Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/377

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LANGUAGE STUDY AND LANGUAGE PSYCHOLOGY

sense of the relative difficulty of languages. My personal experiences have been entirely convincing to me. While still a college student, but with five or six years of Latin behind me, I began one summer to study German privately, and after a careful reading, not conning, of the grammar, I set out to read a German novel. In a few weeks I could get on with it with some ease, and much more rapidly than I could then read Latin. In the next year's work at college Lessing's "Minna" and Schiller's "Tell," in long assignments, caused me much less labor than Latin authors did. Even now, after two decades of Latin teaching, with forms, syntax and vocabulary under good control, the Latin language puzzle at times presents difficulties. True, I require of myself greater accuracy with the Latin, but after a few weeks desultory dabbling with Spanish, I can read with enjoyment and a fair understanding a play of Echegaray or a novel of Galdós with far less concentration of attention than it requires to read a fresh bit of Ovid, or to reread for class preparation any but the most familiar satires of Horace.

My own experience aside, Professor Hill's surmise that the classics might be advantageously replaced in the educational scheme by a modern language or English seems to me not to weigh against the actual experience of a master in an English public school, Mr. John Charles Tarver, who thus expresses himself in his "Observations of a Foster Parent";

The claims of history and geography are on the surface so obvious that I am tempted to a little piece of autobiography. Be it known, then, that my first ambition in teaching was to teach history. I had as little faith in Greek or Latin as the most ignorant of self-made men. I believed that great weight should be given to English literature and English composition; and as for language teaching, I saw no necessity for anything but French and German. Therefore when I speak of Latin as the best educational instrument, I speak with the authority of a person who has tried others. My opinion would be of no value at all had I never stirred out of the classical routine. Similarly, if I do not share the popular views about history and geography, it is after, not before experience (pp. 174-175). . . . The one great merit of Latin as a teaching instrument is its stupendous difficulty. Greek, in spite of its wealthy vocabulary and infinitely numerous inflections, is child's play to Latin (p. 79).

But why is Latin so much more difficult than a modern language? I find it hard to advance a reason. The differentiating factor lies not, I am convinced, in the forms. The German noun—unless its article were so helpful—is certainly as difficult in its forms as the Latin, and the Spanish verb seems to me even more difficult; but I make a fair headway in finding out the sense of Spanish or German, in spite of a very poor knowledge of the forms. This can not be done in Latin. Perhaps one reason lies implicit in the modernness of the modern languages. Their sphere of thought is modern and therefore mine. At least, I once heard this explanation advanced, with somewhat explicit reference to the ethical value of classical studies, by a great scholar a