dans la forêt de sorte qu’elle appartenait tout
  à fait à la forêt. C’est ce qu’on a exprimé en l’appelant fille de
  forêt.] _Une voix cria de l’intérieur de la maison_:

  _Nous sommes seules ce soir, Berthine, il faut rentrer_ [il faut que
  tu rentres], _voilà la nuit_ [il commence à se faire tard]; _il y
  a peut-être des Prussiens_ [les Prussiens sont les habitants de la
  Prusse; ceci se passe pendant la guerre entre les Allemands et les
  Français--il y a peut-être des Prussiens] _et des loups qui rôdent_
  [qui vont çà et là; le mot rôder s’emploie très souvent en parlant de
  bêtes féroces].

  _J’ai fini, maman, répond la jeune femme, n’aie pas peur; il fait
  encore jour._ [Elle dit que la nuit n’est pas encore arrivée; elle y
  voit encore, et elle n’a pas peur, elle; mais, du reste, elle a fini
  son travail; il n’y a plus de bois à casser.]

  _Puis elle ferma les volets_ [les volets, ce sont les pièces de bois
  qu’on applique sur les fenêtres pour les protéger. Paul, dis-moi s’il
  y a des volets sur les fenêtres de cette salle-ci? Il y en avait dans
  la maison dont nous parlons dans l’histoire; Berthine les ferma],
  _rentra, et poussa les lourds verrous de la porte_ [un verrou est
  fait de fer, on le pousse pour empêcher d’ouvrir la porte.]

  _Sa mère filait auprès du feu._ [To explain _filer_, a gesture and
  the imitation of the sound of the wheel may be employed, or else
  the translation supplemented, perhaps, by: filer, ça vient de fil
  puisqu’en filant on fait des fils.]

  _Je ne suis pas tranquille, dit-elle, quand le père est dehors._
  [Vous voyez que la mère a plus peur, elle, que la fille. C’est que
  son mari n’est pas là.] _Deux femmes, ça n’est pas fort._ [Ce n’est
  pas beaucoup; c’est si peu de chose que deux femmes si les Prussiens

  _La jeune répondit:_

  _Oh! je tuerais bien un loup ou un Prussien tout de même._

  _Et elle montrait du doigt un gros revolver suspendu au-dessus de la
  cheminée._ [La cheminée, c’est là où on fait du feu.]

  _Son mari s’était engagé dans l’armée_ [il s’était fait soldat] _au
  commencement de la guerre, et les deux femmes étaient demeurées
  seules avec le père, le vieux Nicolas Pichon, qui avait refusé de
  quitter sa demeure pour rentrer en ville_ [refusé? Si tu dis à Alfred
  de te prêter son canif, il refuse s’il dit: “Non, je ne veux pas te
  prêter mon canif.” On avait dit à Pichon d’aller en ville, mais il
  avait dit: “Non, je ne veux pas quitter ma maison”; donc il avait

  _La ville prochaine, c’était Rethel. On y était patriote_ [vous
  savez que celui qui aime sa patrie, est nommé patriote]; _et les
  bourgeois_ [les habitants de la ville] _avaient décidé de résister
  à l’ennemi. Tous--boulangers, épiciers, bouchers, menuisiers,
  libraires, pharmaciens, manœuvraient à des heures régulières_ [Tout
  le monde s’était fait soldats; le boulanger, c’est celui qui vend du
  pain; l’épicier vend des épices, du thé, du café, du chocolat, et
  mille autres choses; le menuisier fait des tables et des chaises; le
  libraire vend des livres; le pharmacien vend tout ce dont on a besoin
  quand on est malade--donc vous voyez que tous les hommes, de toutes
  occupations et de toutes classes, allaient manœuvrer tous les jours à
  une heure fixe] _sous les ordres de M. Lavigne, ancien sous-officier
  de dragons_ [il n’était plus sous-officier, mais il l’avait été;
  c’est ce qui est indiqué par le mot ancien], etc., etc.

It is best to go through the lesson for the next time in the beginning
of the hour, when both the teacher’s and the pupils’ powers are
freshest, and when there is sure to be plenty of time for it; at the
end of the hour the teacher may be too hurried and nervous in his
anxiety to get through the proper amount before the bell rings. In
going through it, the teacher may either let the pupils look at their
books or require all books to be closed. The latter is the better
way, since then the pupils can give more undivided attention to the
teacher; for they must drink in all his words and follow his slightest
movements. In that case it is no doubt always best for him to write
down on the blackboard each new word as he explains it, and after
everything has been explained he may close either by reading the piece
aloud himself (without interpolations) or by letting one of the pupils
read it. Yet it is not well to follow one method of procedure all the
time; and if the piece is easy, so that there are only a few new words,
it may immediately be read aloud by one of the pupils (slowly, not in
a forced way!), who may stop and ask whenever there is anything that
he does not understand. If a sentence contains two or three unfamiliar
words or some other difficulty which has given occasion for a question,
it must by all means be read again connectedly without interruption as
soon as a period has been reached. Finally the teacher can, if it seems
necessary, as a further guarantee, let one of the pupils give a free
rendering of the contents in his native language; that is a sort of
control, at all events until the class has become quite accustomed to
having the lesson gone through in this way.

Let me suggest here that, in going through the new lesson, the teacher
can also counteract the injury which an unusual order of words or
expression occurring in a selection of poetry might do to the pupil’s
instinct for the natural language, by giving the prose order of words
and explaining it. For instance, the lines: “And everybody in the
house On tip-toe has to creep” can first be explained as if they ran:
“And everybody in the house has to creep on tip-toe”; again, such an
expression as _at eve_ may be altered to _in the evening_. Then when
the pupil sees the changed order of words and the unusual expression in
his book, he will understand that they are due to the poetical form.
Therefore he will not be tempted to imitate them; if he should do so
in later exercises, the teacher must correct him, since there is no
earthly reason why the pupil should practise _using_ anything else but
everyday language. It is, however, a matter of course that whenever I
have used verses in my own books for beginners in English, I have tried
to find such as contained very few deviations from the usual form of
the language.


[11] See below about exercises in counting.

[12] It is quite a different matter if the (literary) texts which
more advanced students can read are to a large extent annotated in
the language itself. But the annotated editions prepared for native
students in many cases assume too much for our pupils, and on the
other hand are apt to give a good deal of information which is not
so valuable for them; so it were best as soon as possible to prepare
editions of works of foreign literature with commentaries in the
language, which especially meet the requirements of _our_ pupils.

[13] _Die Sprachwissenschaft_, 70.

[14] But which, of course, ought not to be asked in the form “Do you
understand?” with the obligatory answer “Yes,” which too often means


We have then come to the following result with respect to translation
as a means of interpreting a foreign language to the pupils (p. 56
_a_): it is not the only and the best means; it ought to be used
sparingly; and at all events it is not necessary to translate whole
connected pieces, but merely a word or, at the very most, a sentence
now and then. But this investigation has already thrown some light upon
our next point, namely, translation as _a means of testing_ whether the
pupils understand the foreign language (p. 56 _b_).

Here, too, observation may take the place of translation. The pupil
who obeys the teacher’s command, _montre-moi la fenêtre_, by pointing
at the window shows that he understands the word just as well as the
one who in answer to the question: what is the meaning of _fenêtre_?
answers, window. Likewise the one who can point to the right thing
when the teacher shows him a picture and says; _où est le chapeau
du garçon?_ _où sont ses souliers?_ _vois-tu le toit de la maison?_
etc., or the one who carries out a command like _prends la craie_,
_lève-toi_, _assieds-toi_, _donne-moi ton livre_, _prends le livre de
Jean et donne-le à Henri_--especially when he at the same time says:
_voilà la fenêtre_, _voilà le chapeau du garçon_, _voilà la craie_,
_je me lève_, etc., with a correct application of the words desired.
Nor can there be any doubt that a boy has understood a French question
when he can give a sensible answer in the same language, or that he has
understood a narrative which has been told or read to him when he can
retell it (in English, or still better in French).

The teacher is no doubt most tempted to let the pupils translate when
he wants to make sure that they know the new selection which has been
assigned to them for home-study. But even in this case, if the teacher
has only gone through the lesson on assigning it (as indicated above)
in a detailed and lively way, and with continual appeal to the pupils,
so that the whole does not become a mere monologue by the teacher,
the translation test is not as necessary as it would have been if the
lesson had either not been gone through at all or if the teacher had
merely translated it rapidly. He will often find it sufficient to ask
a question now and then about some single point in the selection,
especially if the selection is used for such exercises as will be
described below, which directly and indirectly show whether the pupils
have understood it all or not.

But still, let us assume that the teacher insists on having the
selection translated--and of course this may always be a good thing
once in a while by way of a change, most so perhaps when the teacher
has not been quite able to digest and absorb the new methods. Then the
best thing for him to do is to require the translation immediately,
before the pupil has read the piece aloud. This is the most reliable
test as to whether the lesson really has been learned in time, for the
pupil has not the chance while he is reading aloud to speculate about
how it is to be translated, and, on the other hand, when he comes to
read it in the foreign language, he is not disturbed by irrelevant
thoughts in his native language. Besides, the teacher must understand
that this translation is not the most important event of the hour; it
ought therefore to occupy as little time as possible. The pupil must be
required to deliver his translation quickly, and it is not necessary to
criticise the English expressions with pedantic exactitude. As soon as
it is clear that the pupil understands perfectly, it is better for the
teacher himself to give the correct English expression in passing, than
to waste time in letting him find it out for himself.

A little turn of expression, a word-formation, or an order of words
which is not quite English can very well be allowed to pass unnoticed;
it is just when there is no attention paid to these things that they
are less apt to be injurious to the pupil’s English than when the
translation is treated as if it were the only thing. In case of any
unusually awkward expression, the teacher can indulge in a hearty
laugh together with the pupils and say: “Well, that is not the very
best English you are giving us, but the meaning is clear enough, and
all that we are concerned with here is if you understand the French,
and that you do. Of course we know that you would never seriously say
or write anything like that in your mother-tongue.” No more attention
than this, it seems to me, ought to be paid to the English in these
oral translations--the less we occupy ourselves with our native
language during the French or German lessons, the less will it become
contaminated; good English is not to be learned in _those_ lessons,
and poor English the teacher must give both himself and his pupils as
little occasion as possible to use.

It is a different matter when _advanced pupils_ can get both pleasure
and benefit out of occasional exercises in translation. Then these
must be chosen so that there are considerable deviations between the
foreign language and English, which of course does not mean that the
selected specimen of the foreign language itself need be difficult to
understand. When the pupils are not daily occupied with translation,
but move freely in the foreign language, it would just be great sport
for them for a change to have a contest as to who could find the best
and most exact English equivalents for foreign expressions. Thus there
is no little difference between this kind of exercise and those now
prevalent sight translations whose chief object seems to be to test
the vocabulary of the pupils. The translation exercise that I have in
mind should be conducted on about these lines: the selection should
be read aloud to the class; if it contains any unfamiliar words, they
should be explained in the manner described above, or, if they are
translated instead, there should be given (as in a dictionary) perhaps
five or six English equivalents to choose between; thereupon the
pupils (in class under supervision) write their translations, which
the teacher afterwards reads aloud and compares, so that the pupils
themselves may judge as to whose translation has come nearest to the
original and as to whether that rendering is to be preferred where
every little element in the original has been taken into account but
where the English has thus become a little bit long drawn out, or
that rendering which in pith and euphony can stand comparison with
the original, but where every detail has not been strictly included,
etc. In short, the exercise is not to test the pupils’ knowledge in
the foreign language, but to give them some idea of the difficulties
which the _art_ of translation has to contend with; and for the same
reason the pupils might also be asked sometimes to try their skill in
a metrical translation of a piece of poetry, but perhaps only in such
a way that all participation in the contest is quite voluntary. Such
selections might be chosen where we have good poetical translations in
our literature, which could then be compared with the efforts of the

Some few exercises in artistic translation, which the teacher carefully
goes through with them, will help to give the more advanced pupils a
vivid perception of some of the most delicate shades of variation in
the languages as means of expression for human thought--but as the
daily bread of language instruction that kind of exercise is not to be
recommended, especially not for beginners.

In the daily teaching of languages it is in a number of cases quite
superfluous to let the pupils translate. If the reading selections
are as easy as is desirable, there will be some sentences in each
lesson where neither the vocabulary nor the construction presents the
slightest difficulty. In other sentences, the difficulty is simply due
to a new word, but if the teacher just devotes a few minutes right away
to hearing the new words, it is not necessary to have those sentences
translated either. There are, as we know, many sentences which can be
understood without any difficulty at all, but which are still difficult
to translate; if the pupil knows the meaning of _schwören_, he will
readily understand “er hat hoch und teuer geschworen,” but it will not
be so easy for him to find the best way of rendering the adverbs, and
it is really purposeless to waste time over them. (See also above, p.

Then finally there remains one or another really complicated sentence,
which can be separated out from the rest and translated by the
pupils--if the teacher in order to save time does not prefer to
translate the whole of it himself. To test the pupil’s comprehension
of single words by letting him explain them in the language is not
very practical except to a limited extent; it might only be useful in
dealing with clever advanced pupils where it would not necessarily
degenerate into a mere committing of definitions to memory. It is
therefore more properly in place in university instruction than in

If any one now says that this method of procedure by which translation
as a test of the pupils’ comprehension of what they have read is
limited to the least possible, and in many lessons even the very
last remnant of it is done away with, is far less satisfactory than
the old-fashioned translating over and over again of the whole
lesson, and that the teacher thus has no means of knowing what
the pupils understand and what not, I answer that, in the first
place, the pupils’ comprehension of a piece which they have even
translated several times in the old way is often poor enough; the most
incredible thoughtlessness can thrive under the shelter of rehearsed
translations. In the second place (and this is more important) the new
method, when applied in the right way, offers such an abundant variety
of means by which to sound the pupils and test how deeply they are
penetrating into both the language and contents of their reading, that
the teacher can easily feel sure of all essentials. This will be made
perfectly plain in the following description of the manner in which the
lessons ought to be conducted.

The selection must be read aloud. This had best be done--at all events
as a rule--by the teacher first; of course he read it yesterday when
he went through it for the first time, but he did it more slowly,
interrupting himself with explanations, etc., for it was new for the
pupils, and it was necessary for them to comprehend the meaning.
But now the teacher may read it quickly, fluently, with the proper
“expression,” in short, in a lively and natural manner. Then the pupil
(the pupils) reads the same. At the beginner-stage, the teacher must
read each sentence by itself and then get the pupils to repeat it
while they have the teacher’s pronunciation fresh in mind. Later on
the teacher may take larger sections, which may be parceled out to the
pupils in not too small portions. And one cannot be too particular
with the way in which this reading is done; such stuttering, with
pauses between words belonging closely together, and neglect of natural
and necessary pauses, which used to be the rule, ought never to be
tolerated, not even as an exception. Even the first beginners ought to
be required to read each sentence connectedly with natural expression;
the teacher will not regret any trouble taken on this account, even if
it involves ever so much repetition. The more attention that is paid to
this in the first few months, the easier will it be later to require
the pupils to read well--that is, intelligibly and intelligently. This
reading aloud, besides being an exercise in pronunciation, also has
its other advantages for teaching purposes. Milton, already, said that
it is easy to hear only from the way in which a piece is read, if the
reader understands it or not. A really good reader can in the most
delicate manner lay bare his appreciation, and vice versâ it is not
difficult for a teacher quick of hearing to detect, through a pupil’s
uncertainty, false emphasis, etc., what he has not understood (or
learned) in the piece he is reading--and then he can pounce on him and
get him to disclose the gap in his knowledge. When this is filled up,
of course he must read the piece again better than the first time. The
reading (or reciting) of dialogues, with the parts assigned to various
members of the class, is always amusing, and can easily be used as a
means of encouraging natural emphasis and expression.

_Reading in unison_ ought not to be neglected; it has the advantage
of occupying the whole class at once, so that the pupils get more
practice in producing the foreign sounds than when each one reads
separately. Of course the teacher cannot exercise so sharp a control
as when he hears one at a time, but yet he has by no means lost his
control; by practice, he can learn to detect single mistakes through
the whole chorus, and can even be tolerably certain as to where
they come from, and then he can get the suspected pupil (or pupils)
to read the difficult part alone. A help of a similar nature in
language-instruction is _singing_. When a teacher knows how to get
his pupils to learn to sing some of the verses in the reader, such
class-singing will be found to be both beneficial and enlivening; the
words are more easily remembered and the pronunciation is improved.
Singing in a foreign language as a factor in teaching was already a
number of years ago used by Paul Passy; it plays an important part
in the well-known “Palmgrenske samskola” in Stockholm and in several
German schools, and has now of late years also been put into practice
by some Danish teachers in a very enjoyable manner; on several
occasions, the pupils have even given up a part of their recess in
order to sing foreign songs, when the teachers in adjoining classes
have looked askance at the singing during the lesson-hours.

The oftener a piece is recited by a pupil, the more firmly are the
single words and especially the word-combinations rooted in his
memory; indeed it has even been attempted to base a whole system of
instruction on this experience, as for instance in v. Pfeil’s highly
interesting pamphlet: “Wie lernt man eine sprache am leichtesten und
besten?” (Breslau, 1884), and in several other works by the same
author, especially his “Eins, Beiträge zur erziehung im hause” (3rd
ed. Leipzig, 1879), which is also valuable for other pedagogical
suggestions. His method of procedure is simple: no grammar; no
translation from the mother-tongue; only one language at a time, which
then is pursued at full speed (as a rule, six or more hours a week) in
the following manner. From the very beginning, an author is taken up;
the same piece (a couple of lines to begin with) is first read aloud
by the teacher, then by the pupil (if necessary, several times), is
thereupon translated word by word by the teacher (“to the complete
neglect of German sentence-construction; I would not tolerate having
turns of expression rendered into good German”) and afterwards in the
same way by the pupil, is then read aloud by the pupil twice more in
the course of the same lesson and once again in the beginning of the
next; finally every Monday, the pupil reads aloud all that has been
gone through in the preceding week, and, not stopping at that, whole
books or large sections of books may be read through connectedly after
they have in this manner been studied in instalments. Translation is
omitted as soon as there is no danger of miscomprehension, and can
soon be quite dispensed with in dealing with easy sentences, which
then are only _read_ through the stated number of times. During this
repeated recitation of the foreign sentences--at least four times after
the pupil has understood their meaning--the mother-tongue steps into
the background of its own accord, as it were, and the idioms of the
foreign language take firm hold upon the memory. So far v. Pfeil, who,
as he himself asserts--and why should we not believe the man?--has had
good results in the course of a short time, both in taking and giving
instruction according to this method, which, to be sure, he has only
employed in private instruction, never having tried it in a class. The
impulse to make independent use of the language-material thus learned
makes its appearance very early. Thus v. Pfeil tells about a pupil
thirty-two years old, who was brought up in a country school and who
had never before learned any foreign language, but who after ten
lessons wrote him an Italian letter filling four octavo pages, which,
if not quite correct, was still quite intelligible.

But the method is terribly spiritless and mechanical, perhaps you will
say. Oh, yes--but is it really more spiritless to read something aloud
many times in which there is some meaning--and some meaning which you
understand--than to translate something just as many times in which
there is no meaning at all, to say nothing of all the other inane
things which our old methods bring in their train, such as grammatical
rigmaroles, etc. However, it is by no means my intention to give the
v. Pfeil method an unqualified recommendation, at all events not for
school purposes; it is too monotonous, and a more varied method of
instruction may surely have the same or greater advantages. Already,
in the preceding suggestions, it will have been noticed that there
were several deviations from v. Pfeil’s method of procedure; here I
shall merely call attention to some things which we can learn from it:
first, that we must as soon as possible dispense with translation where
it is decidedly superfluous; and secondly, that our most important
object, namely, that the foreign turns of expression shall make such
an impression upon our pupils that they themselves can use them on
occasion, cannot be attained without much repetition.

During the first lessons, it is of so much importance for the pupils to
catch and reproduce the sounds that the repetitions which are necessary
for practice in pronunciation also serve to impress the sentences on
their memory; the teacher must only make sure that the pupils know the
meaning of each sentence before they begin to practise pronouncing
it, and that they do not forget it, so that the words become merely
meaningless sounds. Such a selection as the one introducing my French
primer (La chèvre)[16] lends itself well to this purpose; it occasions
many repetitions of the same sentences, still without becoming
tiresome, and the rhythm encourages natural, fluent and non-stuttering

Later on, of course, there is no necessity for so much repetition
merely for the sake of the pronunciation. Then one might require the
texts to be committed to memory; but this involves the danger that they
might be learned and remembered as lifeless series of words without any
regard for their meaning, especially if the teacher makes a routine
of it. But it might be quite useful every half-year, for instance, or
perhaps a little oftener, for the pupils to be assigned each a piece to
commit to memory; they may themselves choose one of the pieces which
have been read, and then they must be expected to recite it with a
very good pronunciation and correct expression; no parrot-performance!
But otherwise the main point is for the pupils to be occupied with
the text repeatedly in such a way that they do not lose sight of the
meaning, so that they may thus become so familiar with it that at last
they know it almost or entirely by heart without having been directly
required to commit it to memory. And this can at the same time be done
in such a way that the pupils are led to say a number of things without
following them in the printed text, so that imperceptibly they are
being prepared to be able to say something in the language quite of
their own accord.

The teacher can divide the day’s lesson into sentences, which he
pronounces and the pupils repeat after him. They have all closed their
books, and when the teacher says a sentence, no one knows who is to
repeat it. By this manner of teaching, which is also practicable in
connection with the exercises which I shall suggest later, the teacher
makes sure that a pupil’s attention cannot wander in the confidence
that it is some one else’s turn; it is every one’s turn all the time.
Thus the teacher says, for instance: Les abeilles ressemblent aux
mouches; Pierre, répète.--Peter: L. a. r. a. m.--Teacher: Jean, répète
ça encore.--John: L. a. r. a. m.--Teacher: Mais elles ont un aiguillon;
répète, Charles.--Charles: m. e. o. u. ai.--Teacher: Et elles piquent
très fort quand elles sont en colère; répète tout ça, Adolphe, etc. Or,
by way of a change, the teacher can let the first one who repeats the
sentence mention one of his comrades, who is to repeat it again.

Let me remark in passing that I have always given my pupils French
names immediately in one of the first lessons; they are written on the
blackboard (in phonetical transcription of course, see below), and are
very quickly learned; as a rule, they are simply translations of their
first names, occasionally of a nickname, etc. It amuses the pupils, and
the teacher has the advantage of being able to use their names in the
middle of a French sentence without marring the run of the language.

Other similar methods: pupil A reads aloud; after every sentence,
either the teacher or he himself appoints someone to repeat.--Or: the
teacher reads a sentence aloud, then says: traduis, Jules; and after
Julius’ translation: répète ça en français, Paul. This is better than
to let the same pupil first translate and then say it in French,
for thus neither one has to make a sudden change from one basis of
articulation to another.--Or: when a piece has been read aloud as a
whole, the teacher may render it into English, a sentence at a time,
and get the pupils to express the same thought in French. This is, of
course, the most difficult of these methods and ought to be employed
with caution, for the pupils may easily be tempted to _translate_ from
English (that is, to construct their French after the English) instead
of reproducing the French which has been given, so that we thus risk
all the dangers which are commonly associated with the old-fashioned
method of translation from the native to the foreign language (cf.
below). Therefore it were best that this kind of exercise merely be
used occasionally, and only when the selection employed is otherwise so
familiar to the pupils that they almost have it by heart in its French
form. A variation of all these exercises is, instead of a single pupil,
to let the whole class repeat the sentence in unison.

If the pupils should begin to lag, it indicates that the class is
not yet sufficiently familiar with the text, and then the best thing
to do is to say: Well, now you read the piece through three times in
chorus and then we shall begin from the beginning in the same way
as before with repetition without the book. It does not take long
before the teacher can to advantage enter upon little deviations from
what the pupils know from the book; thus he secures himself against
thoughtless pattering out of what has been committed to memory at
home--which of course the attentive teacher easily can detect through
the manner in which the pupil reads. But too great deviations are
scarcely advisable; they easily lead to confusion and to the danger
of wandering too far from the matter in hand, which is of course to
make the pupils thoroughly familiar with the text. As examples of
permissible changes of the sentences which have just been employed, I
shall mention: Une abeille ressemble à une mouche (L’abeille ressemble
à la mouche) mais elle a un aiguillon | et elle pique très fort quand
elle est en colère--or: Les abeilles ressemblent beaucoup aux mouches,
| mais elles ont un petit aiguillon, et elles piquent fort.... Or one
may interpolate: les mouches ressemblent aux abeilles, | mais elles
n’ont pas d’aiguillon, | et elles ne piquent pas comme les abeilles.
It is best not to enter upon greater deviations, because then it will
too frequently be necessary to let a pupil translate the sentence
constructed by the teacher, since otherwise it is not certain whether
the whole class has understood it or not[17]. The most important thing
in these exercises, as also in the exercises with questions (see
below), is not to let the pupil get beyond his depth so that he will
become frightened and lose confidence, for then he will never learn to

We have hitherto assumed that the pupils repeat what has been said
orally; if the repetition is written, we have _dictation_--an exercise
which must not be neglected and which can be conducted in different
ways, partly parallel with those just mentioned. The teacher can either
say a sentence or one of the boys can read it aloud; once may be
enough, but the teacher may also say it twice, or else say it himself
first and then let one of the pupils repeat it before it is written
down; it may be a sentence taken from the reader (first stage), a
sentence taken from the reader but slightly changed (second stage), or
an entirely new piece (only for advanced students);[18] the dictation
may be written on the blackboard or in copy-books (on slates); one
pupil may be occupied in the first way while the rest of the class is
occupied in the second way; sometimes the class itself may correct the
mistakes; if there is blackboard space enough, several pupils can be
writing the same or different things at the same time. The dictation
may be required to be written with phonetical transcription (see below)
or orthographically, or one pupil may write in one way, another in the
other way, the two being afterwards compared.

Finally, dictation may be used in connection with several of the
exercises which I shall suggest later. A question is dictated, and
the pupils are required to write both the question and the answer;
a sentence is dictated in the first person, which is then to be
inflected in all persons, etc. The advantages of dictation are, that
it trains the pupils in rapid and sharp comprehension of spoken words,
that it gives the teacher an effective means of testing what each pupil
has comprehended, and that the pupils generally remember pretty well
what they have once written down. But the disadvantage of dictation,
as of all written class work, is that it consumes more time than oral
exercises. Dictation with “catches” is of course beneath the dignity of
a modern language teacher.


[15] As an introduction to these exercises, the teacher might compare
several different translations of a part of Goethe, for instance, with
each other, and with the original.

[16] Somewhat similar to “The House that Jack Built.” Biquette veut pas
sortir des choux.

[17] The text-books may sometimes contain a whole piece in two
versions; perhaps the teacher himself may occasionally undertake to
re-write (on the blackboard) or re-tell a selection.

[18] And even for them only in small measure, since it must be
remembered that nothing is learned thereby, but it is merely a test in
what has been learned, and that the mistakes made by the pupils, as we
know from experience, easily take root in their memory because they
have written them, and are not effaced by the teacher’s corrections.


I shall here deal with various kinds of exercises in which the pupils
have to say something in the foreign language which they have not
either seen in their books or heard from someone else just a moment
before. Some of the first and easiest of these are _arithmetical
exercises_. But here I must first stop to make a remark about the
numerals in general. It is not so seldom that we find pupils in our
schools who have studied French for several years without having
become perfectly familiar with the French numerals; they have great
difficulty with dates. What is the cause of this phenomenon? Of course
the French numerals are difficult, more difficult than the German;
but the French verbs are also more difficult than the German, so
that alone is not the reason why this class of words troubles the
pupils. No; the matter is quite simple. Only imagine a French reader
so planned that there is not a single French adjective in the text,
while English words like “good,” “ugly,” “dazzling,” “white” are mixed
in among the French words. Would the pupils then be able to learn the
French adjectives? But is not this exactly what is done in the case
of the numerals? It makes no difference if the French text has 1888
or “eighteen hundred and eighty-eight,” in both cases the pupil has
to translate from English to French when he is reading the passage
aloud. There are scarcely any exercises at all in translating numerals
from French or in understanding French numerals; as far as this class
of words is concerned, the very poorest method of translation is
used, the one by which the pupil is himself required to construct
expressions in the foreign language according to certain rules, without
having previously had sufficient opportunity to see and hear how the
foreigners themselves go about it. In the home preparation we may be
very sure that only the most conscientious pupils trouble themselves to
think about how 1793 ought to be read.

Then here we have a point where reform is necessary and unusually easy
to bring about. Let the Arabic numerals disappear from all text-books
for beginners in a foreign language, and then if they contain enough
of numerals written out in full--and especially if the teacher drills
the pupils a good deal in simple arithmetical exercises in the foreign
language in the manner now to be suggested--it will be found that
when the pupils are so far advanced as to give up text-books and
read literary works, they will have no difficulty in reading all the
numerals which they happen to come across fluently and correctly.

Already, at a very early stage, after one or two months’ instruction,
the teacher can begin with arithmetical exercises, because they do not
require any great command of language; they not only give the pupils
practice in the numerals themselves, but also in catching the foreign
words and sounds. The question is directed, as suggested above, to
the whole class, and then the teacher points out--by name or merely
by a glance--the one who is to answer it; the answer must include the
question. Thus the teacher: Deux fois six, combien, Henri?--Henry: Deux
fois six font douze. (Répète, Jean). Trois et neuf font, Alfred? A.:
Trois et neuf font onze. T.: C’est faux, n’est-ce pas, Louis?--Louis:
Oui, trois et neuf font douze. (Or: Est-ce correct, Louis? or: Est-ce
bien ça, Louis?) In addition to this, sums may be set containing
concrete numbers, especially such as may familiarize the pupils with
the foreign coins: deux francs, combien de sous valent-ils? trois sous,
combien de centimes?...; or a little rule-of-three sum: si une poire
coûte trois centimes, combien cinq poires? Or, for instance: deux œufs
à deux sous et trois pommes à un sou, combien ça fait-il? The teacher
must not be afraid of using several whole lessons for such exercises,
and afterwards he can take a few minutes of a lesson now and then
in order to keep the pupils in practice. Since of course it is not
arithmetic that is being taught, it is best to stick to easy problems,
mostly addition and multiplication. Of course, by way of a change, one
pupil may be allowed to give a problem to another to solve.

The numerals may also fittingly be brought in when the vocabulary is
to be reviewed, the boys being allowed to count with concrete numbers
in a certain order, so that each boy in turn has to think of some word
which has not previously been used during the lesson; it is often funny
to see how eager they are to outdo each other. And it often happens
that a pupil who has said Pass, suddenly recalls a whole series of
words when one of his comrades mentions a word from a selection which
has not been broached before; the one thought suggests another that is
associated with it. In French, the pupils must also pay attention to
the form of the numeral, which changes according as it precedes a vowel
or a consonant.

It very seldom happens that a boy uses a word which is impossible after
a numeral, as for instance, _venir_ or _bonsoir_ or _trot_, which
indicates that he is ignorant of the word’s signification, but then the
whole class laughs of its own accord. But it is the easiest thing in
the world to hear from the manner in which the words are said if they
are really understood; and, in case of doubt, the teacher can suddenly
ask for a translation; this is, however, generally superfluous, for the
pupils only mention words which they understand, but still of course it
is good for them to review them.

One of the most important exercises is to transpose a selection which
has been read into _questions_ and _answers_. The teacher can begin
this rather early, but he must from the very beginning and always
strictly require the _pupil’s answer to be given in the form of a
complete sentence_. We have no use for such an undignified performance
in which the pupil gets along bravely if only he is able to answer all
his teacher’s questions with either Oui, monsieur, or Non, monsieur, or
some other equally intelligent answer. As an illustration of the kind
of exercise I mean, take for instance the following one based on one of
the very first texts in my own French Reader, which runs:

  Enfant gâté.
  Veux-tu du pâté?
  Non, maman, il est trop salé!
  Veux-tu du rôti?
  Non, maman, il est trop cuit!
  Veux-tu du jambon?
  Non, maman, il n’est pas bon!
  Veux-tu du pain?
  Non, maman, le pain ne vaut rien!
  Enfant gâté, tu ne veux rien manger,
  Enfant gâté, tu seras fouetté!

The following questions may be based on this piece. The pupils’ answers
are given in [ ]:--Es-tu un enfant? [Oui, monsieur, je suis un enfant.]
Es-tu un enfant gâté? [Non, monsieur, je ne suis pas un enfant gâté.]
L’enfant gâté veut-il du pâté? [Non, monsieur, il ne veut pas du pâté;
or: l’enfant gâté ne....] Veut-il du rôti? [Non, monsieur, il ne veut
pas du rôti.] Veut-il du pain? [Non, monsieur, il ne veut pas du pain.]
Veut-il du jambon? [Non, monsieur, il ne veut pas du jambon.] Pourquoi
ne veut-il pas du pâté? [Parce que le pâté est trop salé.] Pourquoi
ne veut-il pas du jambon? [Il ne veut pas du jambon parce qu’il n’est
pas bon.] Pourquoi ne veut-il pas du rôti? [Parce qu’il est trop
cuit.] Pourquoi ne veut-il pas du pain? [Parce que le pain ne vaut
rien.] Qu’est-ce qui est trop salé? [C’est le pâté qui est trop salé.]
Qu’est-ce qui ne vaut rien? [C’est le pain qui ne vaut rien.] Qu’est-ce
qui est trop cuit? [Le jambon est trop cuit.] L’enfant gâté sera-t-il
fouetté? [Oui, monsieur, il sera fouetté.] Pourquoi sera-t-il fouetté?
[Parce qu’il ne veut rien manger.] Va-t-on chercher le bâton pour taper
l’enfant gâté? [Oui, monsieur, on s’en va chercher le bâton pour venir
taper l’enfant.]

Thus it will be seen that a simple little piece can suggest a large
number of questions, and it is important, especially in the beginning,
for the teachers to ask the pupils _as many questions as possible_ in
order to accustom them to the exercise, so that they may take part
intelligently and fluently. Anyone who sees all these questions in
print may think that they occupy a long time in a monotonous way;
but after a little practice, on the part of both the teacher and the
pupils, the exercise really proceeds very rapidly. In dealing with
beginners, it were best for the teacher in formulating his questions
to _deviate as little as possible from the words of the text_, so that
they can be used in the answers almost or entirely without any change.
It is not assumed in this exercise that the pupils have committed the
piece to memory, but of course the exercise itself tends to make them
thoroughly familiar with it. In order to give the pupils confidence,
and in order not to require too much of them immediately, the teacher
can in the first few lessons allow them to keep their books open while
the piece is gone through once in question form, so that they can look
up their answers when they cannot remember them. Then they can be told
to close their books and answer the same or almost the same questions
without referring to the text. Of course, the first few times when such
an exercise is used, it is also well for the teacher to direct the same
question to several boys in succession; and the very first time he can
also write a few questions with their corresponding answers on the
blackboard, in order to show the class how the exercise is to proceed.

Even if the pupils learn the piece by heart in the course of the
exercise, yet their answering the teacher’s questions does not become
mechanical, since they have to consider the form of the question, and
then reflect over what is to be included in the answer, and how it is
to be worded and constructed. Of course, the teacher ought to feel
gratified if the pupils of their own accord make slight alterations in
the words of the book, substitute a pronoun for a substantive, etc.,
only it is best not to give too early encouragement to great deviations
from the text. The last question of the above examples, which is based
on a piece that has been read before in the same book, shows how the
teacher already at a very early stage can vary a certain day’s exercise
by bringing into connection with it something previously learned. The
pupils will greet such a question with pleasure, partly the pleasure of
recognition, and partly the pleasure of the opportunity thus afforded
them to feel at home in the language. As time goes, the teacher may
depart more and more from the material of the book. For instance,
he may use its words in asking the pupils questions about their own
personal affairs, or about things in which they are interested outside
of their French lessons. If they are having a selection which contains
the word _roi_ and the names of various countries, the teacher may say:
Comment s’appelle le roi d’Angleterre? (or, notre roi?) Qui est roi
d’Espagne? etc.; yes, why not also Comment s’appelle le roi de France?

In the beginning, it is only the teacher that asks questions, but it
does not last very long before the teacher by way of a change can allow
the _pupils themselves to ask each other questions_; thus they learn to
construct sentences in the interrogative form, which, when they come
to make practical use of the language, is just as important for them
as to be able to answer. In German schools, they have a regular system
of exercises on this plan in connection with grammatical categories;
of a given sentence in the book the pupils are to construct first
a subject-question, then a verb-question, then an object-question,
etc. If, for instance, the sentence is _La mère de Gribouille a cassé
sa marmite_, and the teacher wants a subject-question, pupil A asks
B: Qui a cassé la marmite? (or Qui est-ce qui a cassé la marmite?);
or a verb-question: Qu’est-ce qu’a fait la mère de Gr.?; or an
object-question: Qu’est-ce que la mère de Gr. a cassé? In order to
help beginners with the grammatical difficulties, several sentences
may be written on the blackboard with their various parts differently
underlined. Later on the teacher can tell one of the pupils to change
all the sentences in a piece which has been read--of course only in
so far as they lend themselves to such a change--into, for instance,
object-questions. After each question, the teacher points out the one
who is to answer. Then another pupil may change the same sentences (or
those in the next paragraph) into subject-questions, etc. Of course
the teacher must not put up with a mere mechanical alteration of the
text, but must always require the pupils to exercise so much common
sense that no questions are made which would not occur in a natural

When the pupils themselves ask questions, they naturally cannot
do anything else but follow the text slavishly as it stands, so
therefore it is not advisable always to let _them_ ask the question;
the teacher must on the whole avoid getting into any rut. He himself
must do the asking rather frequently; he may either pounce upon some
little point or ask comprehensive questions, including the gist of
several sentences. Only he must remember that sentences which are too
comprehensive either require too much of the pupils, or are quite empty
and meaningless; besides, the result may only be that the exercise
shrinks into almost nothing, since then there can only be two or three
questions to correspond to a whole page of the text, and thus the text
cannot make as strong and detailed an impression as it should. And,
above all, the questions must be asked as naturally as possible.

If this question-exercise is used and all its possibilities for
variation exhausted in the right way--with liveliness, tact and
constant consideration for the pupils’ standpoint--it gives ample and
abundant opportunities for the teacher not only to talk to, but with,
the pupils in the foreign language; and notice that it is not “talking
to the pupil in a language which he does not yet understand”--this
fear is often expressed by those who have misgivings as to the
advisability of conversational exercises at an early stage--but from
the very beginning nothing is said which the pupil cannot be required
to understand and to answer intelligently in the same language.

Quite imperceptibly the teacher may pass from this exercise to
_renarration_; the question has merely to be formulated in such a way
that it cannot be answered in a single sentence but only by an account
of the contents of at least a few lines or so. Thus longer and longer
pieces may be required to be retold, although during the first years
it should only be such pieces as have previously been learned and gone
through in detail by means of questions and answers. Later on, the
teacher can use pieces for renarration which have not been assigned to
the class for preparation; the teacher reads aloud (or may possibly let
one of the pupils do it), if necessary, several times, and thereupon
requires as much as possible to be retold either orally or in writing,
or first orally, then in writing. Or if there is a sufficient number
of copies of the book used, the pupils may be given say ten or twenty
minutes in which to read the piece through silently to themselves, and
then they can use the rest of the hour to write down what they can
remember of it. Such exercises are used to a large extent in teaching
the mother-tongue, and it is agreed that they are highly beneficial,
because they not only sharpen the powers of apprehension, especially
the ability to distinguish between the essential and the unessential,
but they also develop linguistic technique, that is the formal command
of means of expression, since much of the language used in the original
creeps into the renarration and thus becomes the possession of the
reteller. Of course the pupils are earlier ripe for such exercises in
their native language than in foreign languages, but that does not
lessen their value in the two respects mentioned, of which the latter
is the more important here, while there is perhaps too great a tendency
to attach the chief importance to the former in the teaching of the
native tongue. Even when the pupils are far advanced, it is highly
beneficial for them to give (French, etc.) reports of something which
they have read--not merely simple renarrations of bits of fiction or
history, but also résumés of the trend of thought in some philosophical
or critical essay, etc.

Many pieces also lend themselves to _reshaping_ in various ways,
whereby grammatical relations may be practised at the same time as the
words and sentences of the selection once more pass in review through
the minds of the pupils. All the singulars may be changed to plurals,
as far as the plurals make sense in the connection. After the piece
has been gone through in its printed form, the pupil reads it aloud,
remembering in the case of each word to consider whether or not it
has to be changed to the plural and what it would be in the plural.
Thus, according to circumstances, there are either nouns, adjectives,
pronouns or verbs to be changed. Or what is told about a boy may be
said about a girl. Changes in time from “now” to “yesterday,” from
“to-day” to “in a week,” occasion many alterations in the forms of the
verbs, fewer in the adverbs. The person may also be changed, especially
in such a way that the pupil puts himself in the place of that Peter
about whom something is told, and thus substitutes _I_ for _he_,
etc.; if desirable, those further alterations may be made which make
a letter out of the narrative. A change from the first to the third
person can easily be combined with the shifting of tense which gives
us indirect instead of direct discourse. Thus the following sentence:
“Eh bien, Pierre, dit Jean, qu’est-ce que tu vas faire demain? Je ne
sais pas, dit Pierre,” may be changed to: “Jean a demandé à Pierre ce
qu’il allait faire le lendemain, et Pierre a répondu qu’il ne savait
pas (qu’il n’en savait rien).” In German, this kind of transposition
involves such complicated changes (person, mood, order of words) that
they cannot be required until at a later stage than in French; but
transposition from indirect to direct discourse is not very difficult.
Changes from the active to the passive must be undertaken with a good
deal of care, since there are comparatively few sentences which can
be thus transposed without undergoing a shifting of meaning, which
it is not always easy to explain or understand the cause of, and
many sentences do not lend themselves to such transposition at all.
Likewise there are relatively few connected passages where negative
sentences can be made affirmative and vice versâ without giving us
sheer nonsense. So these last two kinds of transposition can, as a
rule, only be applied to single sentences, which the teacher has to
pick out of their connection; but when carefully selected in this way
they will be found to be very useful, especially in French, where the
correct placing of _ne_ and _pas_ is so important; they are less useful
in German.

Now and then, too, dependent clauses (for instance relative, adverbial
clauses, etc.) may be changed to independent clauses and vice versâ,
and still more complicated changes may be undertaken by which one may
try the different ways in which the thoughts of a passage may be linked

Of course it is also possible to have mixed exercises of this kind.
For instance, pupil A reads aloud; the teacher interrupts him at the
end of a sentence, mentions what kind of change it is to undergo, and
thereupon points out one of the other pupils (whose books are closed)
who is to make the change. But the teacher must never allow any of
these exercises to become something merely mechanical which is turned
out according to a certain fixed formula; the pupils must always be
trained to consider whether a newly constructed sentence makes sense or
not; thereby both their linguistic intuition and their powers of logic
are sharpened at the same time.


By this time we have fairly encroached upon the question as to the
method to be used in training pupils in the _grammar_ of a foreign
language. I want to introduce my discussion of this subject with the
following quotation from N. M. Petersen (_Sprogkundskab i Norden_,
Collected Works, Copenhagen, 1870, ii. 297-8):

“With respect to method, the artificial one must be given up and a more
natural one must take its place. According to the artificial method,
the first thing done is to hand the boy a grammar and cram it into
him piece by piece, for everything is in pieces; he is filled with
paradigms which have no connection with each other or with anything
else in the world ... he is filled with words, only half of which
occur occasionally, and some never at all in what he reads. How old
are not the complaints over this perverted method! how many sighs it
has occasioned, how much deformity it has produced! On the other hand,
the natural method of learning languages is by practice. That is the
way one’s native language is acquired. The pupil becomes acquainted
with the elements and absorbs them, as it were, into his soul in their
entirety before he is consciously able to separate and account for
the single parts and their special relations; he forms whole complete
sentences without knowing which is the subject and which the object;
he gradually finds out that he has to give each part of the sentence
its correct endings without knowing anything about tense or case....
The logical consequence of this, then, is that as a rule one cannot
begin with grammar in teaching languages to a child of ten or twelve.
His first years at school ought to give him merely materials; he ought
to collect experiences (that is a child’s greatest delight), but not
speculate over them.”

It is now half a century ago since N. M. Petersen uttered these golden
words, and still the old grammar-instruction lives and flourishes
with its rigmaroles and rules and exceptions, _that intensely stupid
custom, the teaching of grammar to children_, as Herbert Spencer calls
it. Only few of the boys in our schools who have studied German for
several years, are able to connect for instance _um_ with the proper
case without hesitation; but there are certainly still fewer who cannot
run through _durch_ _für_ _gegen_ _ohne_ _um_ and _wider_ like parrots.
But strangely enough this ever present phenomenon does not yet seem to
have led to a general acknowledgment of the fact that these grammatical
rigmaroles as a rule are scarcely worth as much as the counting-out
rigmaroles of the children: eeny meeny miny mo.[19]

And, of course, paradigms which are learned by rote also belong to the
category of rigmaroles. “Paradigms ought by all means to be given,
but should never be learned by heart in rigmarole-fashion.” (N. M.
Petersen.) Thoughtlessness and stupidity thrive excellently on this
continual repetition of words as words, that is words without any
mutual association, without connection in sentences. Just think of the
many thousands of boys and girls who time and again recite: _mourir_,
_mourant_, _mort_, _je meurs_, _je mourus_, and then ask how many
of them, yes even of their teachers, ever happen to think that the
last form in reality is impossible (at all events in conversations
in this life).[20] The percentage is scarcely very large. And when
conscientious philologists like Ayer and Sachs give imperative forms
like _nais_, _naissons_, _naissez_--be born! let us be born!! be ye
born!!! it cannot be denied that we are tempted to use the exclamation:
“die gelehrten, die verkehrten!” Of course it is not our aim to get
rid of such forms as _je mourus_;[21] what is wrong is the system.
I condemn _vivre_, _vivant_, _vécu_, _je vis_, _je vécus_ just as
strongly as _mourir_, etc., even if none of these forms is really
meaningless. And the reason why I reject this method of teaching
languages is because it does not and cannot bring us to our desired
goal. The chief absurdity, the one which it is our business to quarrel
with, is that use of disconnected words for grammatical purposes,
which flourishes in all our text-books.

It has often amused me to examine grown-up persons (non-philologists)
in what they could remember of the instruction they had received in
school in foreign languages. It seems to be extremely common that they
have not the slightest idea as to what case for instance a preposition
governs, but the rigmarole in which it occurs they generally know by
heart. They also know ever so many scraps like _der buchstabe_, _der
friede_, _der funke_ ... or _das amt_, _das ass_, _das bad_, _das
bild_, _das blatt_ ... but why they have learned these things, and
what they were supposed to be good for, to these questions there is
generally no answer forthcoming. So those rigmaroles are really of no
practical use whatever.

Now, of course, rigmaroles could easily be so arranged--though no one
seems to have put it into practice--as to contain an indication of the
object in grouping together just those words, for instance by saying
_durch das zimmer_, _für_, _gegen_ ... or _durch für ... um wider
mich_, or _das amt_, _die ämter_, _das ass_ ... or _das amt_, _ämter_,
_bäder_, _bilder_....

But even in this improved form it seems to me that grammatical
rigmaroles are of little value just because they accustom the pupils
to learn and say things by rote without _thinking_; they are remnants
of the old-fashioned would-be pedagogy where a teacher in any subject
was satisfied if the pupil only “knew his lesson,” that is, could
recite the words of the book, and where no one ever thought about
understanding or other such-like modern inventions.

The expressions “living” and “dead” are so often used about languages
and words, but those who use them do not always take the trouble to
consider in what sense these expressions really have any meaning. A
language only lives, and can only live, in a person’s mind, and that it
lives there means that its component parts are for him associated with
certain ideas, which are recalled when he hears the words, and which
in turn summon up the corresponding words when he wants to express
them, or when he simply wants to make them clear for himself. But
ideas do not and cannot exist except in combinations; an absolutely
isolated thought is the same as nothing. It is the same with words; if
they are taken out of their natural surroundings, they suffer atrophy
and at last cease to perform the usual function of words, namely to
produce ideas. So isolated words, such as are given in rigmaroles and
paradigms, are only ghosts or corpses of words. Try to run through the
words “jewel, stone, cabbage, knee, owl, toys, louse,” and see if a
single complete picture has been produced in your mind--but you are
no better off when you say the French rigmarole _bijou_, _caillou_,
_chou_, _genou_, _hibou_, _joujou_, _pou_. That, as well as _amo_,
_amas_, _amat_, _amamus_, _amatis_, _amant_ and all the others, must by
virtue of the fundamental psychical law of the life of language become
merely empty jingle and nothing else. Now we see the psychological
reason why sensible persons can write such sentences in their books
as _je mourus_ or the entirely parallel “Wir sind nicht hier.” When
the mind is occupied with a word as a grammatical phenomenon, the
word’s normal power of calling forth ideas is of course lessened in a
considerable degree.

Furthermore the isolation of words for grammatical purposes may even
lead us to make positive mistakes. The pupils are first carefully
taught in the grammar that “nobody” in French is _ne personne_ and
“never” _ne jamais_,[22] and later on it is corrected as a serious
mistake when they write _ne personne parlait_ or _il ne jamais parle_,
mistakes which would never have occurred if the pupils had not been
allowed to learn the false formulation. In modern French “nobody” is
_personne_ and “never” _jamais_, just as “not” is _pas_, etc. _Ne_ only
exists in connection with a verb, and ought never to be seen or learned
by the pupils except in its natural surroundings; out of connection it
is no more a word than _un_ (in _unfriendly_, _ungracious_, etc.). The
rule for its employment can be thus stated in short, that it is placed
in front of the verb, always, if the sentence is wholly negative, also
often if it is only half negative (by which I mean the well-known cases
after _empêcher_, _craindre_, comparatives, etc., where _ne_ is well
on the way to slip out of the living French language, and where we
now, after the last ministerial decrees, may allow ourselves a little
laxity in teaching these points).[23] Likewise it is only injurious to
teach the children that “I” is _je_, “thou” _tu_--a matter of fact it
is _moi_, _toi_, while of course “I go, thou goest,” is _je vais_, _tu
vas_; what usage has joined together, let no grammar put asunder.

But words, when in their natural connections, show their vitality in
other ways besides in summing up the correct ideas; they have another
power, which they also lose when they are isolated, namely the power of
breeding new connections in the image of the old ones. If I have often
reproduced a certain type of word-formation or sentence-construction,
then this becomes a part of my mental mechanism in such a way that
I unconsciously make something new (coin a new word, construct a
new sentence) after the same pattern, after the “analogy” of what
I know, whenever I need it, just as the English boy who has often
heard superlatives like _hardest_, _cleanest_, _highest_, etc.,
does not need any rule to be able to construct forms like _purest_,
_ugliest_, _dirtiest_, of his own accord, and who, at the moment when
he says them, would not be able even by means of the most scrupulous
analysis to decide if he has heard the form often before and is
merely reproducing it, or if he himself is creating it without having
previously heard it--and, if the latter is the case, if he is creating
something which others also have created, or if it is the very first
time that the word is used in the language--this is what takes place
every minute wherever human languages are spoken.[24] An Englishman
has so often heard (and repeated) sentences like “give the man your
hand,” “I gave the boy a whipping,” “he gave his sister an apple,”
that he unconsciously forms his sentences according to a scheme where
the indirect object always precedes the direct object, and which even
without this grammatical terminology and without any rule would lead
him quite naturally to say, for instance, “Will you give your father
the money?” A Frenchman would just as instinctively say, “Veux-tu
donner cet argent à ton père?” because in all the sentences which he
has experienced he has heard the “dative” expressed by _à_ after the
direct object.

But since this takes place by virtue of inviolable psychical
laws, it applies not only to the mother-tongue, but also to the
foreign languages which we learn later. We simply cannot avoid thus
unconsciously forming types or patterns to go by, in using a foreign
language, as soon as the conditions for these typical formations are
at hand. If, on learning English, a Dane has frequently heard (read)
and (especially) used combinations like _up here_, _in here_, _in
there_, _out there_, then he will quite naturally say _down there_
when he wants to express this thought; it is not at all necessary for
him previously to have learned a rule to the effect that “_here_ and
_there_ in connection with other adverbs of place stand last.” As a
matter of fact, when we speak or write a foreign language, we employ
a number of such rules which we have never seen formulated, and, what
is more, also rules which have never at any time been consciously
formulated by any grammarian. The reason why we cannot attain the same
confidence in all departments of the foreign language that we feel in
our native language is of course partly because the conditions are not
so favourable, and partly because our mother-tongue acts as a hindrance
on account of the tendency it has to intrude on all occasions and
mislead us to construct sentences after _its_ pattern.

But the conditions become the more favourable for this unconscious
mental activity in our pupils the more we know how to make each
sentence in the foreign language have its full effect upon them and
become their possession, and the more we can keep the mother-tongue
in the background. And although we can never bring it about that our
pupils come across the forms in the foreign language even approximately
as often as that child does who is learning his native language, yet we
can to a large extent make amends for this by bringing a better system
into our teaching, so that the acquiring of the language will not
depend so much upon chance as is the case when babies learn to talk,
just as it is also an advantage that our pupils are older and more
developed, and that we can get some help from the written and printed

Many of the transposition exercises mentioned in the last section
are essentially grammatical, but we can easily hit upon still more
exercises by which we may in a systematic way encourage the natural
tendency toward type- and series-formations. To conjugate a verb all
the way through by itself is the sheerest drudgery, but the exercise
immediately becomes both more interesting and more beneficial when it
is a whole sentence that is to be tackled. For instance, the teacher
can write on the blackboard a sentence like “Je donne un sou à Alfred”
and get the pupils to conjugate it through all the persons. In the
beginning he might also write down all the forms of the verb, one
under the other; they are not to be committed to memory, but merely
furnish a scheme, which the pupils are to fill out by inserting the
correct pronouns before, and _un sou à Alfred_ after the verb. Then
the next step is to let the pupils use other words instead of _un
sou_ and _Alfred_, so that pupil A says, for instance, _Je donne un
centime à Paul_. B: _tu donnes un franc à Jean_. C: _il donne un livre
à papa_. D: _nous donnons des poires à l’épicier_, etc. Then in reality
the task which the boys have before them is to hit upon new words to
insert (they must make sense!); consequently it becomes a kind of game
in which the vocabulary is reviewed like the one mentioned above (p.
99), but at the same time the forms of the verb are practised. If a
pupil should happen to say, for instance, _ils donnent deux cerises à
le maître_, the teacher must only say the sentence himself with the
correct _au_ and make him repeat it in this form without scolding
him,--yes, even without stopping to give a long explanation of why it
should be _au_ and not _à le_ in this case. This kind of exercise can
of course be varied in different ways; such a sentence as _mon père me
donne de l’argent_ is written down, and the pupils are told to inflect
it in all the persons, which of course only involves an alteration
of _mon_ and _me_; or the sentence is to be reconstructed with other
tenses, etc. More complicated sentences, too, may be conjugated all
the way through, either without changing anything but the pronouns and
the forms of the verbs, as for instance, _Je suis allé me promener
avec mon père_; _Das habe ich ihm gestern versprochen, und ich werde
es ihm morgen geben_--or in such a way that other things are changed
too: _je m’appelle_ ... where the pupil is to insert real names (his
own, a comrade’s ... in case it is _vous_, the teacher’s); _Ich habe
meinen vater um etwas brot gebeten._ _Du hast deinen vater um etwas
geld gebeten._ _Er hat seinen vater um ein stück papier gebeten._
_Sie hat ihren vater um einen kuchen gebeten_, etc. Of course one can
also assign written exercises of a similar kind, as for instance:
construct five sentences like _Le père_ de _Jean_ est allé à la maison
de _sa sœur_, using different words in each sentence in place of those
here italicized, etc., etc.; but it were best if these sentences
were suggested by, or in some way associated with, sentences in the

Now some people will say that this is only another way of employing
those grammatical isolated sentences which I have declaimed
against--and they are right in so far as I admit that the more the
exercises are made to resemble the old-fashioned ones, the poorer they
are for the purpose, and if they are employed to too great an extent
they may easily degenerate into tiresome mechanical routine-work.
But if used to moderation they will only be beneficial, and then,
besides, they differ from the single sentences of the old method in
being associated with a text which has been read, so they are not thus
quite isolated from a sensible connection; they also differ because
translation is not used and is not needed (except when the teacher at
long intervals has to make sure that pupil A has understood a sentence
given by pupil C, who has used an unusual word); they differ because,
translation being omitted, the whole exercise can proceed at a rapid
pace; they differ because the sentences are constructed by the pupils
themselves, who are thus compelled all the time to pay attention
both to their form and contents; and finally they differ because, as
a result of all this, they are more interesting and amusing to the
pupils. Furthermore such exercises incite the pupils to want to say
something of their own accord, and thus they get a desire to extend
their knowledge; they will frequently ask what this or that word which
they need in a sentence is in French or German--and in that case the
teacher must always answer, but then he must always require, too, that
they _learn_ the word which has been given them (to prevent them from
getting into the habit of asking superficially and carelessly just “for
the fun of it”). Finally the pupils will thus be brought to appreciate
the benefit of learning grammar; their grammatical knowledge is not
sheer theory for them, but is continually converted into effective
power and thus becomes easier to remember, for there is no doubt that
Goethe is right when he says: “Still all that we can remember of our
studies in the end is only what we have been able to find practical use

Of course, the sentences constructed by the pupils in the course
of any one of the exercises recommended in this book may contain
mistakes, and the most serious mistakes must be corrected, yet with
as little particularity as possible, if they have nothing to do with
the phenomenon which is being or just has been carefully considered
and practised, and with as few theoretical reasons as possible. Many
exercises can be so arranged that it is scarcely possible for the
pupils to make any mistake, and this without becoming less valuable; on
the contrary, they will often be the best, for every sentence which a
pupil constructs or says correctly confirms good habits of language.
But no matter how much one may favour the theory that “Prevention
is better than cure,” it is not well to be too anxious to prevent
mistakes. One of the ablest advocates of the reform in Germany, Wendt,
says: “It is of more importance for the pupil to talk at all than to
talk correctly,” and although I know what criticism I have to expect
from unsympathetic opponents about my encouraging superficiality and
not caring a bit about correctness, yet I cannot deny myself the
pleasure of quoting with approbation a Slavic proverb, _Tko zeli dobro
govoriti mora natucati_ (whoever wants to speak well must murder the
language), which Schuchardt has chosen as a motto for his stimulating
work about mixed languages,[25] and which he interprets: “Wer aus
irgend einem grunde sich scheut eine fremde sprache zu misshandeln, der
werd sie nie beherrschen.”

In order to reassure people who cannot help feeling anxious, I
shall add here three statements from the report of the ninth German
“Neuphilologentag” (1901). Klinghardt (p. 100) confesses that he has
been converted to the reform, because, in spite of years of vigorous
efforts, he had not succeeded by means of the translation method[26]
in training the majority of his pupils to grammatical correctness.
Headmasters of schools where the old method was employed had also told
him that there were still serious grammatical mistakes of form in the
written exercises which were handed in at the final examinations. But,
after he had given up the translation procedure, all of his pupils,
even the backward ones, had attained to grammatical correctness.
Wendt (p. 101) emphatically denied that anything could be gained in
grammatical sureness by translation exercises. And Walter (p. 102)
repudiated the accusation which is always on the tongue of many of the
opponents of reform, that the reformers entirely do away with grammar,
by referring to many of these very gentlemen, who, on visiting his
school, had expressed surprise at the grammatical sureness displayed by
his pupils.

And since I now seem to be in the mood for quotations, I can also refer
to Goethe’s words: “Thus I had learned Latin, just like German, French,
English, only through practice, without rule and without system.
Anyone who knows what the state of school instruction was at that time
will not find it strange that I neglected the grammar as well as the
rhetoric; everything seemed to come naturally to me. I retained the
words, their formations and transformations in my ear and in my mind,
and I employed the language with ease for writing and talking.”[27]

In giving the pupil English sentences to translate into the foreign
language, we are only artificially creating difficulties. If it is
difficult for the pupil to translate into his mother-tongue where at
least confirmed habit ought to prevent him from falling into the worst
pitfalls, then it must be much more difficult, indeed impossible, to
translate into a foreign language where he is not yet quite at home.
We ourselves lead the pupil to make mistakes, and then we have to
do all we can to prevent his confronting us with a too overwhelming
number of them. To this end we limit each exercise to illustrating
one, or two, or three, paragraphs in the grammar; we make theoretical
rules to serve as a guide in translating, without always remembering
how difficult it is to make practical use of such rules; we bracket
the words which are not to be translated; we try to be helpful by
placing alongside of, or underneath, the correct English, some very
strange English indeed, which, however, has the advantage that it
can be translated literally, etc., etc. And the result of all this
exertion? Well, it is a well known fact that they are not always things
of beauty that we meet with in the French exercises which are handed
in after many years of toil, according to this method. Experience is
sure to teach us that this is not the means to our end. Joh. Storm is
right when he says (_Franske taleövelser_, Preface): “The worst and
most unfruitful torment in the school instruction of the present time
is the excessive use of written exercises in foreign languages.” As a
bright contrast to this “constructive” method of procedure, we have
the “imitative” method, which may be so called partly because it is
an imitation of the way in which a child learns his native language,
partly because it depends upon that invaluable faculty, the natural
imitative instinct of the pupils, to give them the proper linguistic
feeling, if it only has ample opportunity to come into play. As a motto
for this method, we might perhaps say: Away with lists and rules.
Practise what is right again and again!


[19] The only thing in the grammar which it might be reasonable to
learn by rote is the numerals.

[20] The story goes that a Swedish dialectologist who was on a tour to
investigate how extensively the strong form _dog_ (died) was in use,
asked a peasant: do you people here say “jag dog” or “jag döde”? The
peasant was not a grammarian; he answered sensibly: well, when we are
dead we generally do not say anything.

[21] Kr. Nyrop informs me that he has found “Mais je mourus hier” in
Mairet, La Silvanire, v. 2, 175, and I myself have come across it in a
short story by Zola about the sensations felt by a person who has been
buried alive after his apparent death--but that does not make the form
more “living.”

[22] The dots which are given in the printed book between the two words
disappear in oral recitation; so they play no part in the minds of the

[23] The former “redundant” words are now the most important ones,
indeed in reality the only important ones, since _Pas du tout_ etc.,
where there is no verb, is fully recognized, and sentences like _Je
veux pas_ are becoming more and more common in colloquial language.

[24] Cf. my remarks on “schaffende und erhaltende analogiebildung,”
in Techmer’s _Internat. Zeitschr. f. allgem. Sprachwissensch._, iii.
(1887), p. 191 ff.

[25] _Slawo-deutsches und Slawo-italienisches_, Graz, 1885.

[26] i.e. Translations from the mother-tongue, beginning with single
sentences of the usual kind.

[27] _Aus meinem leben_, II. vi. Goethes werke, Cotta’sche bibl. d.
weltlitteratur, 20. 218.


“But our pupils must not only know their foreign languages
unconsciously and mechanically; they must not only learn how to
express themselves, but they must also know why.” When I think of the
instruction in grammar that has been usual hitherto, I am tempted to
say as if in echo, “Why?”

In a school in Copenhagen, the story goes that a certain teacher
after having asked about the gender of the French substantive _mort_
and then “Why?” got the answer, “Because it comes from Latin _mors_,
which is feminine”; he was not satisfied with that, however, but made
the correction: “No, it is because it is an exception.” When we feel
scandalized at this teacher’s stupidity, we ought conscientiously to
ask ourselves if many of the answers given to the question “Why?” in
grammar teaching are in reality much more valuable than this one; the
object in most cases is merely to classify the sentences or words under
certain given rubrics and to give their names and the respective rules
which have been committed to memory, something which can in large part
be done with very little real grammatical understanding of the language
in question.

The usual superstition that theoretical instruction in grammar is
the best way to teach pupils how to express themselves grammatically
is of a piece with the severity with which grammatical mistakes are
criticized in comparison with the mildness with which mistakes of
vocabulary, etc., are treated.

That grammatical propositions are abstractions, which are often
difficult even for experts to understand, and which must therefore be
far beyond the horizon of our pupils, we see from the way in which
most philologists, on coming across a rule which is the least bit
involved, immediately have to resort to the examples to see what the
point is; we also see it from the difficulty which grammarians often
find in expressing their rules in such a way as to be really clear.
Therefore there is even among persons who have to any extent studied
languages theoretically (and perhaps most among them) a great tendency
to avoid as much as possible the traditional, grammatical, theoretical
method when they want to take up a new language; this feeling has been
clearly expressed by the renowned Romance scholar H. Schuchardt.[28] It
is true, as has been said, that one really cannot begin to learn the
grammar of a language until one knows the language itself.

In contrast to our school-days, when in all subjects a ready-made
system was pounded into us, and it was only through the system that
we caught sight of some of the facts upon which it was built, so that
we indulged in only extremely little of anything like independent
observation or classification of observations, in contrast to all
this, another method of procedure is coming to the front in all
teaching, a method which starts out from the things which the child
itself can see in its surroundings, a method which trains the child to
observe, to classify its observations, to draw its own conclusions,
so that finally, when the time is ripe, the scientific system will
raise itself, as it were, in a natural way on the foundation of the
observations made. The golden rule is: “Never tell the children
anything that they can find out for themselves.”

Theoretical grammar ought not to be taken up too early, and when it
is taken up it is not well to do it in such a way that the pupil is
given ready-made paradigms and rules. After the manner of Spencer’s
“Inventional Geometry,” where the pupil is all the way through led to
find out the propositions and proofs for himself, we ought to get an
_Inventional Grammar_. When a selection in the reader has been read,
the pupils may be asked to go through it again (read it aloud), and
pay special attention, for instance, to the personal pronouns; every
time one occurs, it is to be written down on the blackboard; there the
forms are finally classified (by the pupils!) according to the natural
associations between them, and thus the paradigms are constructed quite
naturally; then, if desired, the pupils can copy them down in special
note-books for future reference. For instance, if the French possessive
pronoun is found in the two forms _son_ and _sa_, in the combinations
_sa main_, _son gant_, _son épée_, _son ennemi_, _sa figure_, _sa
blessure_, _son opinion_, the object of the pupils must be to discover
the principle of usage. It will not be found difficult to formulate a
rule in these cases; but, if necessary, the teacher can help the pupils
not a little by means of the emphasis with which he reads the sentences
in which the forms are found. Then the rule once formulated may be
tested on other forms to see if the same principle of usage should
happen to apply there too, etc.

Of course the teacher must decide beforehand[29] what points of grammar
a certain text is especially fitted to illustrate in this manner. Yet
it is not necessary for all the forms which it is desired to group
together to occur in the piece which is being examined; if there are
any empty spaces in the paradigms, the pupils will of their own accord
desire to get them filled out, and they will thus have an opportunity
to learn something new. It will also frequently happen that the missing
forms are already familiar to the pupils from previous reading; in
that case, if the pupils themselves do not happen to think of them,
the teacher can easily give them a clue by saying the beginning of the
sentence in which they occur.[30]

It follows as a matter of course that only the most elementary things
can be so examined in a text of one or two pages that grammatical rules
or a tolerably adequate paradigm can be formulated. In dealing with
beginners the teacher must not be too ambitious to get, for instance,
all the forms of a verb collected in that manner, at all events not all
at once; it is not necessary; one tense at a time is quite sufficient.
And of course one must not be such a slave of traditional grammatical
systems, that one necessarily must go all the way through one class
of words before beginning another, etc. There is no reason why these
bits of system should not be taken up quite unsystematically, one day
a little about pronouns, another day the present tense of verbs, a
third day the comparison of adjectives, etc., all according to what
comes natural, or what the texts give occasion for.[31] And it will not
matter if some time is allowed to pass between these exercises. One of
the abominations of the old method of instruction was that the teacher,
as a Swedish author has expressed it, considered it his duty on all
occasions to feel the grammatical pulse of the pupils.

A teacher in English can, at a rather early stage, set to work in this
way to examine and formulate the use of English _do_ as an auxiliary
verb. A rather long piece which has been read is assigned to the pupils
in parts, so that A and B get the first page, C and D the next, etc.,
and they are to find and note down all the cases which occur. Then
the cases found are gone through in the class in such a way that the
teacher first requires all those sentences to be read aloud where _do_
occurs and there is no negation. After some sentences have been read,
he may ask what they have in common; if no one answers, more sentences
may be taken until someone discovers that all the sentences are
interrogative, and then this discovery may be tested in the following
sentences. Thereupon the negative sentences which were before omitted
are gone through. Is it then necessary to have _do_ in all questions,
and in all negative sentences? Well, go through the same pages again
for next time and note down all the cases of interrogative and negative
sentences where _do_ does not occur. Then in the next lesson we shall
finally be able to formulate the rules. This takes longer than to
learn the rule in a grammar. Yes, but then we may also be certain
that it will be far better understood and remembered, to say nothing
of the pleasure it always gives to discover something oneself; it has
all of it been a little preliminary practice in scientific methods of
research and drawing of conclusions. And then--what I always return
to--the whole exercise has also been a review of a number of sentences,
and there is not much danger that the pupils will forget the words,
turns of expression and grammatical relations which they have become
intimate with in this manner.

Even if we do not attain to any results that can stand comparison
with the rules in our text-books, yet such lessons in grammatical
observation and systematization are none the less valuable. For
instance, the last three or four days’ German lesson may be gone
through with special attention given to the gender. One pupil reads
aloud; every time he comes to a substantive, he mentions one of his
class-mates (or the teacher motions to one of them), who is to give
the gender,[32] as well as the reasons for his inference (the form of
the article in _in der kirche_, the termination of the adjective in
_ein schönes mädchen_, etc.); one of the boys stands at the blackboard,
which is divided into three columns, and writes down each word in
the right column, after its gender is determined. When the form or
the context does not show the gender, the teacher asks if the word
is familiar from previous passages, and if the gender could be seen
there; otherwise the teacher will have to say what gender it is. At
last (toward the end of the lesson, or when the blackboard is full),
all the words are repeated together with the article; then, if it
seems fit, the teacher may examine one or another pupil, letting him
stand with his back to the blackboard. If there are, for instance, two
or three words ending in _ung_ or _schaft_ or some other absolutely
certain ending, the pupils may be asked to recall other words with
the same ending, and then formulate the rule for themselves. A few
hours employed in this manner will surely bear much more fruit than
if all the long rules for gender with their exceptions and exceptions
to exceptions were committed to memory; the attention is roused and
the powers of observation are sharpened, so that the pupils will also
in the future take note of the gender of new words, when there is
anything to indicate it, especially since it is necessary for them to
know the gender of the words which they need in the conversation and
transposition exercises already described in this book.

Difficult, especially syntactical, phenomena which do not occur very
frequently, cannot be treated exactly in this way, but some of them
may be taken up in an analogical manner. During the going over of a
large section of the French reader, the attention may, for instance, be
directed to the subjunctive, so that each subjunctive form is either
written down in a notebook or marked in the margin of the reader;
after one or two weeks or so, all these sentences may be collected
and arranged in large groups. During the next week, similar cases
are frequently met with, and the pupil is given an opportunity to
recall his recent observations, and perhaps supplement them by newly
discovered varieties of subjunctive clauses, etc. But it must be
continually borne in mind that much of what is found in grammars is
really of no value except to the philological specialist, and should
never be learned by schoolboys.

A systematical grammar is not superfluous except in the first stage.
Later on its examples may be used to supplement those collected in
the course of the reading; the teacher can, for instance, read them
aloud, make sure that they are understood, and use them to help the
pupils to find out the rule. Then, when the pupils have formulated the
rule as well as they can, it may be read as rendered in the grammar.
To go through the grammar from one end to the other, a section at a
time, ought not to be undertaken until most of the phenomena have been
treated in connexion with the reading; it will then be both easier and
more interesting than if taken up earlier; its chief use will then be
to fill out and confirm what has already been learned.[33]

If grammar is taught in this way, the pupils will not get that feeling
which they now so frequently have, that they are just learning a series
of arbitrarily prescribed instructions as to how they are to avoid
making mistakes and getting “poor marks” in their written exercises;
they are more apt to conceive of it as something to be compared to the
laws of nature, those general comprehensive observations of what takes
place under certain conditions; for grammar is made up of observations
of the manner in which the natives express themselves. The pupils no
longer say to themselves: “We _must_ have the subjunctive in purpose
clauses for it stands in § 235,” but “we find the subjunctive in all
purpose clauses.” The teacher’s chief task is to give the pupils
insight into the construction of the foreign language, into its
peculiarities and the chief points in which it deviates from other
languages. As a rule, text-books dwell too much on details, and often
neglect very important features, such as for instance the great freedom
allowed in English in the use of substantives as verbs and vice-versâ,
the different part played by order of words in the different languages,
the cause and effect relationship between a fixed order of words and
paucity of case-endings, etc.

The usual arrangement of grammatical material is not as shrewd as it
might be. The sharp division between accidence and syntax as we find
it in most of our text-books is, from a scientific point of view,
untenable and impracticable[34]; from a pedagogical point of view it
is unfortunate, because it separates form and function, which ought
to be learned together, just as well as a word’s exterior (its sounds
and spelling), and its meaning are learned together.[35] And within
each of these two parts of the grammar, the usual order of procedure
depends upon a meaningless order of precedence between the classes of
words, whereby the adverbs are placed about as far as possible from the
adjectives, though if there are any two classes of words which ought to
belong together, they are these two, which have comparison in common.
In the case of the verbs, those things are often grouped together
which belong together lexically but not grammatically.[36]

The translation-method is injurious here too, because it veils contours
which ought to be sharp. For instance, the pupils will not get the
proper conception of gender and its relation to expressions for sex,
if _er_ referring to _der hut_ and _sie_ referring to _die bank_,
and likewise _il_ referring to _le chapeau_, and _elle_ referring to
_la chaise_, are all translated by the English _it_, while the same
pronouns, when used about persons, are translated by _he_ and _she_.

Comparisons between the languages which the pupils know, for the
purpose of showing their differences of economy in the use of
linguistic means of expression, will only be a natural outcome of this
systematized occupation with the theory of the language, and may often
become very interesting, especially for advanced students. (Comparisons
between the reflexive pronouns in the different languages; du ihr Sie
sie--toi vous vous ils elles eux--you you you they--il y a, es giebt,
there is, etc.). The teacher may call attention to the inconsistency
of the languages; what is distinctly expressed in one case is in
another case not designated by any outward sign (haus häuser; häuschen
häuschen--house houses; sheep sheep--cheval chevaux; vers vers--yes in
reality also maison, maisons, etc.; mich mir, dich dir, sich sich; der
mann, die frau, das weib; ein guter mann, eine gute frau, ein gutes
weib; der gute mann, die gute frau, das gute weib; die männer, die
frauen, die weiber; die guten m., f., w., etc.). In French and English,
there is ample occasion to point out how differently the grammatical
relations present themselves in sound and on paper (singular and plural
alike in bon bons, beau beaux, hideux hideux, further amer amère, clair
claire, révolutionnaire révolutionnaire | church churches, judge judges
| sin sinned, fine fined | say said, lay laid, etc.). That this may
be a good way to make a beginning in comparative philology scarcely
needs further proof; many things belonging to this field of study can
be understood by our advanced pupils, and ought to belong to a good
general education. Everyone who has received a little more than the
most ordinary school education ought to understand what is meant by the
relationship and development of languages; he ought to be acquainted
with such linguistic phenomena as the loss of sounds, assimilation,
analogical formations, differentiations, etc.; he ought to have noticed
examples of these phenomena, both in his mother tongue and in the
foreign languages which he has learned, just as he ought to realize
how these processes continually influence the whole construction of
the languages, and, in the course of time, have produced such great
differences as those he sees between German and English, or between
Latin and French; a valuable point of departure would be to take up the
fate of French loan-words in English with the frequent retention of the
old French sounds (_ch_ in _chase_, _j_ in _journal_, _n_ in _cousin_
_cousine_, _s_ in _beast_, _feast_, etc.). But however interesting
and valuable these things are, it is scarcely advisable to devote too
much time to them as long as the living languages have so few hours
at their disposal. How much or how little of this sort of thing the
teacher takes up will also, to a great extent, depend upon whether the
class on the whole is ripe for it, and if the pupils show sufficient
interest and desire to ask questions; very much philology ought not to
be _forced_ upon them.

Exercises in systematization need not be limited to the field of
grammar; the lexical side of the language may also be taken up in a
similar manner, even if to a less extent. Several methods of reviewing
vocabulary have been mentioned above, but there are still more ways;
for instance the teacher may give the pupil a certain subject (the
human body, war, a railway journey) about which he is to collect all
the words and expressions which he can remember--or which occurred
in the last narrative read--and he may also arrange them in various
subdivisions. This can best be done in the form of a written exercise.

The pupils may also be set to separate a complex event or series of
actions, etc., into its single component parts. For instance, they may
describe the process of getting dressed in all its details, or the way
to school in the morning. The more detailed the pupils can make their
descriptions, the better; they thus get use for a number not only of
substantives but especially of verbs in their natural connection,
which they see before them in their “mind’s eye”--but I scarcely think
that Gouin’s ideas[37] ought to be used for more than such occasional

Advanced students may also be instructed in a systematic collecting of
the most important synonyms. Each one should have a special note-book
for the purpose, where a whole page is given to each group of synonyms
which the teacher wants them to treat; on this page they write down all
those sentences where they come across the word in question. Now and
then the teacher and the class together may examine all the sentences
which have been collected and try to establish the difference between
the synonyms on the basis of the examples found. Of especial value are
of course those sentences where several synonyms occur directly after
each other (How much of _history_ we have in the _story_ of Arthur is
doubtful. What is not very thrilling as _story_ may be of profound
interest as _history_. Half a _loaf_ is better than no _bread_. A
nice little _loaf_ of brown _bread_). It will also be of interest
occasionally to draw up comparative tabular lists from different
languages as for instance--

  mensch    man        homme
  mann      man        homme
  mann      husband    mari

to which remarks may be added about the use of _human being_ and
_individu_ when indication of sex is to be avoided. Furthermore--

  weib          woman         femme
  weib, frau    wife          femme
  frau          lady          dame
  frau          Mrs.          madame
  dame          lady          dame

  baum          tree          arbre
  holz          wood          bois
  wald          wood, forest  bois, forêt

Such tables will do more than long explanations to illustrate the
differences between the languages, and to show how often words are
ambiguous and vague in meaning. It is evident, however, that many of
the subtle and fanciful indications of shades of meaning found in the
dictionaries of synonyms are entirely beyond the grasp of ordinary

Dr. Walter, in Frankfurt, has still another way of furthering his
pupils’ familiarity with the resources of the foreign language; he
dictates some of the sentences from what has been read, and lets the
pupils themselves find as many different ways as possible of expressing
the same thought. I shall reprint one of the sentences from his
book, together with the pupils’ variants (marked with letters); they
were written down in the course of 25 minutes: “ohne vorausgegangene
besprechung” (in the second year of instruction, with, so far as I
know, six hours a week); as will be seen, the variations are rather

_The advantage of the English ships lay not in bulk, but in

  a. The English were overwhelming, not by the size of the ships, but
  their power lay in the construction of the ships.

  b. In construction, not in bulk, lay the advantage of the English

  c. The English ships were superior to the Spanish not in bulk, but in

  d. The advantage of the English fleet (squadron) consisted not in
  bulk, but in construction.

  e. The advantage of the English was the light construction of their

  f. The English had not large ships, but they were better constructed.

  g. The power of the vessels of the English was not caused by the
  extent, but by the construction of the ships.

  h. The English men-of-war could do very much against the enemy,
  because they were well constructed, and not too large.

  i. The English vessels were not large, but well constructed.

  k. The advantage of the English men-of-war did not consist in size,
  but in construction.

  l. The advantage of the English men-of-war was to be found in their

I have myself, in teaching advanced pupils, in a similar way, let
them re-write a half a page or so of a historical work. It has always
interested them, and the comparison of the results, which often
presented the most varied expressions for the same thought, was always
very instructive.

Parallel with the reading of a grammar as a supplement to, and a
summary of all the grammatical knowledge which has been gained in
the ways suggested, it might seem to be a good plan to go through
a systematical collection of the lexical material--of course not
an ordinary dictionary, since the alphabetical arrangement is about
as unsystematical as possible, but a sensibly arranged vocabulary,
something in the line of Roget’s _Thesaurus_. But it ought, at any
rate, to be much smaller, and only include words and expressions which
are actually necessary; even then, however, the unavoidable dryness
of such a book, and the absence of connection between the single
words, would make it unfit for use in teaching, even if it were not
to be employed in imparting new material, but only to recall words
which have already been learned. It would be better worth while for
pupils, who have reached a somewhat advanced stage, to go through a
little systematic collection of phrases, especially of such turns of
expression as play a great part in ordinary daily intercourse, but
which are seldom met with in literature. Franke’s _Phrases de tous les
jours_ is the best specimen I know of--but I have it from the very best
source that this little book was never intended as a text-book for


[28] Obwohl ich mich seit geraumer zeit mit der theorie der sprachen
beschäftige, hege ich noch heutzutage eine abneigung gegen die
systematischen sprachlehren.--_Auf anlass des volapüks._ Berlin, 1888,
p. 38.

[29] If the text-book itself does not recommend certain exercises for
each piece.

[30] On the whole teachers who read connected pieces with their pupils
in the thorough manner which I have suggested, will be surprised at
the strong powers of association produced by successiveness; one word
always recalls the whole context in which it has been learned. In one
of the exercises given by Walter, pupil A mentions one of the words
which the class has had and then the name of pupil B, who is thereupon
expected to give the whole sentence in which the word occurs. Of course
this can be done now and then by way of recreation; as a rule it is
not necessary. This new method of always learning and remembering the
words in their natural context may be compared to the newest methods in
natural history teaching, according to which the pupils must see the
animals and plants as they are at home in their natural surroundings,
acted upon by them and in turn acting upon them.

[31] Each phenomenon which is taken up should, however, be treated to
the end with as much thoroughness as is possible at _that_ standpoint.
Grammar ought not to be taken up during the lesson merely as a matter
of secondary importance, subordinated to other exercises, whose object
is to help the pupils to understand the text, or to develop their
practical skill in the language. If the teacher does not want to devote
a whole hour to the grammar, he can at least draw a sharp line between
these exercises in theory and the other exercises. One thing at a time,
and that done well!

[32] Or when a period is reached, he may give all the substantives
which he has found one at a time--the rest as above. The advantage of
this is that the connexion is kept intact.

[33] Dr. Sweet tries to throw ridicule on my suggestion as to
inventional grammar (_The Practical Study of Languages_, 1899, p.
115-116); he seems to forget the distinction between independent
grammatical research and teaching in schools; and when he speaks about
the boys having to sort “a hundredweight or so of slips,” I think his
exaggeration needs no further refutation than the above statements,
which are nothing but an amplification of what I wrote in 1886.
Fortunately, on p. 117, Dr. Sweet recommends practically the same
course as is outlined here, only carried out to a less extent.

[34] The French superlative is a purely syntactical, the comparative,
a mixed phenomenon.

[35] I have treated accidence and syntax together in my own little
English grammar (_Kortfattet engelsk grammatik for tale- og
skriftsproget_, Copenhagen, 1st edition 1885, 4th ed. 1903).

[36] With reference to grammatical systematization, I may refer to my
preliminary remarks in _Progress in Language_ (London, Sonnenschein
894), p. 138 ff.

[37] I am tempted here to enlarge upon Gouin’s method of teaching
languages, but I have neither the space, nor exactly the desire, to
do so since I have never seen it carried out in practice. I can refer
to R. Kron’s (certainly too enthusiastic) description (_Die neueren
sprachen_, III, also published separately), and to Brekke’s (for me
absolutely convincing) criticism: “Indberetning om en stipendierejse
til England for at studere Gouins metode for undervisning i sprog”
(Quousque Tandem No. = Norske univ. og skoleannaler, 1894).


Here, last but not least, comes the treatment of the _pronunciation_,
which for several reasons I have not taken up first, although the
questions which are here to be discussed necessarily play a part
already from the very first lesson in a foreign language. I have now
for many years advocated the use of phonetics--yes, even of phonetical
transcription, in the teaching of foreign languages, and have to
a large extent put my theories into practice both in dealing with
children of all ages and with grown persons. New things always frighten
people; they think with terror that here the pupils are to be burdened
with an entirely new and difficult science and with a new kind of
writing; we had trouble enough with the old kind, they say, and now we
are to be bothered with this new alphabet with its barbarous letters!
Every educator must see how objectionable it is; now we have learned
languages for so many years without such modern inventions, and the old
way ought to be good enough for us still.

That is about the run of the objections raised. This the answer:
Phonetics is a science, to be sure, and, like all other sciences, it is
not without its difficult and mooted points. Yet the fact that large
volumes can be written about botany does not frighten us from teaching
our children _some_ botany. In mathematics there are many things which
are beyond the comprehension of ordinary school-children, but yet they
have to learn _some_ mathematics. Phonetics is not a new study that we
want to add to the school curriculum; we only want to take as much of
the science as will really be a positive help in learning something
which has to be learned _anyway_. We must remember what science is,
and what part it plays. Of course in our days every science collects
more and more material and requires more and more specialization, so
that parts of it become quite inaccessible for all persons except the
specialists themselves; but the whole idea of science is that it shall
be _unified knowledge_ (Spencer), a summing up of all the numerous
details of reality under large, comprehensive points of view, the
establishing of great, general laws, which apply to all single cases.
That is also why science can be termed “ökonomie des denkens,” and
that is why science can suggest means of facilitating thought and the
acquirement of knowledge. We want to have some phonetics introduced
into our schools, because theory has convinced us, and experiment has
proved to us, that by means of this science we can, with decidedly
greater certainty, and in an essentially easier way, give an absolutely
better pronunciation in a much shorter space of time than would be
possible without phonetics.

And as for that hobgoblin called phonetical transcription--well, it is
no “new alphabet,” not even as new as the Gothic (German) letters are,
and much less so than the Greek alphabet, with which the pupils are
burdened (without their being of the slightest use[38]), to say nothing
of the new names for the letters. In learning Greek the pupils have to
operate with thirty odd new symbols; in our phonetical transcription
for school use, we do not need more than from five to eight new symbols
for each language; otherwise it consists of the ordinary letters, and
every letter in it retains one of its familiar values, which is used
consistently everywhere, the new symbols being mostly modifications of
the known letters; ʃ reminds us of s, ʒ of z, ɛ and ə of e, ŋ of n. The
whole thing is no worse than that.

If you refer to your experience in opposition to these new ways of
teaching, you only invite the answer: Yes, your experience shows how a
_poor_ pronunciation may be learned!

Why must we learn how to pronounce the foreign languages at all? Well,
in the first place, it must be because there is the possibility that
we may meet natives some time later. Otherwise we might, perhaps,
be satisfied with _reading_ the foreign words according to English
principles of pronunciation, French _pain_ like English “pain,”
Werther as “worth her,” etc. I have known old parsons who have taught
themselves English so as to be able to read novels, and who read
English with Danish vowels, pronounced the _k_ in _knight_, etc. For
a superficial “getting the gist” of shilling shockers and penny
dreadfuls, this is sufficient perhaps, but I maintain that for a
penetrating, delicate comprehension of real works of literature this
manner of reading is not enough. Language cannot be separated from
sound, and that is the sum of the matter; only he who hears the foreign
language within himself in exactly or approximately the same way as a
native hears it can really appreciate and enjoy not only poetry, where
phonetic effects must needs always play an important part, but also
all the higher forms of prose. Then there is the mnemonic benefit of
a correct pronunciation. It helps the pupil to keep foreign languages
distinct from each other; for instance, he will never be misled to
think that _jeune_ means “pretty” on account of its resemblance to
_schön_, and he will not be apt to confuse French _joli_, _journée_,
_nouvelle_ with English _jolly_, _journey_, _novel_. In the second
place, Madvig is right--and this applies to the living languages
too--when he writes: “Finally there is scarcely any doubt that progress
in the dead languages would become more rapid if, so far as possible,
for instance, through reading and pronouncing distinctly and through
memorizing new expressions, the language came not only through the eye,
but more through the ear than it does in most places now.”

Our pronunciation according to the old school is extremely poor,
indeed, much more frightful than most people imagine. It has among
others these two disadvantages, that we do not understand the natives,
and that we are not understood by them.

The very first lesson in a foreign language ought to be devoted to
initiating the pupils into the world of sounds; if the class has
already had such an elementary course in sounds, either in connection
with the study of their mother tongue (something we ought to come to in
the course of time at any rate), or in connection with another foreign
language, it can of course be made briefer; it is scarcely safe to omit
it entirely. The conversation may be formed as simply as the following
one, where all scientific terms are avoided; not even the word “organ”
is necessary. (Of course the answers will not always be as prompt and
decided as here, and much will need to be repeated several times with
different pupils.)

Teacher: John, can you say _papa_? Papa.--How do you go about it?
Say it once more.--_Papa._ First, I open my mouth, and then I open
it once again.--Yes, and in the meantime you must, of course, have
closed it. Look at me, all of you, and see if I too go about it in
that way--_Papa_. What did I do, William?--First you opened your
mouth, then closed it, then opened it again.--What did I close it
with?--With the lips.--Now, when I say _op_, _ap_, _ep_, what do I
do?--Close the lips every time, and then open them again.--Then I do
that every time I say _p_. Robert, can you find any other sounds where
I also close my lips? No.--Try the word _mama_.--Yes, in _m_.--Now,
say _baby_ and _bib_.--Also in _b_.--Good; then we have three sounds
now where the lips are closed, _p_, _b_, _m_. Let us write them in
a row on the blackboard. Is it necessary to close the lips in all
sounds?--No.--What is your name?--John Gordon Hunter.--All of you look
at him while he says it. John Gordon Hunter.--Did he close his lips
at all? No.--Then all the sounds which are in the whole of his name
must be said with other parts of the mouth than the lips. What else
have we that we use to speak with?--The tongue.--Now, when we say _n_,
for instance, _John_, _Anna_, what do we do?--Close with the tongue
behind the teeth.--What part of the tongue?--The point.--Now try _t_
in _atta_.--There we also close with the point of the tongue behind
the teeth. And _d_ in _adda_.--Likewise.--Then we use the point of the
tongue for _t_, _d_, _n_. Let us write them down under _p_, _b_, _m_.
Now _k_ in _akka_?--Look into my mouth. What do I do?--You close with
the tongue farther back in the mouth.--Yes, we call that the back of
the tongue. Howard, look into Edward’s mouth while he says _akka_.
Now _g_ in _agga_ (the sound _g_, of course, not the name dʒi· of the
letter). Then we can write them down in a third row. _p_, _b_, _m_ were
what kind of sounds?--Lip-sounds.--And _t_, _d_, _n_, were what kind?
Point-of-the-tongue sounds.--And the third row?--Back-of-the-tongue
sounds.--Yes, we might also say simply point-sounds and back-sounds.
[Here some one will ask]: Why are there not three there?--Yes, there
are three sounds there too, but we have no letter for the third. Say
_tinker_, and then _tin-kettle_. Is there no difference? Yes, in
_tin-kettle_ we have a pure _n_, but not in _tinker_; here we have
another sound before _k_.--Now try _finger_.--There we have the same
before _g_.--And in _singer_?--The same without a real _g_.--Look
into my mouth when I say (s)_inger_ [without s]. We can make a letter
for this new sound by writing an _n_, with the last stroke lengthened
below the line and slightly curled, as in _g_: ŋ.--James, come up
here and write down the four words as they sound, making use of the
new letter.--(He writes first _tin-kettle_).--No, do you hear more
than one _t_? and can you hear any _e_ after _l_?--No.--What then?
_tinketl_. (It is not worth while at this stage to require greater
phonetical exactness than _tinketl_, _tiŋker_, _fiŋger_, _siŋer_,
passing over the fact that the final _er_ in the words does not really
sound like e + r). You see, if you were a Frenchman trying to learn
English, you would not know that _n_ in _tin-kettle_ and in the other
words were different sounds, and that the _e_ was silent, and you would
pronounce the words incorrectly; but if the one were written _tinketl_
and the other _tiŋker_, it would be much easier for you to learn how to
pronounce them. And then take _fringe_; it looks as if it were simply
_finger_ with the _r_ in another place, and yet it is quite a different
sound, so we see that the two letters _ng_ may stand for three entirely
different sounds. We also write _knight_, and say “nait”; we write
_busy_ and say “bizi.” Can you find any other words which we spell
differently from the way in which we pronounce them? [Various examples
are found and analyzed.] When we write the words exactly as they sound,
we call it _phonetical transcription_. Now, in the beginning, we shall
write all French words phonetically, so that you can more easily learn
how to pronounce them. But you saw in the case of _tinker_ that we
occasionally need a new symbol in this transcription, which we do
not use otherwise. You will learn a few more of them in the course
of time.... Then we have seen that in order to say different sounds,
we can use the lips and the point of the tongue and the back of the
tongue. Is there nothing else that we need to speak with?--The nose?
Yes, that is all right in a way, but--can you move your nose? Look
at my nose; do I move it when I speak?--No.--But is it not possible
to use it without moving it? Now, see if I use my nose when I say
a···· [very long drawn out].[39] Now, I suddenly hold my nose with two
fingers, and press the nostrils together. Does that make the sound
different?--No.--But now I say m in the same way m···· and pinch the
nostrils together in the same way. Did anything happen?--Yes, there was
no sound.--Now you can try it yourselves. First you, George; say a···,
and then the boy next to you can suddenly pinch your nose together with
two fingers. And then say m···, and let Fred pinch your nose again. Can
you say m while your nostrils are closed?--No, at any rate the sound
soon disappears. All of you try it; say a· just as long as I do, and
pinch the nose together several times with your fingers whenever you
see me do it; and now likewise with m. That is because the air has to
escape through the nose in order that the sound m may be made. It is
the soft palate that you use in order to open the inner entrance to the
nose, so that the air can escape through the nostrils. You can feel the
palate behind the teeth, there it is hard; but if you pass your fingers
farther back, you will soon feel that it becomes soft and flexible. See
how it can go up and down in my mouth. Look in the mirror[40], and see
how your own palate is. First try breathing in and out silently, and
then say _a_; then you will see how your soft palate suddenly jumps
up; that is because it has to close the entrance to the nose, so that
no air can get out that way. But when you say m it remains hanging
down, so that the air can come out through the nose, the passage
through the mouth being closed by the lips. [At this point, you might
make a rough sketch on the blackboard, showing a cross-section through
the mouth, with the soft palate in the two positions.] In producing n
and ŋ, you have the same position of the soft palate as in the case of
m. [Try to pinch the nose together.]

Now we have seen how we use the nose and the mouth when we speak,
but are they the only things that are necessary in speaking? [If the
pupils cannot think of “voice” of their own accord, the teacher may
put them on the track by saying: when someone speaks (or sings) very
well, we say that he has a good...]--Voice.--Where is the voice?--In
the vocal chords.--And where are they?--In Adam’s apple.--[Here it
might be a good thing not to despise the anecdote about the apple
which stuck in Adam’s throat.] Now we also call that the larynx. In
there, there are two vocal chords stretched parallel to each other, and
when they vibrate a tone is produced, and that is what we call voice.
It is just as when a string of a violin is brought into vibration
and gives forth a tone; or a bell or a wine-glass, which is made to
quiver violently. Now do we always use the voice when we speak? You
do not know; well, then we can experiment. [Whisper a sentence.] Did
I use my voice then?--No.--Now try first to say an a··· quite loudly
and forcibly (or sing it), and take firm hold of Adam’s apple with
your thumb and forefinger; then you will feel it quiver. Have you
never tried to touch a piano with your finger tips while someone was
playing on it? Then you will have felt the same kind of delicate,
rapid, quivering movements as you feel on touching the larynx while
the voice is in activity. In both cases you can _feel_ those movements
with your fingers which you _hear_ with your ear as a tone. But now
whisper an a··· and feel your larynx; do you feel anything?--No, there
are no vibrations.--And try to say s··· [by no means the name of the
letter, _es_, but the hissing sound itself.] Is there voice in that?
Do you feel any vibration?--No.--Then s is a _voiceless_ sound, but a
is a _voiced_ sound. Now, try m··· [not _em_!] Is it voiced? and n···?
Notice that you can sing the voiced sounds [test several of them], but
not the voiceless sounds.[41] That f··· is voiceless, and that v···
(with strong buzzing!) is voiced, is easily discovered. In the same
way, we have for every voiceless sound a corresponding voiced sound.
Say s···, and now produce the corresponding voiced sound with the
buzzing element. They are the sounds we have in _so_ and _zoo_, _seal_
and _zebra_. We have also a third corresponding pair ʃ and ʒ; ʃ is
the sound in _shilling_, _shall_, etc.; ʒ is the sound in _measure_,
_pleasure_, etc. Then we may write down:

  f    s    ʃ    voiceless
  v    z    ʒ    voiced.

Now pronounce each sound in chorus as I point to the letter, and
continue drawing it out until I take the chalk away from the
letter.[42] Thereupon the pupils may be tested singly, the teacher
skipping from one sound to the other. Exercises may also be given with
the consonants between two vowels: afffa, avvva, asssa, azzza; afa,
ava, asa, aza.

Now the pupils have already had a little course in elementary
phonetics; it interests them and contains nothing that they cannot
understand, and nothing that is not useful for them. Nor does it ever
really frighten the children; but the very thought of it has actually
frightened a number of older teachers, who apparently live in holy
terror of trespassing beyond the lines laid out for them in their
childhood, and who unfailingly think that everything new must be just
as useless, dry and pedantical as most of what they learned in their
own schooldays, so they are not inclined to have the bother of making
themselves familiar with anything new.[43] In the Danish original of
this book, I reprinted as a curiosity a description of the activity of
the organs of speech in the production of speech-sounds, which a boy
14 years old, who had never been told anything about the formation of
sounds, had written all by himself, without the least instruction or
help of any kind (which can easily be seen, among other things, from
the fact that he sticks to and analyzes the names of the letters);
it shows that this dreaded phonetical science is not so terribly far
beyond the horizon of ordinary children after all.

The children always “follow” the teacher so well in these phonetical
exercises that it is rather necessary to put a damper on their
eagerness to try to produce the sounds than to spur them on. Or, in
other words, the teacher has but to organize their natural impulse to
imitate the sounds by saying to them, when they begin to whistle and
hum: “You may say the sounds yourselves directly, just wait a moment,”
and thereupon, after the explanation has been given, by allowing them
ample opportunity to pronounce the sounds, both in chorus and singly.
Then, both during recess and at home, they will revel to their hearts’
content in the new sounds, and the whole new and amusing world that has
been opened to them.

After the introductory course which I have just sketched,[44] I
immediately begin with texts in the foreign language. If the teacher
will at this point read one or two pages aloud rapidly (or give a
little talk) in as characteristically a French or German manner as
possible, this is a very good way to give the pupils a preliminary
notion of the foreignness of the new language. This impression may be
further emphasized by means of a little trick which I may recommend.
The teacher practises an English sentence pronounced as a Frenchman (or
German respectively) would pronounce it, with French vowels, French
accent, etc. He may refer to this sentence now and then in speaking
of the single sounds, and it will serve to warn the students against
the kind of mistakes that they themselves are to avoid. Then I take
up the new sounds in the more accidental order in which they occur
in the selection for reading; I repeat every word, together with its
meaning, write it down on the blackboard in phonetical transcription,
and explain every symbol as it occurs, at the same time articulating
the corresponding sound _isolated_ (this is of great importance! also
the consonants alone without any vowel, either before or after), and
drawing it out very long.[45]

In not a few cases, the pupils will be able to imitate the sound with
sufficient exactness, when it has been produced isolated; at all
events, they do it far better than when they only hear it among other
sounds. But in many other cases their imitation is not successful,
or, at least, it is not sure enough to be quite satisfactory; then
it is necessary to resort to phonetics for help, on the basis of the
introductory course.

Of course, it is not easy for a Dane to give detailed directions for
phonetical instruction, as it is to be conducted when an English
teacher is teaching English children French or German. Therefore, the
following section is necessarily shorter than the corresponding section
in the Danish original, where I could treat the subject exhaustively
on the basis of my personal experience, as to how good results are
to be obtained. But some few remarks may perhaps serve to point out
the right way, and any teacher who has thoroughly mastered the first
principles of phonetics theoretically, and especially practically, will
himself be able to supplement my suggestions.

In the very first French or German sentence in the reader will probably
be found one of the sounds [y] (Fr. _sur_, Ger. _über_), or [ø] (Fr.
_veut_, Ger. _höhe_). It is best for these two sounds to be practised
together, and, in the beginning, in their long form. As experience
shows, it is not sufficient for the teacher merely to say these sounds;
they generally cause English people much trouble, and all imitations
based on the diphthong in Eng. _few_, etc., ought to be strictly
discountenanced from the very first lesson. That it is not impossible
to learn the correct sounds was brought home to me in a striking manner
a few years ago. These sounds are also found in Danish; an English
lady who had been in Denmark for some years had not been able, in
spite of unceasing efforts, to learn them by imitation. Then I made a
bet that I could teach her them in less than ten minutes, and I won
the bet through five minutes’ theoretical explanation of rounded and
unrounded vowels, and two minutes’ practical exercises. The directions
were about as follows: say [u·] (or [uw]) in _too_ very loudly, and
hold it as long as you can without taking breath. Once more: observe
in the hand-mirror the position of the lips. Then say _tea_ [ti·, tij]
in the same way; draw the vowel out until you can hold it no longer;
continue all the time to observe the position of the lips in the
mirror. Now [u···] again; then [i···]. The lips are rounded for some
vowels, slit-shaped for others. Try to pout them rather more than you
do usually. Pronounce [u···] a couple of times with the lips as rounded
and close to each other as possible, and concentrate your attention
on the lips. Then say [i···] a couple of times, paying attention to
the position of the tongue; you will feel that the sides of the tongue
touch the roof of the mouth or the teeth. Now look in the mirror; say
[i···] again, and now suddenly, taking care to keep the tongue in the
same position, let your lips take the rounded, pouted position they had
before. It may be that the pupil is still unable to produce any [y],
because, despite the teacher’s warning, he involuntarily shifts his
tongue-position back again to the familiar [u] position. In that case,
however, the teacher must not be discouraged, but pass on to the second
part of the experiment, which is surer, and which might therefore have
been taken first: place your lips in this pouted [u] position, without
producing any sound, look in the mirror, and be very careful that the
position of the lips remains unchanged, and then try to say [i···]. If
the tongue is placed in the correct [i···]-position, the result cannot
be anything but an [y]. This sound is retained and repeated until the
pupil is perfectly sure of both the articulation and acoustic effect.
Then the sound [ø] may be taken up. It may be produced with [y] as a
starting-point, the lower jaw being lowered so that both the underlip
and the tongue follow it, while the teacher takes care to stop the
downward movement in the right place. The result may be controlled by
starting with [e] and rounding the lips, that is, by going through a
process corresponding to the transition from [i···] to [y···].

One of the most unbecoming mistakes which Englishmen make in their
pronunciation of foreign languages is their diphthongizing of long
vowels, since long vowels,[46] in ordinary English, are pronounced
with an upward glide, so that the jaw and the tongue are raised higher
in the last part of the vowels in _see_, _two_, _hay_, _know_, for
instance, than in the first part. In vulgar London pronunciation, this
English peculiarity is carried further, the beginning of the sound
being lowered, at all events in the last two sounds mentioned, so that
_lace_ sounds like _lice_, and _pay_ like _pie_. But even if the best
pronunciation does not go to this extreme, yet the glide is there,
and this glide is for the native Frenchman or German one of the most
striking faults in the Englishman’s pronunciation of the respective
languages, so the Englishman had best be on his guard in this
particular. If the teacher, after a little theoretical explanation,
says the English [ei] and the German [e] alternately a number of
times, even the dullest pupils cannot help but get their ears trained
to detect this difference, but long and patient training is certainly
necessary, both with the class in chorus and with the pupils singly,
before this deeply rooted tendency to diphthongize can be checked.

Another difficulty is met with in the short (narrow) vowels. French
_été_ must be pronounced with two short closed e’s; Englishmen have a
tendency to pronounce two long or half-long glide-sounds, which begin
with a greater distance between the jaws than they ought to, and close
with a smaller distance between the jaws than the genuine French sounds
have. Anyone who has become accustomed to the undiphthongized long [e],
however, can use this as a starting-point for learning the correct
short sound, the best way being the frequent repetition of _tétété···_
Likewise the short sounds in _fini_, _dodo_, _froufrou_, etc.

Nor do the French nasal vowels occur in English; in phonetical
transcription, they are indicated by means of ~ over the vowel-symbol,
for instance [ɔ̃] in _son_, etc. Here the teacher must immediately make
every effort to check the tendency to say [ɔŋ] as in Eng. _long_, and
my experience with Danish pupils has been that it is not sufficient for
this purpose merely to let the pupils repeat the sound after me. It is
necessary to make it perfectly clear to them wherein the difference
consists. First the teacher draws out his [ɔ̃] and establishes (by
means of questions) that it is only one sound, the same from first to
last. Then one of the pupils is to try to draw out the sound [ɔŋ], and
it thus becomes clear that it is only the last of the two sounds that
is prolonged. On the basis of what has been previously learned (p.
149), the teacher shows the difference of effect caused in closing the
nostrils with the fingers, and explains that it is due to the fact that
in [ɔŋ] we have first a sound where the air escapes only through the
mouth, then another sound where the air only passes out through the
nose; but in [ɔ̃], both passages are open at the same time. If a pencil
is laid in the mouth so that it rests on the tongue (tolerably far
back), it will remain lying quietly when [ɔ̃] is pronounced, but not
in the case of [ɔŋ]. In connection with [ɔ̃], the pupils may practise
the [ɑ̃] sound in _tant_, [ɛ̃] or, more correctly, [æ̃], the sound in
_teint_ and the rounded sound in [œ̃], _un_. The sound [ɥ] in _tuer_
[tɥe], _lui_ [lɥi] is easily learned with sufficient exactness as a [y]
which is quickly passed over so that the main stress is allowed to fall
on the following sound, the relation between [w] and [u] being brought
in by way of comparison.

With respect to the consonants, care must be taken to pronounce
[t, d, n] in such a way that the point of the tongue touches the
upper teeth; it must, at all events, not be held as far back as in
English; the same applies to [l], where this difference is still more
important; the hollow sound of the English _l_ is also to be avoided
by keeping the whole tongue more flat and not hollowing it out like
a spoon. The voiceless sounds [r̥] and [l̥] in [fənɛ·tr̥] _fenêtre_
and [tabl̥] _table_ can easily be deduced from what has been learned
about the voice (p. 150-151); it is necessary to guard against making
[r̥] into the vowel found at the end of English words like _mister_,
etc. The pupils will easily understand that with the correct unvoiced
pronunciation, these sounds are apt to disappear in rapid speech.
Finally we take up the sound ɲ in [kãpaɲ] _campagne_; it is explained
as lying between [nj] and [ŋ]; it is best pronounced with the point
of the tongue resting in the lower part of the mouth behind the lower
teeth, but in using the word “best” I intend to hint that it is not
strictly necessary to require this method of formation; there are also
Frenchmen who (at all events before a vowel) pronounce it like English
[nj] in _onion_.

With respect to [p, t, k], it is well known that in French they have
not the aspiration that they have in English; since the difference is
not so great, however, the English sounds may perhaps be used unchanged
in the beginning. Then if one of the pupils notices the difference,
which he perhaps will express by saying that the teacher pronounces
[b] when there stands [p] in the book, or possibly by merely trying
to imitate the teacher’s sound by means of his own English [b], his
attention may be called to the little breath which there always is
between the opening of the English [p] and the vowel itself; this is
not found in French, where the vowel after [p, t, k] comes exactly at
the same moment as the opening takes place (either by the lips or the
tongue), and therefore they sound to us like [b, d, g] (_capitaine_ as
if it were gabidɛn). Try a [p] without a vowel after it, first with a
strong breath (somewhat like when you pooh-pooh something, but without
any voice), then without any breath like a man puffing at his pipe
(about the same sound as when soap bubbles burst); and then try to
place a vowel after it[47]; it must come immediately, just as quickly
as the movements of a soldier after the drill-master’s command. Then
[t] and [k] may be taken up in the same manner.

The French division into syllables (_il a_ =i | la, _chaque écolier_
= ʃa | ke | kɔ | lje, | etc.) is best learned by pure imitation,
likewise the distribution of stress (accent); by reciting or reading
connectedly to the pupils and by always requiring them to say _the
whole sentence together without any pause_, the teacher can counteract
their tendency to pronounce each word separately in that monotone which
is intolerable. Thus _il a été ici_ is said all together in one with
the vowels gliding over into each other, _a + é_ sounding somewhat
similar to [ai] in _lie_, and _é + i_ to [ei] in _lay_.

German sounds are somewhat easier for Englishmen than French sounds,
but yet there are several points to be noticed. In the case of some
sounds, any skilled teacher will be able to follow the suggestions
given for French, mutatis mutandis; in the case of others, like the
two _ch-_ sounds, he must in an analogous manner adapt his theoretical
knowledge in phonetics to the practical needs of teaching.

Some people have found it inconsistent that I have no partiality
for didactic theorizing in questions of grammar, but myself employ
theoretical explanations in questions of phonetics. The explanation is
not far to seek. Theoretical grammar, as it is generally studied, is
more abstract, it is difficult, it is very comprehensive, and still it
does not lead to the desired goal, which is grammatical correctness;
the theory of sound which we want introduced is more concrete and it is
easy, it is more limited, and it actually leads to the desired goal,
which is a good pronunciation. This last assertion is proved by the
experiences of numerous teachers in various lands.

Of late years, it has become more and more usual in schools to use a
sound-chart in connection with the instruction in languages. On this
chart, all the sounds of the language which is being studied are
arranged in systematic order, and are indicated with such large letters
that they can be seen by the whole class; various finesses are often
used, as for instance to give the voiced and voiceless sounds different
colours.[48] I myself have not used this contrivance, but I have heard
from several foreign teachers, and now from a couple of Danish teachers
too, that they are very well satisfied with it. The teacher points to
a letter and gets either the whole class or one of the pupils to say
the corresponding sound; or the teacher may let A mention some sound
or other, and B, who is standing at the blackboard, shows that he has
caught it by repeating it and at the same time pointing at the symbol;
or if C makes a mistake in the pronunciation of a word which he is
reading (or saying) D is to point, first to the symbol for the wrong
sound, and then to the right one, etc. In this way, much writing on the
blackboard, which would otherwise be necessary, is saved; and besides,
it may be of great benefit for the pupils always to have all the sounds
in a connected system before their eyes (even if the teacher of course
never intends to examine them in the whole phonetical system of the
language as such).

The _elements of phonetical transcription_ are learned, as we have
seen, together with the corresponding sounds themselves. Now what is
the use of the phonetical transcription itself? It seems to be commonly
supposed that its votaries claim by its help to have “given the pupils
a better comprehension of the single sounds and to have taught them
more easily to produce them;” its opponents attack this assertion and
strike it down with true Quixotic zeal without stopping to think that
it has never been set up by the advocates of phonetical transcription
at all. These advocates themselves know as well as anyone what is but
natural, namely, that a boy does not of his own accord pronounce a
French nasal correctly merely because he has been shown the symbol
[ɔ̃]. The pronunciation of the single sounds must be learned in other
ways, as has been shown above, and for that purpose alone, all writing
could very well be entirely dispensed with without resulting in any
essential change in the character of the instruction. When, however, we
use phonetical transcription already at the first stage, it is partly
on account of the excellent help which it will afford later for quite
a different purpose, which I shall come to immediately, partly because
it really is of some _help_ in the teaching of the sound-formation
proper. It saves the teacher a great deal of repetition, since instead
of always saying the sound himself, he can point to the symbol and
get one of the clever pupils to say it for the others; it makes the
pupils see more clearly how many different sounds there are for them
to pay attention to (while in exclusively oral instruction, perhaps
one pupil will be inclined to hear [ɑ̃] and [ɛ̃] as one sound, another
pupil, [ɑ̃] and [ɔ̃] as one sound); finally, the homogeneousness of the
symbols will help the pupils more easily to comprehend the nature of
the sounds themselves; when they have learned to pronounce [ɔ̃], they
will get the run of all the other nasal vowels more quickly when they
see the same flourish over them all; the double parallelism in the
four symbols

  s  ʃ
  z  ʒ

will aid them in learning the corresponding relations between the
sounds themselves.

However, in order to understand the greatest and the proper value of
phonetical transcription, it is necessary to have well in mind the
fact that there are two essentially different kinds of mistakes in

A. Mistakes in the formation of the sounds, and

B. Mistakes in the employment of the sounds.

We have mistakes belonging to Class A, for instance, when Englishmen
use the _ng_ combination in place of the French nasals, or when they
diphthongize the French long, pure vowels, when they pronounce _ʃ_ or
_k_ instead of German _ch_, or [z] or [s] for German _z_ [ts], [ə·], as
in _cur_, instead of [œ·r] in French _cœur_, when they pronounce French
_dû_ like the English _due_, etc.

Mistakes belonging to Class B arise if you pronounce French _gent_
like _gant_, _peut_ like _put_, or vice versâ _eut_ like [ø], German
_frass_ or _fuss_ with a short, or _nass_ or _nuss_ with a long vowel,
_bischen_ with [ʃ], etc.

Both kinds of mistakes may occur in the same word, as when _München_ is
pronounced [minkən] or [mjuŋkən] instead of [mynçen].

The mistakes belonging to class A are not due to the orthography; those
mistakes we can also make in languages whose spelling corresponds
to the pronunciation; they are largely due to our native habits
of articulation, and they are to be counteracted by means of the
phonetical training which has been described above. If the foreign
sounds have once been well learned in the introductory course, this
kind of mistakes can only occur through carelessness or through the
lack of continued practice.

Mistakes in the employment of the sounds (class B) however, are as a
rule due to disagreement between the pronunciation and the orthography
of each language; they are not caused by our native habits of
articulation, and even those that have learned all the foreign sounds
perfectly (indeed even the natives themselves) are liable to make them
in every new word which they see written, but have never heard.

_It is this last kind of mistake that phonetical transcription helps
us to avoid_, it protects us against the mistakes which the different
national orthographies actually seduce us to make. Phonetical
transcription is necessary in the teaching of all languages, but of
course, it may deviate from the ordinary orthography in greater or
less degree in the different languages. In Finnish and Spanish, the
orthography is so nearly phonetical that only relatively few changes
are necessary in order to indicate the pronunciation; in Italian,
almost all that is needed is to indicate if _e_ and _o_ are open or
closed, if _s_ and _z_ are voiced [z, dz] or voiceless [s, ts], and
which single consonants are to be pronounced double (long). In German,
the orthography is already much more capricious, but in languages like
French, Danish, and English, the number of conflicting rules with
all their exceptions is so great that the phonetical transcription
necessarily has quite a different appearance from the traditional

Max Müller once said that the English orthography is a national
misfortune, and Viëtor has improved upon this observation by declaring
that it is an international misfortune, since it is not only Englishmen
but also all educated persons in other lands who have to be bothered
with it. Now, by means of phonetical transcription the words of the
foreign language are presented to us in a kind of normal or ideal
orthography, where every letter always signifies the same sound, and
every sound is always indicated in the same manner.

Some persons urge the objection against the use of phonetical
transcription that it can never be made so perfect that it can show
all the shades of intonation, etc., in the spoken language, so that
it cannot take the place of a teacher’s oral instruction. But we have
never maintained that it could; aside from private study without a
teacher, which must needs always be more or less imperfect, we have
always emphasized the exceedingly great importance of the teacher
pronouncing the words for the pupils, and we have not recommended
phonetical transcription as something to replace, but as something to
support, the teacher’s oral instruction in pronunciation. Even if it
misses some of the very finest shades, it may still be of benefit, just
as a table of logarithms can be very useful even if the numbers are not
carried out farther than to the fourth decimal place.

Other opponents again have exactly the reverse objection to make, that
our system of sound-symbols is too delicately detailed for school use.
Even if many people only say this because they confuse the phonetical
transcription which is used in scientific works with the far simpler
transcription which we want to introduce for school use, and which is
by no means beyond the powers of comprehension of an ordinary pupil,
still we have an answer right at hand. We are aiming at (and attaining)
greater exactness than our predecessors cared for, but this is very
necessary too, for the old school pronunciation was too unintelligible
to the native. Besides, our system is constructed on such simple
principles, that we attain to a higher degree of exactness with less
trouble than you do with far more difficult means. When mathematicians
began to designate the value of π in decimal form (3·1416) instead of
the fractional form 22/7, they not only attained greater exactness but
also greater ease in using the quantity in long calculations, since
the decimal is easier to handle than the fraction. Our phonetical
transcription may pride itself on exactly corresponding advantages.

It has already been tried in many old readers (to say nothing of the
dictionaries) to counteract the injurious influence of the orthography
on the pronunciation by means of different systems of designating the
pronunciation, such as numbers over the vowels, strokes denoting length
and curves denoting shortness, italicizing of the _s_’s which ought
to be voiced, or in other places italicizing of the silent letters,
dots and flourishes above and under the letters. All such systems,
just because they try to deviate as little as possible from the
orthography, necessarily adopt a number of its caprices and thus become
too complicated to be of any real benefit to the pupils. But the
phoneticians, by starting out from rational principles, have succeeded
in creating systems of phonetical transcription which really meet all
reasonable demands in the way of exactness and simplicity.[49] That
they really are simple and easy to learn has been proved to me more
than once in striking ways; in several schools where my books are used
but where the teacher has been afraid of the phonetical transcription,
the children have resorted to it of their own accord, when they came to
a word that they did not know how to pronounce; several parents have
also told me that they have familiarized themselves with the phonetical
transcription in the books which their children used and they did not
find it at all difficult.

Perhaps it is worth while here to consider the four ways in which it is
possible to communicate the material of a foreign language to pupils.
Either (1) the teacher may not let them use any writing at all, but
give them everything orally; or (2) he may give them the orthography
alone; or (3) he may give them orthography and phonetical transcription
together; or finally (4) he may give them phonetical transcription

(1) The first way obviously has the advantage that there is no
sound-symbol whatever to confuse the clear apprehension of the pupils;
it resembles the manner in which a child learns its mother tongue.
It will also be the more in place the more the instruction can be
brought to resemble the way in which a child first acquires language,
that is, where there is only one pupil, or at least very few; where
the pupil (pupils) is (are) not very old, and especially not yet quite
familiar with the secrets of writing; where the teacher is a native;
and above all, where there is ample time. For we must not shut our
eyes to the fact that this exclusively oral instruction in languages
takes exceedingly much time; much repetition is necessary, and the
teacher has to have great patience. In schools it is only possible to
have purely oral instruction as a short preliminary course of a couple
of months at the most, before passing over to the use of writing in
some form or other. Walter, who has tried both, is emphatically of the
opinion that in class instruction phonetical transcription is much to
be preferred to purely oral instruction, because the latter wastes an
enormous amount of time, and the teacher cannot feel nearly so sure
that the whole class is able to follow.

(2) The pupils are immediately allowed to see the traditional
orthography, and the teacher gives them the pronunciation orally. The
eternal repetition and the painful small corrections which this method
craves make the lessons bothersome for both the teacher and the pupils,
who almost always become slovenly out of sheer discouragement over the
prodigious task before them. Of course there are some rules for the
relations between orthography and pronunciation, but unfortunately
there are so few without exceptions that certainty cannot be attained
by their means.

(3) The pupils are taught the traditional spelling from the very
beginning, but at the same time they are given an antidote in the shape
of phonetical transcription, either in the form that every new word
is phonetically transcribed in the glossary, or that (in addition)
the reading selections themselves are transcribed. To be sure the
advantages of phonetical transcription are made use of by this method;
several teachers have expressed their satisfaction at the results thus
obtained, and I have no doubt that they are better than when phonetical
transcription is dispensed with. However, I am convinced that by this
method it is difficult sometimes to prevent the less intelligent pupils
from confusing the two systems of spelling, so that they neither learn
the pronunciation nor the orthography very well.

(4) Therefore I have always (like the majority of the advocates of
phonetical transcription) preferred to let beginners be employed only
with phonetical transcription for some time, so that they may become
quite familiar not only with the system of sound-symbols, but also with
a good deal of the material of the language before they pass on to
seeing the words in their orthographical shape too. The principle to be
followed here is that of not allowing the difficulties to pile up, but
overcoming them one by one. When the pupils know the symbols after the
first few lessons, it causes them no difficulty whatever to read the
texts; these themselves (together with the meaning of the words, the
grammatical forms, etc.) are therefore far more easy to learn than if
the caprices of the orthography had to be mastered _at the same time_.

For this method, connected texts in phonetical transcription are of
course necessary, but such texts are also to be recommended to those
who follow method No. 3, since there are many points of pronunciation
which cannot come up at all in the transcriptions of the single
words in the glossary, such points as appear only in combinations of
words, in connected discourse. There is, for instance, French [ə]
in _le_, _de_, _demande_, _devenir_, _quatre_, etc., etc., which is
sometimes pronounced and sometimes omitted, according to the number
of consonants coming immediately before or after the [ə]: _à devenir_
[advəni·r], _pour devenir_ [purdəvni·r], etc.; there is the varying
treatment of the English _r_; there are double forms due to the
influence of sentence-stress, such as [kæn] and [kən] (= _can_), and
many other phenomena of that kind, which it is really necessary to pay
attention to, since no sentence can be pronounced naturally without
consideration for these points, and since we cannot understand the
natives without being familiar with them[50]--for we cannot require
the French to make their language stiff and do violence to all their
natural habits of speech to suit us. Only by using connected texts in
phonetical transcription can the teacher require the pupils from the
very beginning to read the foreign language connectedly, intelligently,
and with some expression.

In conversations on the subject, I have so often had to answer the
question as to whether I also want the pupils to learn to _write_
phonetical transcription, that I must devote a few lines to that
question here too. Of course they must write phonetical transcription,
but _learn_ it--well, that is scarcely necessary, for it will not
entail the least bit of extra work or trouble for them. They learn the
symbols, and when they know them they can write any word whatever in
phonetical transcription, if they only know how to pronounce it; this
is a thing which follows of its own accord from the very nature of
phonetical transcription. Dictation, in which the pupils are to write
in phonetical transcription what the teacher says to them, presupposes
only a correct apprehension of the sounds, and is a very good test as
to whether they have heard accurately (cf. p. 95).

How long is a teacher to continue to use exclusively phonetical
transcription? That is one of the most difficult questions, and I
cannot venture to give a decided answer. The answer will surely always
depend partly upon the age and maturity of the pupils and upon how
much time can be spent upon the language on the whole. I myself have
even dared to go so far that in teaching a class in English, when I
only had two hours a week for two years before the final examination,
I spent the whole of the first year on phonetical transcription
(Sweet’s _Elementarbuch_), and I did not regret it. In French in the
lower classes, I once at least used phonetical transcription more
than a year, and the only difficulty arose when some boys came in in
the course of the year from other schools. At other times, again,
I have made the course in phonetical transcription shorter, and on
the whole I have experimented in various ways without coming to any
certain result--except this: _continue with phonetical transcription
as long as possible_. For there is relatively so much more of the
language itself learned in this way, that I have not the slightest
doubt that the pupil who, with the same number of lessons a week, and
at the same age, has read phonetical transcription for two years and
orthography for half a year knows more of the language (not only of the
pronunciation!) than the pupil who has used phonetical transcription
for half a year and thereupon orthography for two and a half years
(in all half a year more than the first boy). And then the phonetical
transcription itself is such a fine means of training the pupils
to minute exactness, because they really have to be constantly on
the lookout in order to read neither more nor less than each symbol
indicates; therefore I attach great _educational_ significance to
phonetical transcription.

But of course we have to begin to learn the orthography some time;
and I suppose it is this transition more than anything else that has
frightened people away from using phonetical transcription, because
they imagine that it must be extremely difficult. But now all those
who have dared to try phonetical transcription unanimously declare
that they were surprised at the ease with which the transition took
place; there was no trouble worth mentioning either for the teacher
or the pupils; and they were surprised at the accuracy in orthography
displayed by pupils who had been taught in this way. The psychological
reason for this is probably to be found in the sharper perception
which these pupils necessarily get of the difference between sound
and writing, together with the fact that they are not compelled like
the others to learn many things at a time (spelling, pronunciation,
meaning, inflection), but the orthography is separated out as something
which is to be learned by itself about words with whose pronunciation
and meaning they have already become quite familiar.

The best way of making the transition seems to be in going over some
of the selections which have already been read and learned. First,
the teacher says a few words about orthography in general, basing
his remarks on English spelling; he may call attention to the silent
letters in _night_, _know_, the ambiguity of the vowels in _home_,
_honest_, etc. Then a French piece the pupils know already is shown to
them in orthographical dress; it is gone through word by word in such
a way that the pupils themselves may be guided to find out the most
important relations between the letters and their sound-values. Here
they for the first time have something to do with the accents and the
cedilla, whose name they learn.[51]

In the following lessons the comparison between spelling and sound
is conducted in the same manner as indicated above for grammatical
observations; sometimes starting from a certain sound, the students may
point out all the words in which it occurs on a page or so; sometimes
starting from the orthography, they may note and classify all the
phonetical values of a certain letter. A few lessons will be sufficient
for these preliminaries.

Ought the teacher to require the pupils to learn the orthography from
the very beginning, that is, ought he to examine them in spelling
or let them write dictation? No--that is not generally the practice
according to the non-phonetical method either. First let them become
accustomed to seeing the spelling, and in the exercises just suggested
let them copy out of the book; later on they may be required to learn
how to spell the words in the first line of every lesson, and in the
course of a few months the pupils will be just as much at home in their
French and German orthography as any pedant could require--and much
more at home than they generally are now after a long time.[52]

Phonetical transcription ought by no means to be given up on beginning
with the orthography: it is too good an aid to be dispensed with at
this point. Not only ought whole pieces to be read, occasionally
at least, in phonetical transcription, but it ought to be used in
connection with all new words (thus especially in the glossary) in
order to prevent all guesswork. Thereby is also obtained another
important result at a later stage, namely, the teacher may be
_just as strict in requiring the pronunciation to be learned as the
meaning_, whereas without phonetical transcription he cannot expect
the pronunciation to be prepared at home. By steadily keeping up
their practice in transposing phonetical transcription into practical
pronunciation the pupils have something of value for their whole life,
for, when they no longer have a teacher to ask about the pronunciation
of a new word, they can obtain information about it themselves. That
which was only a few years ago a possibility reserved for the distant
future, namely, that all French and English dictionaries should give
the pronunciation according to rational principles, is now, as we know,
well under way to become a reality at any time.[53]

The use of phonetics and phonetical transcription in the teaching
of modern languages must be considered as one of the most important
advances in modern pedagogy, because it ensures both considerable
facilitation and an exceedingly large gain in exactness. But these
means must be employed immediately from the very beginning; just
as easy as it is to get a good pronunciation in this way, just as
difficult is it to root out the bad habits which may become inveterate
during a very short period of instruction according to a wrong or
antiquated method. Timotheus, an old well-known music-teacher, used
to demand double payment of all those pupils who had taken instruction
with other teachers before they came to him; the reason that he gave
was that he had much more trouble in teaching these pupils than those
who had not already acquired bad habits for him to break them of. Go ye
and do likewise, ye teachers of languages!

I shall add a few words on the use of the phonograph. The apparatus
has been very much perfected of late years and renders beautifully
most vowels and all the general features of stress, intonation, etc.
But the rendering of most consonants is still far from perfect; you
cannot always tell whether you hear a _p_ or an _f_, etc., and it
is impossible to rely on a phonographic record for minute shades of
_s_-sounds and the like. It is clear, too, that even if the apparatus
were nearer the ideal than it is now, it could not replace the teacher.
But in the hands of an able teacher I have no doubt that it will prove
a valuable help: it is patient and will repeat the same sentences
scores of times, if required, without tiring or changing a single sound
or intonation; you may also have different records of the same short
piece as pronounced by one man from Berlin, another man from Hanover, a
third from Munich, and a fourth from Vienna, which may be very useful
for comparisons, even if, as a matter of course, in your ordinary
teaching you stick to one particular standard of pronunciation--and in
various other ways phonographic records may be used to stimulate the
pupils. But everything they hear in this way should at the same time
be presented to them in phonetic writing--either in their readers or
on the blackboard. Perhaps, at some future day, the “telegraphone”
invented by my countryman V. Poulsen will supplant Edison’s phonograph
in this as well as in other respects.


[38] Greek could just as well be read with Latin letters, for they are
almost as much like the letters which Demosthenes used as the late
black-letters are which we print as Greek.

[39] A dot after the letter and above the line is the best indication
of length. _a_ is here taken phonetically, the vowel in _arm_.

[40] A hand-mirror is a useful thing to have in these preliminary
phonetical exercises. In several places, the teacher requires each
pupil to bring his own along.

[41] Here also the experiment in hearing the voice distinctly by
holding the hands flat against the ears.

[42] I have often also conducted the exercise in such a way that the
class had to voice the sound when I raised my hand, and unvoice it when
I lowered my hand; thus I have made them articulate fffvvvffvvvff,
ssszzsss, etc., without any pauses.

[43] That I am not exaggerating (as people certainly will suspect in
about ten years from now), I could easily prove by means of a long
series of opinions from pedagogical meetings, articles in pedagogical
periodicals, newspaper reviews, etc.

[44] I have sometimes made the introduction longer, sometimes shorter
than here indicated; some teachers make it more complete, so that they
get a whole system of sounds tabulated before they pass on to the

[45] But stopped consonants, like _p_, _t_, _k_, are exceptions to
these instructions to isolate the sounds--every phonetician knows the
reason why. They should be uttered with a vowel before and one after,
e.g. _ata_.

[46] With the exception of the vowels [a·] in _alms_, [ɔ·] in _war_,
and [ə·] in _sir_.

[47] This method of procedure follows in the main the suggestions of

[48] If the teacher does not care to prepare such charts himself, he
can use Viëtor’s Lauttafeln.

[49] Besides, the different systems of modern phoneticians all resemble
each other very much--far more than did the earlier arbitrary methods
of designating the pronunciation (for instance, Walker’s, Flügel’s,
Toussaint-Langenscheidt’s, Tanger’s, etc.). Any one who has learned
Sweet’s phonetical transcription can easily read Passy’s or my own, and
vice versâ; the differences are hardly worth speaking of.

[50] I remember a lady’s dismay when a Frenchman used the combination
[stane] in a sentence; she could not understand the sentence until I
repeated it, inserting [sɛtane]. “O well,” she rejoined, “if he had
only said [sɛtane]; we always said it that way in school.” (_Cette

[51] The use of the French or German names of the letters of the
alphabet when words are being spelled in English is merely affectation,
and deserves only a shrug of the shoulders, especially since, as a
rule, it is not consistently carried through, but is applied only to
some few letters, _y_ being called [igræk] or _ypsilon_, _ch_, [seaʃ]
or [tseha], according to circumstances, and this in the midst of other
letters which are allowed to retain their English names with diphthongs
and everything. It is quite a different thing when the teaching is
wholly conducted in the foreign language; then it is necessary to
practise the foreign names of the letters, but then it must be carried
through consistently.

[52] Wer jemals in der schule die lautschrift als hilfsmittel zur
erzielung einer besseren aussprache benutzt hat, der weiss, welcher
nutzen aus ihr entspringt; der weiss aber auch, dass der schaden,
welchen sie bezüglich der orthographie anrichten kann, sich nur auf
wenige wochen erstreckt und äusserst gering ist, _jedenfalls viel
geringer als der schaden, welchen eine schlechte aussprache in der
orthographie anrichtet_. H. P. Junker, _Die neueren sprachen_, v. 99.

[53] See especially Murray, Bradley, and Craigie’s _New English
Dictionary_, A. Schröer’s edition of Grieb’s _Englisch-deutsches
wörterbuch_, and Rangel-Nielsen’s _Fransk-danske ordbog_. I am myself
transcribing the English words in Brynildsen’s _Engelsk-dansk-norske
ordbog_, two-thirds of which have already appeared. Edgren’s French
Dictionary should perhaps also be mentioned, but I have never seen it


Like most works on pedagogy, this one too has been mostly concerned
with the teaching of beginners. But now and then there has been a word
about the instruction of advanced pupils, and now I shall add a few
more suggestions about it. It is best to continue on the same lines as
during the first years, only making those changes which circumstances
necessarily demand.

The pupils must _read_--read more and more, read better and better
books, books whose contents are of a nature to hold their attention
and to give them as much all round information and development as
possible--accordingly, as has been previously suggested, not solely
works of literature. That sort of reading is especially good which
gives the pupils some insight into the foreign nation’s peculiarity in
the widest sense of the word, and best of all is that reading which
is apt to make the pupils love what is best in the foreign people.
Tennyson is right when he says, “It is the authors, more than the
diplomats, who make nations love one another”;[54] and teachers of
modern languages should ever remember that it is their mission to make
their countrymen know and understand foreign nations. By making their
pupils read good literature as well as by capacitating the younger
generations of different countries for intelligent intercourse with
one another, language-teachers all over the world may ultimately prove
more efficacious in establishing good permanent relations between the
nations than Peace Congresses at the Hague.

Some reading must be taken thoroughly, some may be _cursory_; it is
perhaps best to have several gradations. Whereas in the beginning it is
necessary to chew well in order to get all the linguistic nourishment
out of the reading, later on it may of course be taken in larger and
larger bites. Already rather early in the course of instruction, those
pieces may be more lightly passed over whose contents are scarcely
fit to be taken too seriously or which contain words which it is not
absolutely necessary to remember. The teacher may simply let the
pupils read such pieces aloud, explaining every word which they do
not understand, but without basing any questions on them, and without
requiring them to be studied for the next time. Later on, in the
midst of more serious work, a month or two may be taken for reading
a light novel through in the same easy manner. The pupils may also
have private reading to do at home in addition to what they read in
school. The teacher that I had in French and English in the upper
classes in Frederiksborg School (H. Mathiesen) had an excellent way
of making us desire of our own accord to read novels in the language
studied; each one of us was ambitious to give in the longest list of
volumes read when the teacher called for the lists at the first lesson
in every month, and even if we of course read very rapidly and never
looked up any words, yet we learned a good deal, and I consider the
habit of reading which I thus acquired to be one of the most valuable
acquisitions that I got during my last years in school. In order to
test whether we really had read the books as stated, our teacher
sometimes talked to us about their contents, but he talked in Danish,
sometimes he only made us open the books at random and translate a
little piece. It is no doubt better to organize this practice, as it
is now done in some parts of Germany, where the whole class reads the
same book at home and must have read a certain amount by a certain day
(after a fortnight’s or a month’s interval). Then they must be able
to give an account of the contents in the foreign language, must also
ask each other questions about the book, and may even occasionally
be required to write down the contents as a written exercise; after
the teacher has looked through these accounts, the pupils may deliver
them orally and more freely, and this will give occasion for further
conversation--all in the foreign language.

Most important, however, is the reading which is done _thoroughly_,
so thoroughly that the pupils completely master both contents and
language, and which therefore in both these respects ought to be as
good as possible. In exercises with questions and answers, the contents
naturally play an important part, and even if the pupils feel it is
one aim, and a very important one, to acquire skill in the language,
yet this aim is not always directly kept in view as such; neither does
a child talk in order to practise using its mother-tongue, but in
order to get some information and in order to communicate itself to
others--and thereby it learns the language. This feeling of reality
becomes more and more prominent as the pupils become more advanced; in
the conversations, the pupils show directly, that they understand the
contents, indirectly that they understand the language.

The pupils must _talk_--about what they have read, and that the
talks are not mere farces with conventional “parleur” phrases, as
our opponents would like to make out, I hope that I have shown
sufficiently well.[55] When a certain teacher wrote somewhere that
all the conversation that there is time for consists of the following
five questions, which are asked of the monitor (and only of him) at
the beginning of every lesson: “Who is the monitor? What date is it
to-day? What day of the week is it? Who is absent? What have you
prepared for to-day?”, and that he owes it to the truth to confess that
it is only the minority of the pupils who at the end of the year are
able to answer these questions correctly without hesitation, then this
deplorable result is primarily due to the fewness of the questions; he
who only gets the tip of his finger dipped in the water three times
in twenty weeks will never learn how to swim. It is secondarily due
to the fact that the questions are stereotyped and have no connection
with what the class is reading. Furthermore this same teacher says
that he generally cannot spend more than a few minutes of each lesson
on these “elementary exercises,” since the reading, translation and
grammar requires the rest of the time, in the middle classes, indeed,
all the time, so that at this stage there is no time at all for any
conversation. But if the talks are used for interpreting the text, two
big birds are killed with one stone, and then it will soon be seen
that skill in speaking increases like wealth; if you have only reached
a certain point, the rest comes of its own accord; the accumulated
capital multiplies surprisingly fast and willingly.

The pupils must _write_--original papers in the foreign language, not
translations--that is, the form of language used must be as little as
possible suggested by English turns of expression. But the subject
must be concrete and limited. The chief danger that there may be in
such original written exercises, namely that the pupils avoid all the
difficulties and only use a slender supply of expressions, which they
feel sure of, this danger is greater the vaguer or more comprehensive
the subject is. For instance, it is best not to give broad literary
subjects, such as “Die romantische schule,” etc. A more limited subject
is far better, both as an exercise and as a test; for instance, an
account of a little anecdote or of the newspaper report of some event,
which the teacher has read to the class; a description of what is to
be seen on a picture, a renarration of some episode in the novel or
in the historical selection which is being read in class, possibly in
the form of a letter;[56] a summing up of everything relating to one
of the characters in the text read; a review of the line of thought in
(a section of) some essay which has been read; a paraphrase of some
poem. Still more limited are such exercises in which a certain number
of questions have to be answered, or such exercises in the use of
synonymous words and expressions as have been described on p. 139.

       *       *       *       *       *

But can such a method of instruction as has here been described
really be carried out under existing circumstances? Are there not
obstacles to be encountered on every hand? Yes; unfortunately there
are things which stand in the way and make a good deal of trouble, but
luckily they do not make it quite impossible for the new system to be
used. As hindrances may be mentioned the shortness of the time, the
apportionment of the time, the examinations, the teachers.

The _time_ which is now set apart for modern languages is too
brief. Therefore all teachers of modern languages ought to unite,
and, together with all the parents who are dissatisfied with the
arrangements in our grammar schools (and they are not few), they
ought to agitate for the removal of that burden which weighs heavily
on the school and which prevents the growing generation from getting
an education which can meet the urgent demands of our times, I mean,
the school must be delivered from the classical languages; then there
will be air and space for all that is now shoved into the background,
among other things the modern foreign languages.[57] But--even in the
scanty time which is now at disposal, there is much that can be done
differently and better than hitherto, and the more the teachers in
modern languages show this, and the more they can keep out of the old
jogtrot way, the more will their subject be respected, and the more
willingness will there be to extend the time when future reforms demand

The _apportionment_ of the time is poor. When will people finally
realize that everything cannot be learned at once? Many subjects, and
with so few hours a week for each that the pupils forget what they have
learned from one lesson to the next--that is a frightful waste of time.

No, learn a few things or one thing at a time, learn everything
well and learn it to the end before passing on to the next.[58] And
especially with respect to languages, there can be no doubt that it is
best to take them up one after the other, not side by side; to every
language that is taken up should be devoted many hours a week, and as
a rule two years ought to be allowed to pass before commencing a new
language; then the first is so firmly rooted in the minds of the pupils
that merely a very few lessons a week will be sufficient for keeping
it up and extending it,[59] and then the two languages do not injure
each other nearly as much as if they were studied side by side before
the pupils have mastered either one of them. As to the question at what
age the children ought to begin to learn foreign languages, I dare
not express any decided opinion; I think I should be afraid to begin
too early rather than too late; first let the mother tongue have time
enough to take a firm and lasting hold of the child’s mind before other
languages are admitted.

The worst canker in our school-system[60] is the _examinations_.
Everything is arranged with a view to examinations; the parents,
the children, and unfortunately also a number of the teachers care
for nothing but the results attained in the examinations; the daily
instruction is left to shift for itself, but the authorities will take
ample care to guard against the least bit of negligence which might be
shown by the examiners.

Examinations compel the teachers to lay undue stress on cramming. “Cram
may be defined as the accumulation of undigested facts and second-hand
theories to be reproduced on paper, handed in to the examiner, and
then forgotten for ever. A crammed examinee differs from a crammed
Strasburg goose in not assimilating his nutriment, and this would be a
real advantage were it not that the process leaves him with a nauseated
appetite, enfeebled reasoning powers, though abnormally enlarged
memory, and a general distaste for disinterested study.”[61]

Examinations cause the mental and physical ruin of many more young men
than we can afford. As a test of what a young man is worth in life, an
examination is without any value whatever; as a test of how much really
valuable knowledge he has, it is not worth much; and even as a test of
how much he knows of what happens to be asked him on such an occasion,
an examination is not nearly as reliable as people like to imagine.[62]
And then examinations tend in so many ways to impede instruction
which would otherwise be really profitable. The question “will that
be required for the examination?” is always, either consciously or
unconsciously, present in the schoolroom; it smothers the teacher’s
enthusiasm for communicating to his pupils what interests himself most;
and it discourages the pupils’ natural thirst for knowledge for its own
sake. Just before the examinations, the whole school is seized with its
yearly attack of its chronic examination-catarrh. In all departments,
it is considered necessary to recapitulate for examinations; for a
couple of months, the pupils are transformed into mental ruminants;
they receive no new mental sustenance whatever, but have to be
satisfied with going through the whole year’s work once or twice more
at as rapid a pace as possible. The matter which they have been given
does not become more savoury on being served again; all the juice and
strength, all that makes it tempting is lost, and nothing remains but
what is toughest and dryest.

But even if there is much fault to be found with the system of
examinations, yet it is not necessary to reform that before we can
begin to improve the instruction. The examination requirements are
not so great that we cannot meet them even if we do not from the very
beginning plan all our instruction exactly with them in view. Although
the chief stress in the examination may be laid on the translation
and not on speaking, yet that is no reason why the latter should be
entirely dispensed with. If by a _receptive_ command of a foreign
language is meant the ability to understand it, and by a _productive_
command, the power to express oneself in the language, then I am fully
convinced that anyone who merely concerns himself with the receptive
side of it injures himself and acquires far less ability to understand
it than if he had from the very beginning also aimed at a productive
command of the language. Therefore our all round exercises will give
our pupils at least just as much receptive knowledge of the language
as is attained by the pupils of others; and even if it is rather
provoking for a teacher who has taken a good deal of trouble to teach
his pupils to speak to see that this counts for little or nothing at
the examination, he can comfort himself with a good conscience at any
rate--beside the pleasure which he and his pupils have had in their
daily work together.

Nor ought any consideration for examinations to prevent anyone from the
best kind of recapitulation, which is, not to wait until the approach
of examinations, when much that has been read is forgotten, so that the
teacher has to be on the lookout all the time to make sure that the
pupils understand everything, but to take it up while the matter is
still fresh in the memory, so that it is not necessary to sound the
pupils on every little point. Every chapter ought to be revised when
it is finished, and every section or book ought to be gone over as a
whole. Then the thoughts which were formerly occupied with details may
be turned to the connected whole, and since the work can be conducted
in the form of almost uninterrupted intelligent reading aloud, the
pupils will be enabled to get approximately the same impression and
the same enjoyment out of the matter read as a native gets.[63] If the
reading has thus been gone over a section at a time at each natural
break, it will be seen at the examination that these short revisions
distributed throughout the year are more advantageous than a long,
tedious recapitulation just before the examination, and besides the
pupils have been kept fresh by reading something new up to the very end.

As the last possible impediment in the way of the reform method,
I mentioned the _teachers_. Those times are now past when it was
considered sufficient for a teacher of modern languages to have taken a
degree in law or theology--to have studied Tacitus and Plato, and then
by way of amusement to have read by himself a few volumes of _Revue
des deux mondes_ or some novels by Cherbuliez and Freytag. But even
the younger generation of teachers who are better prepared will very
often find that it is not so very easy to give good instruction in
modern languages. It is a shame how little is done to give high-school
teachers opportunities for further improvement; they ought to have
abundant access to courses in advanced work, but especially to many
and liberal travelling scholarships, so that no conscientious teacher
in foreign languages need do without a tolerably long stay among the
people whose language he (she) teaches. Poor pay and long hours, too,
naturally lead to a teacher’s looking merely to examination results.

But still I continue to hope that more and more teachers will avoid
the old rut, and they will surely find that it pays to get out of
it, even if, especially in the beginning, they have to expend more
time and energy on their teaching, and on their preparation for every
lesson, in order to meet the greater demands of the new methods. In
Germany and the Scandinavian countries, exceedingly great efforts are
being made to reform the instruction in languages; in Norway, much of
what has been recommended in this book has even been adopted in the
official school-plans issued in 1897;[64] and fortunately the movement
is also on the way to becoming strong in England. If this book by
a foreigner can contribute ever so little to the encouragement and
support of English language-teachers in their zealous and able efforts
to introduce newer and better methods, then I am glad to have been
enabled in this manner to pay off a little of the debt that I owe to
England and to many Englishmen.

In closing let me try to sum up. The old-fashioned disconnected
sentences proved to be a failure for many reasons, and one reason
was because there was nothing else to do with them but to translate
them. They could arouse no interest; they could not even be read aloud
intelligently; they could not be remembered in that definite form which
they happened to have, so they could not be used as patterns for the
construction of other sentences; therefore the rules of the grammar,
which was committed to memory, came to play such an important part. It
all became monotonous and lifeless.

Our method tries to employ many means which mutually support each
other. The pronunciation is not learned merely by the teacher’s saying
the word and the pupils repeating it, or by the pupil’s guessing at
it through the orthography and the teacher’s correcting him. The
latter plan we reject entirely; the former, however, we use even to a
larger extent than before, and we adopt in addition to it a rational
description and indication of sounds. The improved pronunciation thus
acquired also helps in a high degree in the acquiring of the other
(signification) side of the language. Where formerly there was no other
way of communicating the meaning of words but through translation, we
have in addition thereto direct and indirect observation, explanations
in the foreign language, etc. Where the pupils formerly had to
commit to memory paradigms, rigmaroles and rules, which all had to
be taken on faith, we let them investigate for themselves and thus
get an insight into the construction of the language. And whereas
formerly the only exercises were translation from the mother tongue
into the foreign language, we now have a whole scale of varying
exercises, namely: direct reproduction (repetition of the teacher’s
words; answers to questions which are based directly upon the words
of the book)--modified reproduction (repetition of sentences with
changes of tense, person, etc.; answers to freer questions; asking
of questions)--free reproduction (renarration) and finally--free
production (letters, etc.). And since there is a sensible meaning in
all that is read or said or done, the interest is awakened and held,
and the instruction becomes not only varied, but what especially
beseems living languages, it becomes in the deepest and best sense of
the word really _living_.


[54] Alfred Lord Tennyson: a Memoir by his Son. (Tauchnitz ed., IV. p.

[55] Those who have their doubts may also read the accounts given by
natives who have visited German schools where the instruction was
conducted according to the reformed system, and who have had long talks
with the pupils, in Walter, _Englisch nach dem Frankfurter reformplan_,
pp. 152-165, and Miss Brebner, _The Method of Teaching_, etc.

[56] The letter-form is on the whole that form of composition which
most persons have most use for, and which therefore ought to be
practised most frequently. The international students’ letter-exchange,
which has just been started a few years ago, will be of great
benefit--for those who happen to get good correspondents and who
themselves are not afraid of taking a little trouble.

[57] But of course the mother-tongue too; the study of nature, plants,
animals, the human race; drawing and manual work, out-door life.

[58] An eloquent recommendation of this principle is to be found in v.
Pfeil’s previously mentioned work “Eins,” but the same thought is also
gaining ground elsewhere.

[59] Lessons which may be devoted not only to the language itself, but
also to the acquisition of useful information in other departments
as well; why not learn the geography and history of France in French
during the French lessons, etc.

[60] I am here speaking of the Danish school-system, but I have a
suspicion that this canker is not unknown in other countries.

[61] A. H. Sayce, _Fortnightly Review_, June 1875.

[62] A certificate from the school would be quite sufficient, if the
instruction was under good control during the year.

[63] It has been previously suggested that various exercises in
linguistic observation and classification may be given in connection
with the revision, and that by means of such exercises the revision may
be masked, as it were, and thus receive some of the fresh interest that
attaches to something new.

[64] Similarly now in France.


  M. BRÉAL, _De l’enseignement des langues vivantes_. Paris 1893.

  M. BREBNER, _The Method of Teaching Modern Languages in Germany_.
  London 1898.

  K. BREUL, _The Teaching of Modern Foreign Languages_. Cambridge 1898.

  H. BREYMANN, _Die neusprachliche Reform-litteratur_. Leipz. 1895.

  F. FRANKE, _Die praktische Spracherlernung auf Grund der Psychologie
  und der Physiologie der Sprache_. 3. Aufl. Leipzig 1896.

  OTTO JESPERSEN, _Fransk Begynderbog_. 3. Udg. Copenhagen 1901.

  ---- _Kortfattet engelsk Grammatik_. 4. Udg. Copenh. 1903.

  ---- _The England and America Reader_. Copenh. 1903.

  ---- _Fonetik_. Copenhagen 1897-99.

  ---- _Lehrbuch der Phonetik_. Leipzig 1904.

  O. JESPERSEN and CHR. SARAUW, _Engelsk Begynderbog_, I. and II. 3.
  Udg. Copenhagen 1902, 1903.

  H. KLINGHARDT, _Ein Jahr Erfahrungen mit der neuen Methode_. Marb.

  ---- _Drei weitere Jahre Erfahrungen_. Marb. 1892.

  P. PASSY, _La méthode directe dans l’enseignement des langues
  vivantes_. Paris 1899.

  K. QUIEHL, _Französische Aussprache und Sprachfertigkeit._ 3. Aufl.
  Marburg 1899.

  J. STORM, _Om en forbedret Undervisning i levende Sprog._ Norske
  universitets- og skoleannaler II.

  H. SWEET, _The Practical Study of Languages_. London 1899.

  W. VIËTOR, _Der Sprachunterricht muss umkehren_. 2. Aufl. Heilbronn

  M. WALTER, _Englisch nach dem Frankfurter Reformplan_. Marburg 1900.

  W. H. WIDGERY, _The Teaching of Languages in School_. 2. ed. London

Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London.

Transcriber's Note

The following apparent errors have been corrected:

p. 19 "go," changed to "go,”"

p. 28 "chose" changed to "choose"

p. 48 "translalation" changed to "translation"

p. 52 "he is" changed to "‘he is"

p. 75 "saver" changed to "savez"

p. 76 "vout" changed to "vont"

p. 88 "“Eins," Beiträge zur erziehung im hause" changed to "“Eins,
Beiträge zur erziehung im hause"

p. 99 "rule-of three" changed to "rule-of-three"

p. 101 "paté" changed to "pâté"

p. 110 "follow" changed to "following"

p. 110 "conciously" changed to "consciously"

p. 111 "now now" changed to "now"

p. 144 "thingis" changed to "thing is"

p. 147 "mouth" changed to "mouth."

p. 158 "ɔ̃]" changed to "[ɔ̃]"

p. 158 "questions" changed to "questions)"

p. 160 "suggestions o" changed to "suggestions of"

p. 167 "with with" changed to "with"

p. 170 "(3)." changed to "(3)"

p. 171 "_le_ _de_" changed to "_le_, _de_"

p. 174 "thep upils" changed to "the pupils"

p. 194 "Sprachfertigkeit" changed to "Sprachfertigkeit."

p. 194 "Sprog" changed to "Sprog."

Spelling and punctuation have otherwise been kept as printed.

The following are used inconsistently in the text:

classmates and class-mates

everyday and every-day

mother tongue and mother-tongue

notebook and note-book

retell and re-tell

schoolbooks and school-books

schooldays and school-days

schoolroom and school-room

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