Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/167

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LANGUAGE AND THE ENGLISH CIVIL SERVICE.

Well, then, suppose the extreme case of a foreign language that is entirely and avowedly superseded as regards communication and interpretation of thoughts, but still furnishing so many valuable aids to mental improvement that we keep it up for the sake of these. As we are not to see, speak, or read the language, we do not need absolutely to know the meaning of every word; we may, perhaps, dispense with much of the technicality of its grammar. The vocables and the grammar would be kept up exactly so far as to serve the other purposes, and no further. The teacher would have in view the secondary uses alone. Supposing the language related to our own by derivation of words, and that this was what we put stress upon, then the derivation would always be uppermost in the teacher's thoughts. If it were to illustrate universal grammar and philology, this would be brought out to the neglect of translation.

I have made an imaginary supposition to prepare the way for the real case. The classical, or language, teacher is assumed to be fully conscious of the fact that the primary use of the languages is as good as defunct; and that he is continued in office because of certain clearly-assigned secondary uses, but for which he would be suspended entirely. Some of the secondary uses present to his mind, at all events one of those that are put forward in argument, is that a foreign language, and especially Latin, conduces to good composition in our own language. And as we do compose in our own language, and never compose in Latin, the teacher is bound to think mainly of the English part of the task: to see that the pupils succeed in the English translation, whether they succeed in the other or not. They may be left in a state of considerable ignorance of good Latin forms—ignorance will never expose them—but any defects in their English expression will be sure to be disclosed. Again, it is said that universal grammar or philology is taught upon the basis of a foreign language. Is this object, in point of fact, present to the mind of every teacher, and brought forward, even to the sacrifice of the power of reading and writing, which, by the supposition, is never to be wanted? Further, the Latin grammar is said to be a logical discipline. Is this, too, kept in view as a predominating end? Once more, it is declared that through the classics we attain the highest cultivation of taste, by seeing models of unparalleled literary form. Be it so; is this habitually attended to in the teaching of these languages?

I believe I am safe in saying that, while these various secondary advantages are put forward in the polemic as to the value of languages, the teaching practice is not in full consistency therewith. Even when in word the supporters of classics put forward the secondary uses, in deed they belie themselves. Excellence in teaching is held by them to consist, in the first instance, in the power of accurate interpretation, as if that obsolete use were still the use. If a teacher does this well, he is reckoned a good teacher, although he