Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/338

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324
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of progress in the arts of speaking and writing. The duty of the professor is wisely to stimulate and direct these admirable instincts of his pupils.

In order, then, to conform to the rules of Nature, we should commence the study of a foreign language by reading and listening, which enriches the mind with ideas and knowledge, and at the same time puts it in possession of the corresponding phraseology. At the Lyceum this plan is reversed. Without regarding this innate desire to know, to gather ideas, we occupy the young with words by prematurely directing their attention to the arts of speaking and writing. The mind is not nourished, it is hindered, and in its turn it refuses that which is imposed upon it; or it is enfeebled under an irksome and unproductive labor. If so many young people are indolent and unwilling to study, it is because they are weighed down with lessons and duties repugnant to them: we distort Nature, and do violence to their instincts.

The art of reading a foreign language should be the first in the order of study, as it is the basis on which acquisition of the other three reposes. Besides being easier, more accessible, and attainable without a master, it surpasses them all in the number and importance of the advantages it presents. We derive the greatest benefit from it in the ordinary circumstances of life. We can practise it in all times and places, at home or abroad, whether for profit or pleasure, and so never forget it. It furnishes the means of studying the phraseology and deducing the laws of language, and only by means of it are we made acquainted with the doings of other nations.

The art of listening is the second in importance; it is the best part of conversation. Like reading, it satisfies the instinctive love of knowledge. If we perfectly understand what is said to us, a few words, a monosyllable, suffices to sustain conversation. This art demands a special exercise all the more, as listening is the true and only means of acquiring pronunciation. The vocal power is entirely under the government of the ear. At the Lyceum, not an hour is given to this exercise in all the course of study. How few persons, after four or five years of English in class, can understand Englishmen when speaking their language, and how few can pronounce English correctly!

In the vernacular, we pass from hearing to reading. It is spoken language, the first manifestation of our thought, which gives us the key to written language. In the same way, but in an inverse order, those who learn a language in books should often hear the written text, to familiarize themselves with the pronunciation and to recognize the written words in the spoken words. Their progress in understanding the spoken language will be much more rapid, if they comprehend the written language without translating it.

Reading is direct or indirect. In direct reading, the written expression recalls the thought, as in reading our mother-tongue. In indirect reading we arrive at the idea by the aid of the mother-tongue,