Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/165

This page has been validated.

Sanskrit and Arabic, at 500 marks each; the reasons of this prescription being, however, not the same as for the foregoing.

The place of language in education is not confined to the question as between the ancient and the modern languages. There is a wider inquiry as to the place of languages as a whole. In pursuing this inquiry, we may begin with certain things that are obvious and incontestable.

In the first place, it is apparent that if a man is sent to hold intercourse with the people of a foreign nation, he must be able to understand and to speak the language of that nation. Our India civil servants are, on that ground, required to master the Hindoo spoken dialects.

In the next place, if a certain range of information that you find indispensable is locked up in a foreign language, you are obliged to learn the language. If, in course of time, all this information is transferred to our native tongue, the necessity apparently ceases. These two extreme suppositions will be allowed at once. There may, however, be an indefinite number of intermediate stages: the information may be partially translated; and it will then be a question whether the trouble of learning the language should be incurred for the sake of the untranslated part. Or, it may be wholly translated; but viewing the necessary defects, even of good translations, if the subject-matter be supremely important, some people will think it worth while to learn the language in order to obtain the knowledge in its greatest purity and precisions. This is a situation that admits of no certain rule. Our clergy are expected to know the original languages of the Bible, notwithstanding the abundance of translations, many of which must be far superior in worth and authority to the judgment of a merely ordinary proficient in Hebrew and Greek.

It is now generally conceded that the classical languages are no longer the exclusive depository of any kind of valuable information, as they were two or three centuries ago; yet they are still continued in the schools as if they possessed their original function unabated. We do not speak in them, nor listen to them spoken, nor write in them, nor read in them, for obtaining information. Why, then, are they kept up? Many reasons are given, as you know. There is an endeavor to show that, even in their original function, they are not quite effete. Certain professions are said to rely upon them for some points of information not fully communicated by the medium of English. Such is the rather indirect example of the clergy with Greek. So it is said that law is not thoroughly understood without Latin, because the great source of law, the Roman code, is written in Latin, and is in many points untranslatable. Further, it is contended that Greek philosophy cannot be fully mastered without a knowledge of the language of Plato and Aristotle. But an argument that is reduced to these examples must be near its vanishing-point. Not one