Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/342
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
difficult to speak a foreign language, that in most cases recourse to this art materially hinders international exchange of ideas.
The order of studies in our lyceums inverts the order I have recommended. The university imposes written exercises in composition for the living languages, from the lowest classes to the highest. Imagine a French officer, strong in this department, in the country of an enemy, whose language when spoken he cannot understand. In his impotence to gather useful intelligence, what can he do but deplore the false direction given to his studies, and curse the incomplete teaching of the college? The attention of the young should be particularly directed to the arts of reading and hearing, which, if universally diffused, would alone suffice for the international exchange of thought. People of different nations, each speaking or writing his own tongue, would understand each other. Their conversation or correspondence would be every way much more intimate and satisfactory, when each used his mother-tongue, with the native freedom and clearness that he could not attain in a foreign language. In this way would be secured the great desideratum of modern society—the means of international communication.
By endowing youth with the ability to understand a foreign language when spoken, those who travel could, on reaching a country, enjoy the society of the inhabitants, mix in the movements of science, listen to the lessons of celebrated masters, and, in completing their scientific education, establish useful relations for life.
If the art of listening, a necessity of modern times, should take root in the schools of all civilized countries, it would second wonderfully the high aspirations of humanity. Never, more than now, have people felt the need of solidarity and fraternity; the mind of the century presses toward union in congresses, and associations for the discussion of important social, scientific, and political questions.
Mental Culture.—It is known that ancient literature offers models of composition, which aid, when studied, in forming and purifying the taste; while at the same time it cultivates observation and reflection by the analysis of thoughts and facts relative to an order of things above the realities of sense. But I shall not cease to repeat that, to obtain these results, the authors must be read directly. This acquisition should be the object of the first period of study. In the second period, critical teaching of the literature of these languages, if combined with profound study of the national idiom, will aid powerfully in the development of the intelligence.
As a means of cultivating the higher faculties of the mind, direct reading of the solid works of great writers, ancient and modern, is of indisputable efficacy. It is. in fact, a true logique practique. But the art of reading by free translation presents inestimable advantages, which cannot be obtained from any other branch of instruction, nor from a language of which only the first elements are known. Being