Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/801

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LANGUAGE AND BRAIN DISEASE.

tory as to warrant the abandonment of the more primitive signlanguage. And it is a fact of great significance that those deaf-mutes who have once been able to hear, though the subsequent deafness was total, have a great advantage over those deaf from birth, not only in learning to read and speak, but in general mental capacity.

We are now ready to apply our facts to the practical question of how best to learn another language than our own. One method, still prevalent in schools and colleges, attempts to extract the language almost by sheer force of memory from grammar and dictionary. It has never been claimed that by this method the ability to converse could be acquired, but it has been generally assumed that by it the pupil could at least learn to read, and perhaps, if diligent, to write to advantage. Yet, even for this purpose alone, the grammatical method must be a failure in so far as it neglects to train the pupil to a quick perception and a ready utterance of the sounds of the language, for we have seen that the auditory and motor speech centers do an essential part of the work in reading and in writing. Even if direct associations from the visual center may be cultivated, as in the case of deaf-mutes, why, instead of an easy and natural method, choose an unnatural and difficult one that leads to poor results? If it should be claimed that the grammatical method, without special attention to pronunciation, does enable pupils to read, and read well, in spite of any theorizing on the subject, then it must be said without hesitation that the claim is not warranted by facts. The remarkable unanimity with which the vast majority of our college graduates neglect to read the ancient authors is a very significant thing. It seems that they are not really able to read the Greek and Latin writers, but only to make a translation, and that they find no sufficient reward for this slow and irksome process.

As applied to the modern languages, the grammatical method is, even at its worst, supplemented by considerable exercise in pronunciation, and the ability to read with pleasure and profit is attained in a correspondingly higher degree. Yet, in estimating this ability, there is much room for self-deception. The pupil, after memorizing inflections and rules of arrangement, begins, with the constant use of the dictionary, to read, or rather, at first, to make a translation. Persevering, he finds that he needs the dictionary less and less, and perhaps he begins to understand without the use of English equivalents. Now, let us suppose that he has reached that point where he is able to read page after page without any absolute necessity of referring to the dictionary, or even of calling up an English word. Has he, as he is apt fondly to imagine, mastered the language as far as reading it is concerned? Not at all. He has made a respectable and useful acqui-