Percy Arthur Barnett.

Common sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice online

. (page 13 of 25)
Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 13 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

agents, and something less than perfection in the teacher
may secure results, not the best possible, but still of
lasting benefit. In the meantime, it is not too much to
ask of English teachers that they should take the utmost
pains to secure accurate pronunciation and intonation in
such a way as to enable them to transmit the sounds
fairly well to their pupils, fai is not jay, mere is not
mare, nor rire rear, nor lui looee, nor voulu vooloo ; and
yet I have heard all these, and even worse, from teachers
in the act of teaching.

Nor is intonation a matter of small consequence. A
Frenchman will understand less perfect French

T. ,. , , . c , T- 1- 1 Intonation

from an English speaker if the Englishman has
some practical notion of the way in which the French
speaker modifies his tones. Even English, as we know,
:an be spoken with an American intonation and becomes
:hen less intelligible and less pleasing to an English ear.
How much, then, must it puzzle a Frenchman if an
English speaker uses in French the somewhat mono-
:onous deflection of voice and falling emphasis which
s characteristic of English.

It is of all things important that the pupil should be
nade at the earliest stage to think in the foreign tongue,
:o associate what he gets in perception and conception

160 Common Sense in Education

not with the English word, so long as he is speaking a
foreign tongue, but in its foreign setting, with

The foreign . ' . 7 . '.

tongue must "* e foreign word. This is why it is so un-
be used for desirable, most particularly during early
thought from stages, to spend time laboriously translating
from one language into the other, and
particularly in translating from the foreign into the
native language. Every time we allow the pupil to put
the two words together, the vernacular word and the
foreign word, we make it more difficult for the foreign
word to come spontaneously to the " tip of his tongue "
without the English word to bow it out ; we interpose a
quite unnecessary obstacle between the object or idea
and its immediate presentation under the foreign name,
In fact, the mind stops to translate when it should think
the thing or idea without any intervening medium. More-
over, in the learning of a language, the most serviceable
unit is not the word but the phrase ; it is the phrase
that gives its value to the word, and not vice versa. L
pupils can be got to think in phrases, three parts of thi
work is done ; but if they have to spend time in com-
paring (or rather contrasting) words and idioms, they car
never learn to speak at once with ease and correctness.

The fact is that our common practices in the teaching
of modern spoken languages have, like a good man)
other forms of procedure in teaching, suffered by having
been assimilated to the traditional and, in their owr
cases perhaps inevitable, methods of teaching
analogy ^ e "dead" classical languages. Professo]
between Blackie taught even ancient Greek as a spokeij
spoken and language, and his method had no doubt mud
dead lan- to re commend it ; but there is this great differ!
ence between an ancient and a modern tongue!
in the modern you can and must appeal to the livinjl

Audible Speech 161

standard of correctness, whereas in the ancient there is
less pressing need for correctness in the vitally important
matter of accent, pronunciation, and intonation. For we
do not use an ancient tongue as a means of living com-
munication, nor can correct accent, pronunciation, and
intonation be exactly ascertained. Our best efforts can
only, in fact, be an approximation reached by a painful
process of deduction and conjecture. When you are
learning classical Latin and Greek, you cannot go to the
fountain head, to the world where Latin and Greek are
thought. You may therefore have to be content in these
languages to take the word as the unit at your first step,
and work up only gradually to the point at which you
read the phrase itself without analysis. But in neither the
mother-tongue nor in any other living language that
you wish to speak should you pursue this toilsome path.

It is this consideration which condemns the excessively
analytical method usually followed by English Exce ssiveiy
schools in what is understood to be the analytical
teaching of our own language. Instead of English
beginning with systematic efforts, properly methods
graduated, to cultivate the pupil's power of expression, our
teachers are mostly accustomed to spend their time in
teaching grammatical analysis and parsing, nomenclature,
and such like. This excessive analysis is more truly
paralysis ; for the study of English comes to mean for
most of our youth the dissection of sentences into words
and clauses, not fecundity and accuracy of expression.
And too many teachers think, or appear to think, that
" composition " can be taught only by setting a theme
and telling a class to write round about it.

But except in the very lowest forms, no lesson that lends
itself to recapitulation should be considered as complete
until one or more pupils have stood up in their places and


1 62 Common Sense in Education

recounted, without prompting, what they have learnt.
Oral reca- This process is not unknown in English
pituiation of schools, but is far more the rule in France and
lessons Germany and America, with the natural result

that whereas our boys and girls of sixteen or seventeen
seem often to be unable to put half a dozen sentences
together, the French or German or American pupil of cor-
responding status can not only sit down and write a logical
and connected narrative without effort, but stand up, and
standing up, think aloud. If this is generally insisted
on, every teacher becomes, in a measure, a teacher of the
native tongue ; and something more. For knowledge
that lies waiting, only half alive, until the appropriate
question is asked, is not knowledge at all. The properly
instructed pupil should be able to make his knowledge
come, so to speak, at call, in proper series and connexion.
It is no uncommon experience in oral examination to find
that a class can answer an infinite number of questions,
and show r a large possession of disconnected facts, but
that it is unable to produce them, make use of them,
command them, at will. The pupils have not realised
that it is each member of the class for himself, and not
the teacher, who is the link binding these facts together
into a whole ; that they are his facts and not the teacher's.
The facts are, in truth, only imperfectly " apperceived,"
and they soon sink out of memory.

After securing simple audibility, the teacher, then,
must cultivate the power of continuity of speech.

Let us revert to the questions connected with the
teaching of speech in modern languages. The con-
siderations that weigh here are not quite the same
as those that guide us in getting a language studied
for the purposes of literary mastery. The power to
read and understand written or printed matter may

Audible Speech 163

go with marked inability to speak and to understand

In the enforcing of the truth that every language must
be learnt by use rather than by rules, M. The services
Gouin and the apostles of his teaching have of M. Gouin
rendered real service. They have, at all events, called
attention to the futility of the attempt to teach speech
exclusively by the slow and imperfect method of books
and translation. They have not rediscovered, but they
have revivified, the practice of teaching by means of per-
cepts and concepts at first hand. In so far as the culti-
vation of audible speech is concerned, it must be admitted
that this is a vast gain, even if more is claimed for the
" method " in rivalry with old practices than it seems to
deserve. It may well be taken as a general inspiration ;
but its rigid rules seem to experienced teachers to be
unnecessary, and it is assuredly an immense strain on
the teacher.

M. Gouin's method claims to be original in recognising
the immense work done in the learning of languages by
the visualising imagination. I do not know that this
can be sustained as it stands. It would seem preferable
to admit that M. Gouin has done more than others to
carry into effect the principle of teaching by means of
things, that is, objects and actions, and that he has ren-
dered admirable service in establishing a more rational
series in successive stages of teaching than is provided
by the arbitrary analytical method on which most of us
have been brought up. He is distinctly and unexception-
ably right in taking as his type of procedure the stages
by which we learn our mother-tongue, the immediate asso-
ciation of the object or idea with the word that represents it.

The chief points on which the Gouinists oppose the
prevailing classical methods seem to be as follow :

164 Common Sense in Education

(1) The classical method permits, even requires, a
book to be read before lessons in pronunciation are given ;
M. Gouin would not permit the printed symbol to be
seen until the pronunciation and meaning are part of the
student's mental stock, and known not separately, but as
parts of an organic phrase.

(2) The classical method interposes the native word
between the foreign word and the object or idea ; M.
Gouin proceeds direct from the idea to the foreign name
or phrase. He will have no " translation ".

(3) The classical method sets " exercises " which have
no psychological connexion ; M. Gouin contrives a rational
series or sequence linked by development in time, forming
separate but not disparate dramatic scenes of life, and
therefore ready at once to become part of the learner's
mental stock.

M. Gouin devises " series " which are typical, i.e.,
general, but also exhaustive, because applicable to all
similar objects, in their doings and relations. Thus he
claims to divide the possible expression of ideas in any
and every language into fifteen or twenty chief series,
subdivided again into fifty or sixty special series, all
logically connected.

In his own words " A series follows the being it is
dealing with, first in the life of one day, then in its life
during the four seasons of the year. It thus embraces
the totality of its existence, and consequently reproduces
the totality of the terms which the language possesses for
the expression of all that we know about this being."
Not a single detail of the life should remain unexpressed ;
the whole vocabulary should be used ; the whole thirty
thousand words of the ordinary language being arranged
in " system ".

As in teaching the objective language, so in teaching

Audible Speech 165

the language of action, every step is successive to another.
The teacher acts the scene, and the pupil follows suit.
The value of this method is not to be denied. But it
most obviously throws a heavy burden on the teacher, the
perpetual effort to visualise and to act being most serious;
and unless the teacher works at very high pressure, it
may easily become mechanical. Moreover, it hardly
allows for inevitable breaks. On the other hand, a
very liberal use of it, combined especially with pictures,
is probably the best procedure yet devised.
The golden rules seem to be these :

(1) Avoid translation as much as possible; use rather
first talk and then free composition however The golden
clumsy. rules

(2) Teach by means of the sentence. If a new word
is wanted, let it be seen in several sentences and its
meaning inferred, not communicated by label.

(3) Provide an object where you can, and suggest a
mental picture where you cannot, in all that you teach.

(4) Put off syntax till a substantial basis of practic-
able speech has been learnt ; and then have the chief
rules inferred.

It is objected to the plan of acquiring a language
colloquially that if soon learnt by this method objections to
it is also soon forgotten. This is true enough, colloquial
but the objection assumes that the practice method
is confined to mere talking. It is of course obvious
that little can come of such an exclusive method, because
comparatively few words are needed for ordinary col-
loquial purposes, and because we do not, fortunately,
spend so large a part of our lives in talking as to cover
all subjects of interest in our daily conversations. But
the first steps must needs be colloquial if the pupil is to
be convinced thai the language is a real and living medium

1 66 Common Sense in Education

of thought. The infant learns to think and to speak at
the same time. This is the mother-method of nature,
and, as Professor Laurie says, to the child even the
mother-speech is foreign. Learning Latin and Greek as
most of us have had to do, we can hardly in our youth
have believed that Julius Caesar and Thucydides spoke
the tongues with which we are so imperfectly acquainted.
But if we had ever spoken Latin and Greek ourselves,
our conviction would have been different. We can easily
agree with Heine when he says that the Romans would
never have had time to conquer the world if they had had
to learn the Latin grammar. Nor will our pupils " under-
stand " ideas in French or German unless they begin by
associating them with objects rather than, however uncon-
sciously, by labelling them with names.

There is a great deal of justice in the recommendations
Report to the f the conference on modern languages which
American reported to the American Committee of Ten.
Committee " A mistaken idea of thoroughness may cause
of Ten t j le was t e O f muc h valuable time. Sight

translation should begin at the very outset of the first
year's course, and should always form an important
part of the work ; it should proceed as briskly as possible,
the teacher lifting beginners over hard places, and showing
them how to find their own way through the rest. All
passages of an abstruse or technical nature should be
skipped, or translated by the instructor ; not a moment
should be lost in contending with difficulties that have
no necessary connexion with the language. . . ."

A plan that has been known to succeed well in dealing

A scheme for with Small classes Of young learners pro-
beginners ceeds on lines somewhat as follow : Some
simple illustrated book, say in French, such as Mrs. Bell's
French Without Tears, graduated, and repeating over

Audible Speech 167

again words that have occurred, is read and re-read to
the children with the illustrations but not the text in
front of them, until they almost know what is coming.
Concurrently, the children are taught nursery rhymes
preferably those for which they have the English key,
such as The House that Jack Built by oral repetition.
Then the French text itself is placed in front of them,
and they read it with delight as French, showing little or
no hesitation over pronunciation, for it does not occur to
them to pronounce the words except according as their
ear has been already attuned. After two or three books
have been so treated, the class will be able to read simple
fairy-stories with something like ease. German may be
treated, at a later stage of school-life, in the same way.
The child reads Shock-headed Peter in English till he
knows it, and after some such drilling as above described
in the case of French, he reads the original Struwwelpeter
with little difficulty.

Good results have been known to come from the use
of the method here described for teaching one language
and the use of the old " Prendergast " method for teach-
ing another concurrently. By the " Prendergast " system
the child learns to translate at sight and instantly a series
of phrases and sentences gradually growing in complexity.
After a large number of these have been mastered, he is
taught to translate in the usual way, without learning any
analytical or formal grammar, but strengthening the
general habit of rapid retranslation already implanted.
It is no small part of the value of this method that the
use of the slips of paper on which the sentences are
written suggests a game which the child delights to play.
In teaching modern languages, however, more than in
any other study, we are seriously obstructed by our sys-
tem of examination, which mostly attaches an altogether

1 68 Common Sense in Education

excessive importance to the written exercise, to the entire
exclusion of speech. An immediate though only partial
remedy might be applied by the introduction of dictation
into all language examinations.

For reference : Burrell in Teaching and Organisation and the
same writer's Clear Speaking and Good Reading. Voice, Song and
Speech by Lennox-Browne and Behnke. Behhke's Voice-Produc-
tion. Soames's Teacher's Phonetic Manual. Reading and Recitation
by Rooper and Lott. Miss Beale in Work and Play in Girls'
Schools. Spencer in The Aims and Practice of Teaching. Storr in
Teaching and Organisation. Swan's translation of Gouin's New
Method. Rippmann's Hints on Teaching French. Report to the
(U.S.) Committee of Ten (Washington, 1893).




A II this is ours for the asking. A II this we shall ask for if only it
be our happy fortune to love for its own sake the beauty and the
knowledge to be gathered from books. ARTHUR BALFOUR.

IT is not difficult to understand the grounds for the
assertion that the chief basis of a liberal education is the
knowledge of and familiarity with great books.

In the first place, the fine work of literary art is the
best thing that a nation has to show. It Thepersist-
is the highest outcome of the national life, enceofthe
Political and social institutions pass away, or great book
become modified by absorption into other systems ; so
the Rome and Greece and Judaea of antiquity, in so
far as their ancient politics are concerned, are now mere
geographical expressions, but their great works of literary
art survive in and by themselves. They do not merely
j modify other like works but they also remain as they
were left fresh from the hands of the producers. David,
Homer, Vergil, Dante, Shakespeare, and the rest, are
alive now and are living influences. The works of
graphic art, such as painting and statuary, have a com-
paratively short life ; and though greater in apparent
bulk, are more fragile and transitory. The great pro-
ducts of engineering art roads, bridges, buildings, monu-
ments fall into decay or lose their individuality and
often their history with the development of civilisation.
But the great book remains.

170 Common Sense in Education

It is, no doubt, partly an accident that great books
should enjoy such long life that accident the discovery
of printing. Yet it is a great tribute to the inherent power
of great books that what they contain must in some famous
cases, such as the Homeric poems, have been handed
down from mouth to mouth for generations. Country-side
ballads have been handed down even in this century in
England, and would still, no doubt, survive in the minds
of the people but for the inevitable result of teaching
everybody to read, the weakening of the habit of memory,

In the second place, literature provides us with his-
Literature torical landmarks. We cannot be said tc
provides understand the general "history" of a par-
historical ticular time unless we know something of the
landmarks thought that stirred its most subtle thinkers
and interpreted and made articulate the spirit of the
times in which they lived. The most notable facts ir
the history of the times of Edward III., of Elizabeth
and of Victoria, are that Chaucer and Shakespeare anc
Tennyson and their contemporaries lived and wrote
Political history, social history, economic history, evej
ecclesiastical history, are all reflected, illustrated, ami
interpreted by what we find in the great works of conj
temporary literature. Of course, as books are multiplied
the stock of material becomes richer, and it is founj
more and more difficult even physically to compass
complete knowledge of contemporary ideas. We cannc
read everything that is significant. But our embarrass
ment is the embarrassment of excessive wealth, whic
makes it all the more necessary in a comparativel
advanced stage of society, such as that in which we liv
for the educator to step in and appraise books rightly, sj
that the youth of the schools may have guidance earlj
before they lose their way in the wilderness open to theo

Literature and Formal Linguistic Study 171

The third reason for the importance to be attached to
he study of literature is that it completes Literature
>nd embraces all other studies. This does isacom-
liot imply approval of the horrid hotch-potch pendiumof
>f grammar, history, geography, antiquarian- studies
|sm, science, orthoepy, and the rest, which, in the guise
|)f notes, often chokes the life out of a fine piece of liter-
ature offered for the delectation of a class of young
people ; but rather that the study of the great book
3uts life into all other branches of interest and school
itudy. All other studies are of small consequence in
i " liberal " education if thought is mean and unlovely,
f the imagination is foul or uncultivated, if the apprecia-
:ion of the power of lucid and beautiful expression is
acking. But fine literature gives a zest to any subject,
ind a fine book may be written about anything that enters
as more than a piece of gymnastics into the school course.

The fourth reason arises out of the last. Power of
appreciation, of which we shall speak at length The powers
presently, can be so cultivated that the power of apprecia-
Df expression is easier. The more carefully we tion and ex-
read and examine the work of great writers, P ressiori
the easier is it for ourselves, when we speak, to say what
we mean. This does not necessarily imply that we
make models of the great books propounded for our
study ; it means rather that every effort to discover the
secret of the rhetorical power of a fine passage or the
ethical influence of a great book quickens the divine
spark in ourselves.

The study of literature, again, has its value as a train-
ing in patriotism of the honourable and re-

. . . . 1 i tt . . Patriotism

putable kind, as we shall see, by inspiring a

rational love of country through a respect for its great

past and for great common possessions.

172 Common Sense in Education

Finally and chiefly it is important to send our pupil
An aesthetic out of the school with some sort of sounc
standard aesthetic standard. This we cannot achiev<
except by giving them some means of judging betweei
the great or beautiful and the mean or unlovely. Th<
discipline that cultivates nobility of character, the pre
ference for the good rather than the base, provide ;
standard of appreciation in conduct through acquaintano
with great exemplars and admiring love for them. S<
the discipline of literature cultivates the sense of pleasun
in great books by accustoming the student to see th<
world as great writers have seen it, by teaching him tc
understand and place himself as nearly as possible a
their point of view. We cultivate character by quicken
ing in our pupils the good that is in them, and we dc
this most surely if we can fire them with admiration o
good men ; we cultivate refined pleasure in noble literary
work by stirring up in their minds, so far as we can
those ideas which respond to the magnificent, picturesque
or subtle ideas enshrined in great books. Thought:
not entirely mean, lying somewhere like dull sparks ir
ourselves, burst into flame in the atmosphere about grea
writers. And we must not impose on sermons anc
theology the whole duty of giving moral and elevating

If we have once succeeded in making our pupils aware
of the fine qualities of great prose or verse, they are th(
more likely to look for such things elsewhere and to pre-
fer them to inferior material when the choice is offered
It is a libel on human nature to say that familiarity
if by familiarity we mean intimate knowledge, breed. 4
contempt. The things we know best we love best!
To despise what is familiar is a mark of littleness o

Literature and Formal Linguistic Study 173

We should notice that our subject is literature, but not
le literature of England only, though that Literature .
lust needs supply us with our examples and not English
5 most important for English people. For literature
: is necessary to remember that the lesson in alone
:terary appreciation can and should be given incidentally
/hen we are dealing with literature in any language, and
hat comparison in literature is one of the most stimu-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 13 of 25)