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u When Doctrine meets with general approbation,
It is not heresy but reformation." -D. GABRICK.*
LANGUAGE, of all subjects, deserves attention. Its acquisition eommences in the cradle; its practical application terminates only in death. On its perfection depends that of all human knowledge. Through it alone can social enjoyment be had and mental acquirement be made. It need not, therefore, excite surprise, that the most eminent writers and philosophers have suggested means for the acquisition of languages.
But, judicious as have been many of the suggestions, their application has not always proved successful; and diversities in method daily increase, because the fundamental principles of the study of languages have not yet been laid down. The process of their acquisition remains, to the present, partial and exclusive.
The greatest obstacle to improvement is the apathy not only of teachers, but of those who ought to feel most interested in the progress of education,-parents and rulers. "Custom,” says Rollin, "often exercises over minds a sort of tyranny which keeps them in bondage and hinders the use of reason, which, in these matters, is a surer guide than example, however authorised by time." + · Owing to the baneful influence of traditional routine, the science of education has advanced but slowly: prevalent systems of instruction and popular modes of teaching languages have, with few exceptions, been founded in total disregard of the structure of mind and the wants of society. It is only lately that the true basis of educational science has been recognised to lie in the constitution of man, his faculties and social relations. We endeavour, in accordance with this progress, to apply the principles of physiology and psychology to intellectual pursuits and, in particular, to the study of language. Entering, therefore, upon our subject with a rapid sketch of the physical, moral, and intellectual organisation of man, we infer the general principles on which a rational method of instruction ought to be founded.
* Epigran to Quin.
+ Traité des Etudes, Liv. i. c. 3.
From the natural progress of civilisation the arts and sciences have assumed an importance which they did not possess some centuries back, when classical studies reigned paramount. This fact led us to introduce a general summary of the acquirements which a complete education should comprise, in order to attach to these studies their relative importance, and thereby determine the branches of learning and the departments of language most required at the present day. Until now materials were wanting for this task. It is only in an age like the present, when the highest intelligences have investigated the nature and resources of mind as also the various departments of knowledge, that one could hope, with the aid of these investigations, to bring instruction to a comprehensive and uniform system.
The favourable position in which we are placed by the present state of educational science, emboldens us to attack the routine and the prejudices which cramp classical instruction, both as regards the objects and the methods of study. We, consequently, in the First Part of this essay, lay down the principles which should guide in the teaching and acquiring of languages; and, in the Second, we deduce from these principles precepts and processes which will, we trust, be found both rational and practicable. Recent improvements are combined with what has proved successful in long practice; and, throughout, we take for our guide the natural process by which all so unfailingly acquire the native tongue. Thus reason, experience, and nature concur in laying a solid foundation on which the study of languages may rest.
In support of our views, and, particularly, when we contend with long established prejudices, we adduce the authority of those who stand high among the ancient and modern writers. Our opinions, often expressed in the words of celebrated men, are thus confirmed by their experience, and will familiarise our readers with the thoughts of those who have meditated most on education.
The important truths which are dispersed throughout their writings being thus collected in one focus, their concentrated rays throw powerful light on the subject.
As in history each successive writer must record the same facts, so, in all didactic composition, the same principles and theories must often be laid down. Hence we occasionally express ideas which occurred to us as they had occurred to others, or which we gleaned in reading, without precisely recollecting to what authors they belong. We give, in an Appendix, a list of the various works we have read on the study of languages, that our readers may ascertain the extent of these accidental coincidences, or gleanings, as the case may be, and the degree of originality which characterises our work. This list will also be of service to those who wish to study the subject and compare different systems. *
In combining great established truths with the results of our own experience, we follow the example of all who have advanced science. There is not a standard work in any branch of knowledge which is not, in great part, founded on what is best in previous works on the same subject. Were it otherwise, it would be impossible to bring science or art to perfection; the longest life would not suffice to master even one department of knowledge, if all ideas relating to it could be found only in the works of their respective originators.
Though we draw from all sources, we hope our method will not, on that account, be depreciated. Machinery is perfected and codes of laws are framed by successive improvements and by accumulated efforts of many individuals; so, in education, a method, to be complete, must be eclectic. “Of all systems,” says Baron Degérando, “the most solid and the truest is that which, without altogether excluding any, recognises what is useful in all and wisely combines them.” + What Mr. Cousin affirms of the true greatness of a people may be said of a right method: “It does not consist in borrowing nothing from others, but in borrowing from all whatever is good, and in improving whatever it appropriates.” I In another place this great philosopher says, “No
* For those of our readers who cannot have access to these works, we subjoin some extracts which bear on our subject, and are too long to be introduced as quotations in the text. The references to these extracts will be indicated by figures.
+ Du Perfectionnement Moral.
one system contains itself all the truth; it can be found entire only in all.”*
While we hope we shall not be found destitute of originality, we must say, utility rather than novelty has been our aim :-next to the merit of discovery is that of its practical application. We endeavour to ameliorate what exists rather than to hazard new theories; we especially arrange, demonstrate, and bring into operation many scattered truths which, until now, have remained in a state of conjecture.
Lavoisier did not invent chemistry ; but his classifications have thrown light on the investigations of his predecessors and raised their discoveries into a beautiful science. Through these classifications chemistry has rapidly advanced. Classification is also our object. We shall rest satisfied if we throw some light on the important branch of education which is the subject of the following pages, and if, by taking some steps in its progressive amelioration, we prepare the way for its future perfection.
The investigations to which our subdivision gives rise enable us to examine every means of improvement which a good method should afford. Special directions are given for the acquisition of the native and a foreign language--ancient or modern; whether the learner be a child or an adult, a beginner or a proficient; whether he learn with or without a teacher, in private or in a public school. And, without encroaching on the time required for scientific pursuits, linguistic studies are made instrumental to the acquisition of knowledge and improvement in the native tongue, as well as to the intellectual culture and international communication, all indispensable requirements in modern society.
CORK, Jan. 1, 1863.
* De l'Instruction publique en Allemagne, Preface to 3rd edit.