Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

accomplish the object of those who, by this exercise, aim at mental culture and at learning both languages. The business of a student who translates is not to bring the author down to his own level; but, on the contrary, to elevate himself to the position of the author, and to surround himself in imagination with all the influences which formed his creative mind.

As a means of improvement in vernacular composition in the absence of an instructor, the first version may be compared with a standard translation of the foreign work, and corrected accordingly. The use of such a translation has already been, and will again be, recommended; it may, if duly appreciated, render the greatest services in linguistical studies. Any person, even one unacquainted with the foreign idiom, may assist a child in native composition, by comparing his translation, viewed as an original essay, with the printed translation, and entering with him into such disquisitions on grammar or style as this comparison may suggest.

With proper attention, the student will soon (vercome all the hindrances to the attainment of the first object in translation, namely, conceiving clearly the ideas of the author; because there must be a time when comprehension of the foreign written language is perfect; but the second object, expressing these ideas faithfully and in appropriate idiomatic language, presents a boundless field of exertion: for the art of composition may always be improved. In language, as in the fine arts, the power of understanding, appreciating, and enjoying finished composition has its limits, whilst skill in execution admits of no limits in its improvement. Perfection, although it may be unattainable, should always be aimed at.

The second performance in double translation,-the exercise intended to teach foreign composition,-consists, as has been seen, in retranslating the first version into the original language. As it presents greater difficulties than translating into the vernacular, it demands all the attention of which the learner is capable. In translating into a foreign language, great caution is, at first, required to avoid the many errors incident to ignorance. It is not sufficient to know the rules of grammatical concord and syntax, the learner must consider every word of a sentence before he writes it; he must ascertain the gender, number, and case of each substantive, adjective, and pronoun; the mood, tense, and person of each verb he has occasion to use; the governing and the governed term; the place of each word; finally, he must refer to the grammar and dictionary, to clear up the least doubt. This careful way of proceeding, persevered in for some time, will create habits of attention and accuracy, which will render his further progress rapid and certain.

The second translation possesses this peculiar advantage, that it can be introduced at the earliest as well as at the most advanced stage of the study; for its difficulty may be diminished or increased at will. In the commencement, the first version into the native tongue should be made as literal as this language permits, and the translation back into the foreign idiom be written shortly after the other, whilst the expressions of the model-book are still vivid on the memory. The few words which the learner may forget can easily be ascertained from the dictionary, or even from the original text, if he is able to resist the temptation of reading more words than he strictly requires. The attentive perusal of that text just before effecting the retranslation, may, in the beginning, further facilitate this operation.

As the learner advances, he should gradually depend more on his knowledge of the language, and less on recollection of the original. He should, therefore, render the first translation more freely into his own language, without, however, losing sight of the precise idea of the original, and should increase proportionably to his proficiency the interval between the two translations. What has been thus prepared should afterwards be translated orally, when sufficient fluency in pronunciation has been acquired. By bese means, as he progresses, memory and reflection have greater scope for exercise.

The importance of increasing the difficulty, according to the degree of proficiency of the student, has been noticed before. An exact recollection of the original would render the second translation too easy, and would not be much more beneficial than the mere exercise of copying; complete obliteration of it from the mind would be equally bad, as it would make the task of retranslation too difficult. If the two extremes be carefully avoided, the double translation will become, by proper exercise of the imitative and retentive faculties, a certain and easy method of arriving at a practical knowledge of the art of writing; for it is by decomposing that we learn to compose. Thus it is a successful application of the two methods, to which we have before adverted: the first translation is an analytical, and the second a synthetical process.

Double translation is, as a means of storing the mind with the materials of discourse, far more efficient than the learning of vocabularies or dialogues; because the retentive and the recollective powers of the memory are successively called into action by the two versions; and are, besides, exercised on words, the import of which is determined by the context, as well as on a phraseology which can be depended upon as a model. It has this other peculiar advantage, that the more idiomatic the foreign expression is, the more it engages the learner's attention in searching for its equivalent in the native tongue; and, consequently, the greater is his chance of recollecting it for his second version and for ever after. As a means of forming his style in the foreign language, the double translation is preferable to simple reading; because it keeps the model for a longer time before the mind, and thereby impresses it more permanently on the memory. Let us add, that the double opportunity which it affords of comparing the construction of the two languages, exhibits, in a striking manner, the minutest shades of difference which characterize their genius; and, consequently, points out the principles peculiar to each, or common to both, that is to say, practically teaches particular and general grammar.

The correction of the second version of the double translation, which may be effected independently of a teacher, still further adds to its advantages. The self-instructed learner carefully compares his translation of the first version, or of a standard translation, with the original text, word for word, sentence for sentence. The impressions which he receives, through the eye, of the correctly written expressions, in contrast with his errors, are more deeply engraved in his mind than if he had, through the ear, obtained the same information from an instructor. He can thus correct what is faulty by the aid of an unerring standard; he receives, in fact, a lesson from the author or translator himself, and attains critical knowledge of the foreign language by a method which is sure, easy, and universal in its application.

Let it not be objected, that learners would be apt to avail themselves of the original text which is in their possession, to copy it entirely, instead of performing the second translation. Such a practice will be improbable, if their conscience have been habitually appealed to, and if they have early imbibed regard for truth. If they are not imbued with these moral principles, they had better abandon every intellectual pursuit, and go through a course of moral training. The age to which we must postpone the comparative study of languages permits the teacher to depend, for the right fulfilment of his task, on the honor of the students and on their desire of improvement. But, under the worst circumstances, their very perversity may be turned into account by obliging them to copy the foreign text, and requiring them to translate orally from their own writing. They soon will find it their interest to copy accurately, in order to facilitate their recitation; nor will they be long in discovering that they save time by postponing the operation until the matter has been well studied. By thus transcribing intelligently passages, with the meaning of which they have made themselves previously acquainted, they not only will gain a familiarity with the foreign phraseology,

[ocr errors][merged small]

but they will also be able to use a correct spelling when required to retranslate from the vernacular into the original language, and when the presence of the parent or instructor renders recourse to the text-book impossible. Indeed, so efficacious is this mode of learning orthography, that the process may be recommended to all students indiscriminately as an introduction into the art of writing a foreign language.

As another means of learning orthography, we will suggest the practice of extracting from the best works which the student reads the passages most remarkable for beauty of style, or justness of thought, interesting anecdotes, striking truths, and maxims. These extracts would necessarily draw attention to the orthography, punctuation, &c., at the same time that they would give correct habits of writing, cultivate taste for literature, exercise judgment in reading, and furnish useful ideas,--objects vastly more important than mere knowledge of spelling. One may be free from errors in orthography and pronunciation, and be withal very ignorant.

To complete our suggestions on the art of writing in a foreign language, we will point out a series of progressive exercises which may alternate with the double translation, and through which skill in original composition may be attained.

At first, the learner should confine himself to forms of expression similar to those which he has practised orally with his teacher, as also to the use of words and phrases so familiar to him that he can readily divest himself of the corresponding native ones,no matter how common, homely, or even childish may be the theme, if, by this practice, he acquires the habit of writing his own ideas, directly and with ease, in the foreign language. Let him introduce in these initiatory compositions the progressive combinations which have been recommended for speaking, proceeding very gradually from the simplest to the most complicated propositions,-from detached sentences to conneeted discourse, until, after persevering for some time in this practice, he attains the power of composing without the intervening medium of the native tongue.

Connected composition would present little difficulty to a person skilled in forming detached sentences; for these, by means of connective terms, are easily formed into continuous subjects. But, as an intermediate step between the preceding exercises and original essays, the student may occasionally write narratives from recollection, and in imitation of good writers,-anecdotes, historical facts, or passages from standard works,-previously read, heard, or studied with that intention, an exercise corresponding to that already recommended for acquiring the art of speaking. The learner should, as in the case of oral narrations, take these from the foreign works, and, especially, if possible, from the book which he is at the time engaged in reading; for the words and phraseology which in this book directly suggested the ideas, would, from the association thus formed, be likely to present themselves to his mind when he wishes to express the same ideas. If, however, he should want any other assistance, he may consult a good standard dictionary, or such as have been compiled for the express purpose of phraseological illustration,* and having found an expression analogous to that he is in want of, he may adapt it to suit his own particular case.

When learners have, by these essays, acquired some command of language, their compositions must rise in character and increase in difficulty: descriptive and argumentative subjects should, in due time and alternately, engage their attention. But, the better to effect this, they should not be satisfied with hearing or reading on the subjects to be treated of, they should themselves minutely examine what they wish to describe, and should fully discuss with their instructor the points on which they have to write an argumentative dissertation. Compositions of a purely narrative character,

* See "Roemer's Dictionary of English and French Idioms, illustrating, by Phrases and Examples, the Peculiarities of both Languages, and designed as a Supplement to the ordinary Dictionaries now in use." New York. 1853.

resting on the concatenation of incidents, exercise more especially memory and imagl nation: whereas descriptions and dissertations, without rejecting the aid of these two faculties, call for higher intellectual powers: the first requires accurate investigation of things, and nice discrimination in classifying the subject; the second depends chiefly on judgment and strict attention to logical relations. The more minute the description, and the more philosophical the dissertation, the greater will be the demand on the reflective and reasoning powers of the students; the more extensive also will be the technological vocabulary brought into their service.

When reading, phrase-making, double translation, written narratives, and the study of grammar, have familiarized a student with the orthography, idioms, and syntactical structure of the language; when he begins to speak and write his thoughts readily and without the intervention of his own language; when, above all, he has enriched his mind with an extensive stock of ideas and words, and improved his taste by assiduous and critical study of the great models, then it is time to set aside all assistance, and depend, in his composition, entirely on his own resources:-the transition from free imitation to an independent and manly use of a foreign language will present no difficulty.

Original essays, whether in a foreign or in the native tongue, should, in the commencement, principally be of a narrative character, as offering less difficulty than any other kind of composition, and being more applicable to conversation or correspondence. Let the student, at first, condense in one or two pages, the matter of the last volume which he has been reading, and occasionally introduce some critical remarks of his own, on the style and sentiments of the author, or on the merit and tendency of his work. He will soon find that he can, with perfect ease, extend the matter to many pages. But he must be careful to avoid diffuseness and redundancy-very common defects of young writers. If these abstracts be given in his own words, and by thinking in the foreign idiom, the reflection which he bestows on what has lately been the subject of his reading, in order to collect, condense, and arrange his ideas, will change fugitive impressions into lasting recollections, and develope in him great powers of expression as well as of observation.

We also advise students, when they write compositions, not to be over timid at first in the choice or arrangement of words, and not to aim too soon at faultless productions, as, by doing so, they would be apt to employ only such expressions as they already know, and thereby remain stationary. They should occasionally attempt the idiomatic, syntactic, and figurative forms, of the correctness of which they are uncertain, that the professor, on perceiving their deficiencies, may communicate to them general principles for their future guidance. They should, in fact, submit their performances to him, not to obtain compliments but instruction.

A good exercise is not that which is free from error, but that which affords the instructor opportunity to communicate information, correct false notions, and assist his pupils in overcoming difficulties. The errors which spring from ignorance are a source of improvement: those which arise from inattention are, on the contrary, the bane of instruction; and, to guard against them, learners should always carefully revise their compositions before submitting them to the inspection of the professor. Such a practice is indispensable to good writing; the habit must be early formed by those who wish to attain critical correctness of style. All the great writers of ancient and modern times, who are distinguished for purity of style, among others, Demosthenes, Cicero, Horace, Pope, Johnson, Edmund Burke, Bossuet, Boileau, Racine, were remarkable for the extreme care with which they revised and corrected their productions before they allowed them to meet the eye of the public. Voltaire,* by his own acknowledgment,

*Mélanges Littéraires.

[ocr errors]

corrected every day some of his works. D'Israeli observes that the manuscripts of Tasso still preserved are illegible from the vast number of corrections. Those of Pope, which may be seen in the British Museum, are covered with erasures and interlineations. T. B. Macaulay states, that he has in his possession the variations in a fine stanza of Ariosto, which the poet has altered a hundred times. Petrarch is said to have made forty-four alterations in one verse. Pascal was frequently engaged for twenty days in writing some of his Provincial Letters. He recommenced several of them seven or eight times; and, by this means, obtained that perfection which has made his work, says Voltaire, "one of the best books ever published in France." Gibbon wrote his Memoirs six times over. Buffon wrote his "Epoques de la Nature" eighteen times before he allowed them to appear in print. "The infallible sign of mediocrity is self-admiration: it produces rapidly, and corrects little. A great mind, on the contrary, is almost always dissatisfied with its own performance." +

The method which has now been minutely detailed, and which is founded on the suggestions of the most eminent educationists, such as Pluche, Radonvilliers, Beauzée, Sicard, Lemare, Weiss, Niemeyer, and, more particularly, Marcel, of whose writings free use has been made without continued reference, will, we hope, obtain the consideration of those interested in the cause of education, now that the study of foreign languages is fast becoming an essential part of the training of American youth. Every object proposed from this study is here presented to their attention in the order and in the manner prescribed by nature; the several exercises indispensable for gaining complete knowledge of it come in succession, so that an accumulation of difficulties is avoided. This division of labor permits to do away with the heterogeneous medley of lessons which have gradually found their way into instruction, and which are only calculated to obstruct the path of study, and to confuse and dishearten the learner.

The present method, on the contrary, tends to encourage them, by enabling them to understand the reason of what they do: the means are always made consistent with the end, and their excrcises the very objects aimed at in the study of a language. They cannot but be anxious to learn when thus they find that every unnecessary obstacle is removed, and that the tasks imposed on them are few, agreeable, and indispensable.

We have throughout adduced reasons for our recommendation of particular exercises, and shown the benefits which they confer. These reasons, or others which the professor may have in support of any particular plan which he adopts, he should communicate to his pupils, when they are of an age to understand and appreciate them. Being thus rendered conscious of the usefulness of their various exercises, they will perform them with more pleasure, and apply to study with more diligence and alacrity.

It has been often asserted that foreign languages could only be learned abroad. We, however, differ from this opinion, and think, on the contrary, that a proper method places the learner in a more favorable position for acquiring a foreign idiom than social intercourse in the country itself in which it is spoken; for, admitting even, what is far from being always the case, that he then mixes much with its inhabitants, he has no chance of understanding them for a considerable time; because the nature and rapidity of ordinary conversation do not permit the oral expression to be accompanied with the interpreting signs of the language of action, as when young children are spoken to. His progress in this department, and, consequently, in its counterpart, the art of speaking, must be much impeded, the more so as he cannot, with propriety, stop strangers at every word requiring explanation, as he might his instructor at home. The facility afforded to learn a foreign language abroad may be experienced in childhood, not in manhood.

If, in his native place, a learner have access to a large and select collection of foreign

*Curiosities of Literature.

+ Victor Cousin, Philosophie Populaire.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »