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eye and ear. A distinction very important for the language teacher and one which should never be lost sight of is the difference between the active and the passive vocabulary. Almost every discussion of this and kindred subjects shows that this distinction is not understood or not kept in mind. We all know that the number of words which we use freely in speaking and writing even our own native tongue is very small compared with the number which we recognize and understand in reading. The more highly educated a person is the larger his vocabulary becomes, but the passive vocabulary always increases more rapidly than the active. Now if all agree that the power to read and understand French or German is much more valuable for us than the power to speak or to write these languages, then it is evident that special emphasis should be laid on the acquisition of passive vocabulary. For this reading is and must be the natural method.
We have heard a great deal about the "natural method" of learning a language, a term which originally referred to the way in which a child acquires the use of its mother tongue, simply by constantly hearing and speaking it. But the child hears and speaks English from morning to night, while the boy or girl can hear and speak French or German only four or five hours a week, and that in a crowded classroom. It is evident that the best-equipt teacher can not supply in this time and under these conditions the needed practise for ear and tongue and many teachers are not fitted, in spite of all effort and good intention, to give orally the mass of rapid speech needed for building
1 This sentence might be considered superfluous, in view of the selfevident fact that it is impossible for anyone to speak or write a language which he can not understand or read, were it not that many parents and even many teachers confuse the power to speak a language with the power to use fluently a very small number of words and phrases in connection with a very limited range of subjects. Of such a nature is the fluent English of the average continental waiter or of those charming foreign ladies who fill us with admiration by their easy command of the current phrases of polite society but who are quite unable to carry on a conversation on any topic outside these narrow limits. It is hardly necessary to say that such an acquaintance with a foreign language has no educational or cultural value.
up vocabulary. On the other hand, we can all teach our pupils to read a foreign language by the “natural method”; for how do we learn to read our own mother tongue? The child of ten or twelve who reads with delight one of Scott's novels probably understands at first not more than half the words he meets with. The pictures are vague, but perhaps for that reason all the more delightful and no one thinks of requiring him to look up in the dictionary the words which he does not understand. By constant repetition, by seeing the words and phrases over and over again in different positions, he soon learns to understand accurately what they mean and thus unconsciously acquires the power to read any book that interests him. A member of the New York State Department of Education learnt German as a young man merely by taking a German newspaper and reading it every morning without dictionary or any other help until gradually he came to understand it. This is the natural way of learning to read; and our older pupils who are studying a foreign language have a certain advantage over children who are learning their own, for they already have the ideas and concepts in mind; they need only to acquire new symbols for objects and thoughts with which they are already familiar and this process is often a very rapid one. In my own elementary work I am often surprized to see how quickly my pupils gain the power of reading and of comprehending what I say to them and how many phrases they understand which I am sure they have never met with before.
A teacher must not think that the pupil learns only what is taught him in the classroom. Beside the direct instruction, processes of analogy, association and intuition are constantly going on and the results, tho not always apparent at first, will in the end greatly reward the teacher who has confidence in his pupils.
When teachers are advised to abandon the old translation method and to let their classes really learn to read the foreign language, their usual reply is: “Unless they translate, I can not tell whether they have prepared the lesson” or “whether they understand the lesson.” But is it not much easier for a bright pupil to "rush a recitation by translating at sight from the book he is allowed to keep open before him, than to answer with closed book questions which test his knowledge of the subject matter and vocabulary of the assigned work? Moreover, nothing is duller for a class than to listen to an awkward or blundering translation of a passage with which they are already familiar, and blundering the translation will be unless the teacher devotes much time in the classroom to criticizing and improving it, an excellent exercise if his object is to teach English, but practically of no value for improving and increasing his pupils' knowledge of German or French.
A little thought and practise will soon prove to a teacher how easy it is to test the pupils' knowledge without the use of translation. A brief quotation from the assigned lesson with the question: “Under what circumstances was this said and who said it?" or "What did X answer when Y said this?” or “Of what is this a description?” is a hopeless puzzle for anyone who has not really read and understood the passage, but can be easily answered by anyone who has and it puts the emphasis where it should be, on the words and the subject matter of the text. If a teacher suspects at any time that the work is not being properly prepared, a five minutes' written test at the beginning of the hour based on some such question as those suggested here will at once reveal the offenders and warn the class against such neglect in the future.
Some simple reading should form a part of every lesson from the very beginning. The recitation should begin with brief questions on the prepared work, the questions to be in the foreign language and as far as possible in the words of the text. At first let the class answer with the book open before them, which they can easily do by only changing a few forms here and there. Later they can answer with closed books, or can give a summary in French or German of the matter already gone over or write it on the blackboard. Again, have an easy passage that has not been studied read aloud in class; then tell the pupils to shut their books and ask what they have understood or let them give a summary in English of what has been read; this will teach them to catch the meaning quickly. Later the summary can be given in German. In conducting this exercise, the emphasis should always be on what the pupils do understand and not on what they do not. In fact all our teachers would find comfort for themselves and for their pupils if they would pay more attention to the positive than to the negative side of language work; that is, judge themselves and their classes by what they have learned and not by what they have not learned.
In taking up a text the teacher should select for careful discussion those passages which contain words and expressions which it will be valuable for the pupil to know well, to take into his active vocabulary, letting the rest be read rapidly for the subject matter only. This method allows the use of longer connected texts, for they can thus be read fast enough to keep up the interest. A longer text
A is also easier for the pupil, as he soon becomes familiar with plot and vocabulary. Remember that an interesting book is always easier than a dull one. The lessons should be short at the beginning of a new text and long at the end and the teacher should help the class over the hard places.
Many teachers impair their work by too great conscientiousness. In their anxiety lest their work should not be thoro they frequently spend much time in the classroom in discussing and explaining unusual or dialectic forms and idioms which the pupil will never need to use himself and which he may not meet again in his reading for years.
This is a mistake. Emphasis in classroom work should be laid on easy and usual words and expressions. Only when the pupil is really at home in these is he ready to take into his active vocabulary more difficult and unusual phrases and constructions.
It is easy to vary the work in reading from day to day
so that a class may never find it monotonous.
One day two or three pages may be assigned for intensive work in vocabulary and construction, the teacher having carefully selected the passage for this purpose. Another day, five or six pages may be assigned for “reproduction;” that is, the pupil will give the contents in the foreign language. Another day, he may read ten or fifteen pages, being only required to answer questions about the facts and events of the story. The teacher will find this latter a very favorite form of exercise with the class and as the end of an interesting book approaches, they will be ready and anxious to take longer and longer "reading lessons.” Of course reading at sight in class must not be neglected, as it always interests the pupils and also gives the teacher an excellent opportunity for judging of the progress they are making, of the growth of their vocabulary and the extent to which they depend on the dictionary in preparing the work. In my opinion the book chosen for sight reading should always be the one the class is reading at the time. To have an extra book for such work is to break the continuity of attention and interest, and against the plea that an easy book should be chosen for this purpose may be set the fact that the book with whose vocabulary the pupils are familiar and in whose plot and characters they are interested is, at least for the moment, the easiest one for them to read.
It seems impossible to say anything about the work of the high school without touching on the vext question of college entrance requirements. Many teachers of modern languages say that they can not read in the time allotted them the 800 or 1000 pages required by the colleges, or that, in order to do so, they are forced to sacrifice oral and grammatical work. But this merely shows how little confidence they really have in the methods they profess to believe in. Oral work does not take time from reading, it is the best possible means of helping the pupil to read rapidly and easily. Nor does the college expect that 800 pages be learned and discust sentence by sentence in the