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Natural and rational method.
To acquire a language, you must hear it spoken, not
in its poetical form, but in the simple expressions of every-day life, and it is
only by hearing these expressions often enough that you can become sufficiently familiar with them to employ them with ease and fluency in your conversation. In a word, you must assimilate them, not learn them. " Les plus sûr moyen d'apprendre une langue, c'est de la vivre."
In the lessons we put before you, you will find that the most common events of our daily life are placed first. These are the things about which you must be able to express your thoughts and feelings; they form the topics of every-day conversation. You may often want to say that you are hungry, but you may never be called upon to write the description of a sunset.
Our exercises represent simple scenes taken from every-day life, and each exercise consists of a series of complete sentences related one to the other. Each sentence describes one part of the scene, exercises are but not at random: all the sentences are connected; each one is the natural consequence of the preceding one, so that the lesson becomes a lesson not of words but of things, and of things in their natural order. The actions are the most familiar; and instead of it being a task to remember the order, it is difficult to forget it. Let us illustrate. We venture to give in English a lesson out of the Elementary Course :
I START FOR SCHOOL.
I put on my overcoat, hat, and gloves ;
Then I take my satchel
You will notice that there is nothing haphazard in the selection of sentences and words. All the ordinary expressions connected with the idea under consideration, viz., “My starting for school,” are given. We have taught in this lesson all the simplest forms of the language connected with that one act of the child's life.
Try to make your pupils imagine the scene, and for this purpose describe it fully in English.
As soon as you have succeeded in giving them a clear mental picture of the scene, repeat the verbs of the first paragraph in English, and you will see by the look of intelligence on the faces of your pupils that the simple enunciation of the actions has enabled them to recall the whole scene. Now proceed to give the verbs in French-say each one several times, speaking slowly and distinctly, and insist upon the pupils connecting the new sound with the actions they have in mind, and not with the English word.
Having thus gone through the verbs, and given any explanation which you deem necessary, repeat each verb
again several times without any comment: Repetition.
finally repeat the verbs once. As regards the number of repetitions the teacher must be guided by his pupils' faces. Bright eyes, eager faces, will show that the pupil is ready to try what he can do. Puckered brows show, as plainly as possible, that the pupil does not see clearly what is required of him. At first, be content to go slowly, and above all be patient. Durable buildings must rest on firm foundations.
Now let the pupils repeat, each one taking a verb. At once the great value of this principle of Association of ideas, about which we have already spoken, will become apparent, for the pupils will be able to recall the actions in their proper order.
We find it an excellent plan to adopt simultaneous repetition during these initial stages. It does away with that shyness and confusion often experienced by pupils when they hear their own voices uttering strange sounds; in addition to this, it makes every pupil work.
When the verbs are assimilated, the teacher should write them on the black board, and have them read through ; then the black board should be reversed whilst the teacher, taking each verb separately, groups the words of the sentence around it. The verb, the action, is the important part of the sentence. An action demands some one to perform it, and usually requires a complement. So take the first verb, “mets." Describe the subject.
Who puts ? Je mets.” Describe the garment. "Je mets" what ?
“Je mets mon pardessus,' etc. Each word-verb, noun, adjective—is to be fully
described, so that every one may be connected with a mental picture of the object or idea, and not with the written word. Deal with the sentences in the same manner and in the same order as you dealt with the verbs, and let all needful explanations be given with the first repetitions.
The final repetition given by the teacher should be unaccompanied by any comments, and thus the pupils should be left free to concentrate their attention entirely upon the foreign sounds. As in the case of the verbs, the pupils must now be required to say the sentences through, and afterwards to read them from the board.
The first book, containing short, simple lessons of from four to eight sentences, is suitable for very young pupils. After that, the exercises become longer and more difficult, care being taken to use only the language of every-day conversation. In the last two books, the lessons are drawn up in a literary style, and are intended to carry the student on to the writing of composition and the study of literature.
We would advise teachers to make each lesson of Book VIII. the subject of French conversation in class, bringing out and explaining the different points of the lesson, and encouraging the pupils to discuss these points, draw their own conclusions, and give their opinions in their own words. This having been done, the pupils should be requested to read the text and compare their way of expressing their ideas with that of the author. The lesson should afterwards become the subject of an essay. At the end of each exercise we
have prepared sentences which only require to be completed, thus showing the pupil how, and in what order, he should express his thoughts.
A glance at the subjoined list will give an idea of the subjects treated in the following pages :
FIRST PART. [Cours préparatoire.]
Les parties du corps.
SECOND PART. [Cours elementaire.]
BOOKS II. AND III.
L'enfant dans la famille.
THIRD PART. [Cours moyen.]
Books IV., V., AND VI.