James Pyle Wickersham.

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2. The study of Latin and Greek assists in under-
standing the Character of the People who spoke them. —
The chai-acter of the Greeks and Romans is well



worthy our study. Few nations have done so much
that will live in History. The language of a people
is closely related to its thought. In its languge, as
in a mirror, is reflected back an image of what a
nation has thought and felt. ]^ot even in the re-
mains of their Sculpture and Painting, not even in
their stupendous ruins, their Parthenons and their
Colosseums, do the people of Greece and Eome
represent themselves so perfectly as in the Poems,
the Orations, the Histories and the Dramas, that
have been preserved from the general destruction
that overwhelmed them. Their noble languages
are the richest legacy they could have left us, for in
their study we may learn to sympathize with the
master-spirits of the past, catch some of their inspira-
tion, and commune with the sentiment which they
embalmed in words that remain fresh midst the
lapse of centuries.

3. The study of the Latin and CrreeJc assists in ob-
taining a Knowledge of the History of the Romans and
Greeks. — There were both Greek and Roman His-
torians of great celebrity, i^o translation can do
them justice. They must be read to be appreciated.
Besides, what these classic nations of antiquity ac-
complished best appears in the works of their Poets,
Orators, Dramatists, and Philosophers ; and no one
has ever acquired the ability to read these books
that did not acknowledge himself amply repaid for
all his time and trouble.

4. The study of Latin and Greek furnishes very
good Intellectual Discipline. — A recitation in Latin or


Greek, when well conclucted, gives exercise to the
memory, the judgment, and the reason. IS^o better
culture for the intellectual faculties can be found
than that which comes from making nice discrimina-
tions between the meaning of words ; carefully com-
paring constructions ; earnestly searching the under-
lying thought in one language and the fit words to
express it in another ; and closely studying the
modifications and relations amoi^g words, phrases,
and clauses. It is not maintained that there are not
other valuable means of intellectual discipline. The
polished Greek himself probably obtained his cul-
ture without the study of language other than his
own. But it is claimed that the disciplinary advan-
tages of the study of Latin and Greek have stood
the test of centuries, and nothing has been found
that can be safely used to supercede them. The
amount of practical knowledge gained from the
study of the Classics may not be equal to that which
can be gained in the same time from other sources ;
but the grand end of study is to increase mental
power, to give general efiiciency ; and no way has
been found better suited to the ac(?omplishment of
this end than the thorough study of the noble
languages of Greece and Rome.

5. The study of Latin and Greek furnishes fine
j^sthetic Culture. — l^o one can enter into the spirit
of the classic authors without experiencing a refine-
ment of his taste, and a more exalted flow of im-
agination. Relieved of whatever might have been
gross, through the pages of Homer and Plato,
Yirgil and Cicero, the classic lands of Greece and


Home reveal themselves to tlie student as pictures
of surpassing beauty. They become liis beau-icleals.
He rises up from the sphere of the sensual as he
contemplates them, and revels amid the ideal beau-
ties of a world of purer thought and nobler senti-
ment. The classic scholar is known by his nice
discriminations, his exact taste, his true sense of the
beautiful, his lofty aspirations, his responsive thrill
of emotion in witnessing whatever is manly and
right in human conduct.

Several different methods of teaching Latin and
Greek have been practiced. Before attempting a
classification or an exposition of them, it will be
well to determine the definite ends for which these
lano-uao-es should be studied.

Latin and Greek are not now studied for the pur-
pose of acquiring ability to speak and write them.
There was a time in the history of the principal
countries of Europe when books were generally
written in Latin, and the deliberations of ecclesi-
astical councils and learned assemblies were carried
on in the same language ; but that day has passed
never to return. There were during the same
period, and perhaps later, institutions of learning
that required their students to dress up their poor
ideas in the stately flow of what was meant for
Ciceronian eloquence. Cicero's forms of expression,
his very words, were committed with great labor
and then servilely imitated. But even if this efibrt
to acquire the ability to speak and write Latin was
proper then, it is so no longer. Luleed, it is gener-
ally admitted by critics that no other than a Eoman


ever mastered the Latin language so perfectly as to
speak and write it like Cicero or Yirgil ; and what
Lipsius, Scaliger, and Milton, after many years of
study, and with more inducements than exist at
present, failed to accomplish, it is scarcely worth
while for others, less gifted, and enjo^dng fewer
advantages for such study, to undertake. Exer-
cises in Latin and Greek composition are required
wherever these languages are taught, but mainly
for the purpose of fixing in the pupil's mind Gram-
matical forms and constructions. It is well known
that the poems and orations written in Latin and
Greek, and sometimes delivered at our college
commencements, are at best but poor imitations.
Besides, if ability to speak and write Latin and
Greek with classic elegance could be acquired, the
time and labor would be misspent. The Dead Lan-
guages, therefore, are not studied for the purpose
of acquiring ability to speak and write them.

The purpose for which the Latin and Greek are
studied, is to be able to read them, to obtain the
rich stores of knowledge which they lock up, and
to secure the disciplinary advantages which may be
derived from their study. To accomplish these
ends, spoken and written exercises may be used
as means, but not as ends themselves.

If these views are true, it follows that the Dead
Languages must be taught in a manner quite differ-
ent from that applicable to Living Foreign Lan-
guages, inasmuch as the main purpose in learning
the latter, is to acquire ability to speak and write

With a distinct object in view which is intended



to be accomplished by the study of Latin and Greek,
it will be more easy to classify and define the
methods by which that object can be attained.

With respect to our Mother-tongue, we first learn
to speak it, next we acquire the power to read it,
and finally study to know the laws which govern
its forms and constructions. Pupils learning a Dead
Language, may commence at any one of these points ;
and, hence, there may be three general methods of
teaching such a language. These methods may be
called, respectively : 1st, The method that commences
hy teaching pupils to speak the language; 2d, The
method that commences hy teaching pupils to read the
language; and, 3d, The method that commences hy
teaching pupils the Cframmar of the language. There
have been practiced many particular methods, some-
times named after the teachers who used them ; but
I think it will be found that all of them are embraced
in the preceding classification.

1. The llethod that commences hy teaching Pupils to
speak Latin or Greek. — A native language is learned
by associating certain verbal utterances with things
or ideas. The child in learning to talk first hears
particular names applied to particular things, forms
an association between the names and the things,
and finally, acquires the power of imitating the
names. The children of Rome and Greece found
no more difficulty in learning to speak Latin and
Greek than English children do in learning English.
If children now anywhere could hear these languages
spoken, they could readily learn them. The cele-
brated Montaigne had a private tutor who spoke no


language in his hearing but Latin, and he learned
to speak and read that language with considerable
facility by the time he was seven years of age. At
the present day, it is impracticable to study the
Dead Languages in this way ; and, if otherwise, it
has been shown elsewhere that it would require the
sacrifice of a great amount of time and labor to do so.

2. The Method that commences hy teaching Pupils to
read Latin or Greeh. — Some teachers have taught
their pupils to read the Dead Languages by having
them read, first words, next simple sentences, after-
wards sentences more difficult, and finally general
discourse. Of course the meaning of the words
must be learned either from the teacher or the
book. This is substantially the method by which
children learn to read their vernacular language ;
and, while it is admitted that the method can be
applied to any language, it is denied that it would
furnish that intimate acquaintance with the nature
of the language studied, and that higher intellectual
and sesthetic culture which is the main end of classi-
cal study. If it be said that a knowledge of Latin
or Greek Grammar can be obtained after learning
to read those languages, it may be replie<i that
in such a case the reading of authors must be very
superficial, a second reading after the study of the
Grammar would have to follow the first, and the
whole work would require much unnecessary time
and labor.

Some teachers, too, instead of commencing with
words, place in the hands of their pupils an easy,
classical author, accompanied with a literal, inter-


linear translatioi]i, and expect them by this means
to learn the meaning of words, the construction of
sentences, and finally the sense of what they read.
It is claimed that Hamilton and others had great
success in teaching Latin according to this method ;
but it is evident that the same objections apply to
it as to the preceding method. It may be a speedy
way of acquiring the ability to read a language
superficially, but it cannot be the best method of
obtaining a thorough knowledge of it.

Other teachers select sentences from which par-
ticular Grammatical forms or principles can be de-
duced, teach their pupils to read them, and make
them draw the required inferences and learn them
in the form usually found in Grammar books. This
method is Analytical, and as applied to one's native
language, the best ; but in regard to the study of
the Dead Languages, it is defective in supposing the
pupil can have a form of words or a sentence in his
mind which he so well understands as to be able to
anatyze it. A Latin or a Greek sentence is at first
wholly unintelligible to a learner, and its meaning
can only be determined by the Lexicographic and
Grammatical explanation of the single words wdiich
compose it. The meaning of each word in a sentence
must be learned separately, and then in its relations
to the other w^orcls with which it is used, before
a clear idea of the meaning of the whole can be
obtained. In teaching a language spoken by the
learners, the method must be analytical; but in
teaching one which they cannot speak, the method
must be at first synthetical. A teacher of Latin
and Greek must therefore begin with words ; and


in connection with an explanation of their meaning,
he will find it greatly promotive of his object, if he
acquaint his pupils with various Etymological forms
which distinguish them as individual words, and the
various Syntactical law^s which control their place
and relations in sentences. When ability to read a
Dead Language has been acquired, no exercise can
be more beneficial than the analysis of sentences.

3. The MetJiod that commences hy teaching the Latin
or G-reeh Grammar. — In teaching according to this
method, the pupil first learns the meaning and forms
of shiiple words and the principles of Grammar
which have been found by preceding analyses of
Latin or Greek composition, and finally applies this
knowledge in discovering the sense and beauty of
classic authors. This process is similar to the man-
ner in which a native language is learned in com-
mencing with single words ; but it differs from it
wholly in commencing wdth words which represent
Etymological forms and Grammatical principles.
It was previously remarked that a person might
learn to read any language w^ithout a knowledge of
its Grammar ; but it must be evident to any one
competent to judge that an acquaintance with the
forms of words and the laws of construction inci-
dent to such languages as the Latin and Greek,
must greatly facilitate the work of understanding
them. It is my opinion therefore that the first book
which should be placed in a pupil's hands who de-
sires to study a Dead Language is the Grammar —
not an analytical Grammar as if the pupil already
understood the meaning of sentences and was pre-


pared to gather facts and to infer principles, from
them, but a Synthetical Grammar in which he
will first find definitions, paradigms, and rules, and
afterwards learn their significance in discourse.

It was formerly customary to require pupils to
commit the whole Grammar, before being led to
make an application of any of its principles, or
being taught to observe how they might be illus-
trated by reference to sentences. J^othing could be
less interesting to a child than the task of learning
the senseless jargon (to himj of hie — lisec — hoe and
6 — v; — TO ; and no word here said must be construed
to mean anything in favor of such a method. I
think, indeed, that the pupil should commence his
study of the Dead Languages with the Grammar,
but not with a Grammar book that contains nothing
but dry forms and abstract principles.

The method of Studying Latin and Greek now
presented, requires the pupil to commit Declensions,
Conjugations, and rules; but it contemplates the
accompanying of all such lessons with practical
exercises calculated to enforce and enliven them. Li
detail, the proposed lessons might consist, first, of
the forms or rules to be committed to memory;
second, of sentences in which these forms or rules
are illustrated ; third, other sentences in which the
principle of the lesson is violated ; fourth, the con-
struction of original sentences that conform to the
principles of the lesson. At the recitation, these
exercises should be properly varied, and given some-
times orally, and sometimes in writing. ]!!Tumerous
miscellaneous exercises, intended for review, should
be distributed among them. With a book arranged


upon a plan like this, an ingenious teacher cannot
fail to make the study of the Grammar of any of
the Dead Languages interesting.

What has been just said has reference to methods
of teaching the elements of the Dead Languages.
There is, of course, a higher department of Gram-
mar which investigates the changes these languages
have undergone, accounts for their forms, and
reveals the great Philological laws which govern
their constructions. Into this inviting field, the
student, who is able, may enter ; and it will be
found that, if the Grammar is the proper book with
which to begin a course of instruction in the Dead
Languages, it is also the proper book with which to
end it.

Having completed an elementary course in the
Grammar, the pupil is prepared, in connection with
further study of the Grammar, to commence the
reading of authors in the language studied. Of
these the teacher must make a'judicious selection.
Those works should be chosen which are the purest
in sentiment, the most varied in style, and the best
calculated to give culture to the taste, and impart
information concerning the times in which they
were produced. A student may read the whole
work of an author or a part of it ; but his course of
reading should leave him ignorant of no writer who
is distinguished in classic literature.

Some general directions may be given for conduct-
ing a recitation in the reading of a classical author.

1. Pupils should be required to give both free
and literal translations ; the purpose of the latter


being to obtain a clear insight into the sense of what
is read, and that of the former to find appropriate
English expression^ for it. The practice of trans-
lating selections from Latin or Greek authors into
English, and afterwards translating the same back
again into Latin or Greek without reference to the
original text, is very valuable. By means of this
kind of double translation, Ascham says. Queen
Elizabeth became one of the best Latin and Greek
scholars of the age in which she lived.

2. Pupils should be required to explain the
Etymological, Syntactical, Prosodiacal, Rhetorical,
and Logical principles contained in the text. From
this source comes much of the most valuable cul-
ture that is furnished by the study of the Dead
Languages. The pupil must prepare his lessons
with Grammars and Dictionaries open before him,
and the teacher must lead him to see the great laws
that regulate general human speech as they appear
in the particular language studied.

3. Pupils should be required to account- for the
Geographical, Scientific, Historical, Mythological,
and other like allusions and references that may
occur in the lessons recited. Most pupils studying
the Dead Languages soon acquire a deep interest in
matter of this kind, and books containing such
information should be to them a vade mecum.

A few additional suggestions will be made.
Constant use should be made of the blackboard
in teaching the Dead Languages. This form of


recitation is especially valuaLle while pupils are
engaged in the stncly of their Grammar.

As one of the great objects in studying the Dead
Languages is the discipline of the intellect and taste,
I have found chxss criticism, judiciously managed,
an excellent means of promoting it.

The teacher himself must be a good classical
scholar, if he would make good classical scholars. .

Teachers of the Dead Languages, who love their
work, will have little difficulty in inspiring their
pupils w^itli a similar love.

in. Instruction in Living Foreign Languages.

The interests of commerce, correspondence, tra-
vel, literature, and science render a knowledge of
several of the languages of Europe generally desira-
ble. Besides, it is evident that the study of any
language may be made advantageous in a dis-
ciplinary point of view. The new thoughts, the
varied modes of expression, the nice distinctions in
the meaning of w^ords and sentences, the enlarged
vocabulary, the comprehensive linguistic laws, the
rich literar}^ stores accumulated in other lands, with
wdiich a student of Foreign Languages becomes
acquainted cannot but be valuable to him.

For these reasons, it is well to consider in this
place the methods of teaching Living Foreign
Languages; but the subject will not require a
lengthy discussion.

A few persons study French, German, and other
European languages for their literary and discip-
linary advantages. For such persons, methods of
teaching might be substantially the same as those


just described as most appropriate in the case of the
Dead Languages. Inasmuch, however, as the Ety-
mological forms of French and German are less
complicated than are those of Latin and Greek, an
effort to learn to read the former without a know-
ledge of their Grammar, would be attended with
more success than a similar effort in regard to the

The most prominent object for which Living
Foreign Languages are studied is to acquire the
ability to speak, to read, and to write them. With
these ends in view, no better way of learning them
is possible than that by which we learn to speak,
read, and write our own language. This is the
natural method. We learn to speak by hearing
others speak — by associating certain verbal utter-
ances with certain ideas and imitating them. Next
we learn the characters which represent words, and
acquire the power of making them ourselves.
When we know how to speak, read, and Avrite our
native language, we may commence the study of its
Grammar. If circumstances favor, I am well con-
vinced that this is the best way of learning a Living
Foreign Language. Let the pupil be placed where
he can hear the language it is designed that he
should learn, spoken — spoken in its purity, let him
hear no other, and he will soon learn to speak it
himself. This done, he can acquire the ability to
read and write it as he did his native tongue, and,
when prepared, he can engage in the study of its
Grammar. In writing this, I have in my mind
children who are from three to ten years of age ;
and it might be remarked that foreign languages


are learned at this age with great rapidity. If pupils
are older than the age thought of, it might not be
improper to combine the exercises in speaking, read-
ing, writing, and Grammar.

It is not often, however, that the circumstances
above supposed — circumstances in which the pupil
can hear spoken in its purity the language he wishes
to learn, are found to surround a pupil. They are
seldom enjoyed by any who cannot pursue their
studies in a foreign land, and hence some modifica-
tion of this method must be adopted that will render
it better suited to the condition of such as study
under less favorable circumstances.

The pronunciation of a foreign language cannot
be correctly learned from any one who does not
pronounce correctly, nor can it be learned from a
book, however carefully notated. A person well
acquainted with the elementary sounds of our own
language, however, can use this knowledge to con-
siderable advantage in learning another. French
and German for example, have very few sounds
which are not found in English. If such a pupil
first learn those sounds which are peculiar to the
lano'iasce he desires to master, and then use a care-
i'nWy notated book or Pronouncing Dictionary, he
can attain such a pronunciation as may possibly
sufiace to make him understood. But to speak a
language correctly, something more is necessary
than to utter its elementary sounds; there is a tone
— a manner of speaking, that can never be acquired
except from a correct model.

Where foreign languages are often taught by
English teachers, as they are in this countrj^, and

292 iNSTEUCTioN m languages.

where pupils use their native language always, ex-
cept when preparing or reciting their lessons, the
systems of such authors as Ollendorff, Wooclhury,
and Fasquelle are doubtless the best that can be
used. After having given some directions in regard
to pronunciation, these writers begin their lessons
with brief, conversational exercises about the most
familiar things, and follow them with other exercises
in which practice is given in reading and writing
such words and sentences as may have been intro-
duced into the preceding conversational exercise.
Each lesson takes for granted a knowledge of the
lessons which preceded it, and new words and new
constructions are presented for practice in speaking,
reading, and writing. Grammatical forms and prin-
ciples are introduced into all the exercises wdien-
ever it is thought that benefit can be derived from
them. A course of lessons, arranged according to
this method, will comprehend a well-graded series
of exercises in speaking, reading, and writing a
language, conducted with reference toits Grammar.

This method differs from that by which a person
learns his mother-tongue in several particulars — in
the use of books when teaching pupils to speak the
language, and in teaching pupils to read and write
the language and learn its Grammar while learning
to speak it. For children not old enough to under-
stand Grammar, it is not well adapted ; but in the
hands of a teacher who can present a correct model
of pronunciation, it is perhaps the only method well
suited to the teaching of a foreign language in
American schools.

Pupils may learn to read a foreign language by


the method of interlinear transhxtion ; but the know-
ledge of a language thus acquired must be very
superficial. It is a great error to suppose that a

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 18 of 31)