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English as a Foreign Language
ARLAND D. WEEKS, STATE NORMAL SCHOOL, VALLEY CITY, N. D.
HE teacher of English in any school has the hardest subject in the institution. His work is hard because of the unsettled ideas prevailing as to how to teach English, because he has to create an in
terest for a familiar subject in pupils who do not realize that they are grossly ignorant of their own language. When a pupil is initiated into Latin, he swells with academic dignity; he feels he is beginning a new era because he realizes his ignorance. His ignorance of English is almost as complete, but his ignorance is like the cold in North Dakota—" you don't feel it.” Consequently a teacher must spend some time every day in demonstrating to classes in English that they do not know the subject without study.
To all mere children, to most high school and many normal school students, and to a considerable number of college students, and to nine tenths or more of the Anglo-Saxon race, English has the characteristics of a foreign language,—they do not know the meaning and use of English words; they cannot manage syntax; their expression is poverty-stricken and goes on crutches; the wealth of literature is to them inaccessible through lack of knowledge of words, syntax, and reading ability. Nice looking classes in secondary schools will fail in a body to get the meaning from one of Wordsworth's sonnets. English is a foreign language to those who cannot read intelligently English literature.
Shakespeare was well educated. Reuben Post Halleck, M. A. (Yale), who teaches school in Kentucky, says in his book on literature that Shakespeare used 15,000 words in his writings, while many uneducated persons do not use over six hundred words. Then as a matter of arithmetic the person who uses only six hundred words or thereabouts is about 1688educated in English. 1888 = 1= 26. - 2 = it. The person
25 referred to is 24 ignorant of English or thereabouts; that is to
say, English is to him if a foreign language. This is the native land of a great many foreigners. Listen wherever you will and you will hear speech that is cramped, disjointed, monotonous, hide-bound, rigid, unexpressive, monosyllabic and puerile. The lawyers are about the only class who attempt composition in speech or use words that children may not understand.
Timon in Timon of Athens uses these words in characterizing the sycophants who had fed at his table during his prosperity, who had deserted him in his poverty and who came back to feed, believing Timon's fortunes were revived :
“ Most smiling, smooth, detested parasites,
Courteous destroyers, affable wolves, meek bears,
Cap-and-knee slaves, vapours and minute-jacks!” What a wealth of expression! These ideas you might hear given in feeble, ordinary language thus: “ They were bad men,” or, “ They didn't deserve anything of Timon.”
Poverty of expression results in the overwork of helpless vocables. Nerve means variously calmness, dignity, courage, rashness, self-possession, effrontery, audacity, insolence, pugnacity, self-defense. The word helpful, just now greatly frayed out in current educational literature, means either stimulating, suggestive, broadening, enlightening, beneficial, instructive, refreshing, available, indispensable, advantageous or soporific.
The fact that English is rarely learned by those who attempt to speak it, that it is virtually an unlearned or foreign language, throws upon the teacher the important task of teaching words, words, words; of developing facile and flexible expression and the power to manage sentences and to interpret literature, even as the student of Latin is charged with knowing what he reads.
Pedagogical Defects of the Sunday
FREDERICK E. BOLTON, THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, IOWA CITY
N secular teaching we have learned to consider the contents of the mind instructed, and to begin with that material which is near to the child's experiences. It must have some elements that
are similar to those already in consciousness. In geography we begin with Heimatskunde, or home-knowledge, and make this a basis for the study of more remote countries. In history local events should form the starting point, and only gradually be extended to that which is remote. Now, I notice
I that in Sunday school work the child—the little tot—who knows not even the meaning of geographical location, is plunged into ancient geography and ancient history. Historical knowledge is presented, which is so far removed from the experiences of the child that it can have almost no meaning, and even that little sadly distorted. Although some of the stories of the Old Testament may appeal to little children of six to eight years old, there seems to be too little discrimination in their selection. What meaning such children can get out of the story of the Israelites following the pillar of cloud is an enigma to me. The relation of the Israelites to the Levites is impossible to be comprehended by the children.
Why cannot materials be selected that will give instruction in Christian principles, and that will be comprehensible to children? And why can they not be told in a language which children speak and understand? Of course the ancient forms should be later studied for their beauty, and for their historic and evolutionary value.
The entire teaching in the Sunday school is based upon the assumption that all study must be from the Bible. We have been sincere in the assumption, but let us stop and consider.
Is not the object of the Sunday school to train boys and girls to live Christian lives? Training involves knowing, feeling, and doing. Knowing what? Knowing the meaning of righteous, Christian living, and discriminating between it and wrong living. They must be instructed in examples of Christian living, and made to feel a desire to emulate that type of life above all else. The best example is in the life of the Master himself. Other examples we may find in all history, or even among living people. Not all examples of godly men may be found in the Bible. The literature of all times abounds in them, and many of the examples not chronicled in the Bible may serve to point out Christ-like men as well as any biblical literature. The death of our beloved President McKinley, which in its tragic aspects served to bring into greater relief his Christian life, I dare say, has done more to spread Christianity than years of sermons from biblical texts. Why? Because of its nearness to our life. What has not the good Queen Victoria accomplished for Christian living throughout the world?
The study of the Bible, it seems to me, is something like the source method in history; very desirable to give expanded meaning to narrower ideas which should be selected to suit the developing learner, and couched in terminology to be readily understood. But who would think of putting eight-year-olds at studying Massachusetts and Connecticut colonial records and Governor Winthrop's history for a first view of American history? Don't misunderstand me: I do not propose abolishing the Bible. It is a wonderful book. It is indispensable as a source for a complete background in appreciating the evolution of God's plan through all the ages. Though it contains truths which will illumine all the ages yet to come, we must not deny that it comes to us as a form of history, and should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. The point I wish to bring out is this: should we not in the earlier years attempt to teach Christian ideals as such rather than the history of Christian evolution? A study of Christian evolution will strengthen and clarify ideals at the proper time. To illustrate the method concretely : in secular history, in the first years of historical teaching which we design to make ethical, we start with biography and narratives
without reference to time or country. It may be the story of Abraham Lincoln to-day and of Alexander the Great or, if we were not forbidden, Saint Paul or Jesus to-morrow. Or, the order might be reversed without violating psychological needs. We select those that teach desired lessons, regardless of
These are related orally in comprehensible terms and read from books written in language that the child can grasp. By and by the pupil takes up history chronologically and later philosophically, probably studying copies of original texts, but this method is an advanced method. Shall anyone say that history is made unreal because the original text is not at first used? As we make use of ethical material from all ages, may we not make use of material illustrative of the divine elements of character regardless of the age which produced it? To be concrete, why not also make use of other literature as well as the Bible in Sunday school work? There are volumes of poetry which are as truly inspired, says the Rev. Dr. Updike, as any of the scriptural writings. But who ever heard of using poetry in Sunday school? To be sure we have songs, some of them grand and soul-uplifting, but many of them inferior. Why not bring in much from all literature, and study characters from later writings than the Bible? The one thing desirable is to teach that Christian virtues and Christian fortitude are noble in
and not something that are unreal or only for Bible times. Pulpit preaching is recognizing this, and we hear fewer doctrinal sermons and more illustrations of Christian living. Every church in the land almost has had several sermons relating to William McKinley. How many Sunday schools have laid aside the set lesson leaves and pointed to this noble example of a Christian disciple of our own time? All the day schools and many of the churches have Fourth of July exercises, Thanksgiving exercises, Lincoln days, memorial days, Washington's birthday exercises, etc. How many of the Sunday schools turn aside and have corresponding exercises?
The Hicksite Friends do not confine themselves in the upper classes to Bible lessons, but they deal sometimes with ethical or humanitarian subjects, one book used being Warner's American Charities. They also make use of a book of devotional powers,