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New Methods of Teaching Modern Languages: The Reform of Modern Language Teaching in Germany


by Leopold Bahlsen - 1903

It is desirable to give an analysis as accurate as possible of the contents of Vietor's pamphleti which exercised so material an influence upon the reorganization of modern foreign language teaching in Germany, especially as an English translation, I am sorry to say, has not appeared.


TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN

MARSHALL BLACKMORE EVANS, PH.D.

Instructor in German in the Horace Mann High School, Teachers College

II. THE REFORM OF MODERN LANGUAGE TEACHING IN GERMANY


It is desirable to give an analysis as accurate as possible of the contents of Vietor's pamphleti which exercised so material an influence upon the reorganization of modern foreign language teaching in Germany, especially as an English translation, I am sorry to say, has not appeared.


Vietor takes us first of all into a class-room where the instruction is conducted according to the traditional method, in order to indicate how perverted a course the teachers are pursuing.


Should the pupil be asked, "Of what does a word consist?" we could be certain of hearing as answer, "Of letters." A word is pronounced, e. g., schwarz. The pupil in question will hold fast to his opinion and enumerate the letters, s, c, h, w, a, r, z. He has no idea that his answer merely coincides with a quite accidental orthography. We ask him further for the sounds of which that word chosen as example is composed. We receive the same answer: s, c, h, w, a, r, z, and the child looks at us in amazement for setting such superfluous questions. That s, c, h, are three signs for a single sound, but that z is a single sign for two sounds (the t and s sound), — of all that the pupils have never heard. This fatal confusion of written and spoken language is implanted in the child with the primer. Woe to him who should not know that a, e, i, o, u, y, are vowels and the remaining letters or "sounds" are consonants! But ask the pupil or even the teacher for the cause of this classification! "The consonants cannot be pronounced by themselves" (what occurs then when we shoo the chickens with a sh?), "only the vowels can form syllables" (but nevertheless the child learns: Bst! wer kommt da still und stumm?) — in short, we must listen to a system of phonetics unutterably nonsensical. On the other hand, another teacher, especially strenuous and pedantic, will demand that the child distinguish in pronunciation between ai and ei, e. g., Saite (string, of a violin), Seite (page, of a book), a distinction that was lost in Germany five centuries ago. A third teacher regards it as indispensable that "soft" b, d, g, be spoken at the end of syllables and words (for what Auslaut is, the pupils never even get the opportunity of learning); hence, Grab, gesund, Betrug. Victor calls this last a direct falsification of the German language, which recognizes to the present day in such words only unvoiced explosive and fricative sounds in the Auslaut. The sp, st of the Hanoverian especially pleases a fourth teacher, on perhaps musical grounds, and he forces upon his pupils this Low German provincialism, which even in the times of Luther was nothing but a provincialism. For in Luther's German appear schtehen, schtossen, schpringen, which were and are still retained in the standard pronunciation of High German.


After the letters have been affectionately illumined, the alphabet duly practiced, the real scholastic grammar begins with the parts of speech; i. e., their names, but without objective explanation, without logical foundation. In syntax practically the same course is later pursued with subject, predicate, object, attribute, etc. And whence come the multitudinous mistakes? From the fact that the name has first been given, instead of inducing at the start a full and complete comprehension of the sentence-content in the mind of the child; instead of producing in it the definite idea, the right significance, e.g., of an object, before the technical nomenclature is given.


"And," continues Vietor in his epoch-making writing, "just as syllables and groups of syllables should not consist for teacher or pupil of letters but of sounds, a language is composed of sentences, and of words only for the purposes of the lexicographer."


We can never learn to speak a language by memorizing long lists of disconnected words. And should all the rules of grammar be added to this, we are thereby no nearer the goal toward which we are striving.


At the commencement of modern language instruction the teacher should make first of all the formation and nature of the sounds clear to the pupil, should inform him what a close or open vowel is, what the distinction is between simple sounds and diphthongs, between voiced or sonant and unvoiced or surd sounds.


Vietor demands that not too great stress be laid at the end of the first year in the estimate of the pupil upon orthographical uncertainty but mainly upon the faults of pronunciation. He touches upon many a blunder of the teachers of French and English in Germany, for example, upon their zeal in declensions, where in English and French there are no real declensions, or upon the nonsensical rules of gender in the teaching of Latin, etc., and emphasizes that instead of memorizing the rules and exceptions of syntax, they should rather seek for a complete understanding of the underlying principle.


It is then, for example, not of such importance in the teaching of French that the pupil can say off the lists of verbs which govern the subjunctive, as rather that he know: the essence of the subjunctive is uncertainty, doubt, unreality, in contrast to certainty, surety, reality; from this principle its application is to be explained.


In the second part of his pamphlet Vietor describes with bitter irony the customary method of class instruction, the setting as task the memorizing of words, the so-called Durchnahme of rules, of which last he says very correctly, "What the pupil might have sought and found in his own strength and by independent reflection is presented to him as it were upon the salver. Never can he cry in triumph Eureka, for he has never learned to seek. Hence the printed rule has no interest for him."


In other words, Vietor desires that the pupil collect in a certain degree for himself his grammar, after the material has been laid before him in suitable form.


Those disconnected sentences put before the pupils for purposes of translation Vietor attacks vigorously. "One would think they had been collected for jest or carnival merriment." The home lessons of the old regime he calls a veritable brooding-place of mistakes, a national scourge for teacher and pupil alike, a double and threefold sin against the young. And how shall the reading be conducted, and how not? Upon the gist, the thought-content, shall the stress be laid, and yet many teachers treat reading as merely a kind of running commentary of the grammar.


The scraps of literary knowledge which the pupils eventually acquire in the slow course of reading where everything is analyzed according to the grammatical rules, would have been easier to attain had printed translations of the foreign authors been put in their hands.


Vietor advises that the pupils be also made conversant with the epistolary style of the foreign language, and calls for instruction regarding the country, its peculiarities, its history. He declares it to be nothing discreditable if the pupil be enabled to ask and find his way about in the foreign capital.


The practical proposals with which Vietor's pamphlet closes culminate in the following demand: the course of instruction must begin with a preparatory schooling in phonology. For this purpose the teachers should study phonetics. They should know how the organs of speech act in the production of the various sounds. In this they should be qualified to give their pupils elementary instruction, proper helps and hints for the right production of the sounds. They should be able as soon as a mistake in pronunciation is made, to indicate to the pupil where his error of articulation lay.


And further: the First Book should contain fresh, stirring reading material, and from this all further instruction should take its start. Not material analogous to the Cornelius Nepos of the Latin period, is what Vietor wishes, but something from the rich treasures of rhymes and tales, riddles and songs. Spring, summer, autumn and winter, and the work, enjoyment and games that they bring. Home and hearth, garden, field and wood, land and water, earth and sky — of these the children should read in the foreign tongue, of these they should be trained to converse, entirely in the foreign language, with their teachers.


Vietor's understanding of the course of the analytical-inductive method is as follows (and here I may be permitted to give the closing words of his brochure verbatim): "No home preparation shall be demanded of the pupil. The teacher reads in class a short piece aloud as slowly and distinctly as necessary, during which the books of the pupils are closed. He gives the meaning, of the words not yet known or such as are to be inferred from the context, leaving the complete translation to the competition of the class, retaining it however naturally in strict control. Now the books shall be opened. The teacher reads the piece again aloud or allows one of the best pupils to read; others — the number of volunteers will be great — follow in reading, and also in translating. After he has assured himself that the pupils understand the meaning of each individual word, he puts questions regarding the content with the books still open (under certain circumstances first in the mother tongue, then in the foreign language) to which answers are to be given in the foreign language and in complete sentences. The books are again closed, and confident pupils, later also the more timid, reproduce the story in the foreign tongue. Now writing may begin. First on the black-board, then in the note-books, both in the form of answers to questions set by the teacher. In the next period the piece is repeated. A list of words in phonetic transcription at the end of the Reader, later a dictionary, shall enable the pupil to look up at home words which have escaped his memory. The learning or memorizing of words is not demanded, and only then shall the teacher announce that a poem or suitable prose piece is to be recited in the next period when the great majority of the pupils go home with the consciousness that they "know it already" and with the desire of repeating it to their parents.


"`Written work to be done at home shall not be set, and translating into the foreign language is an art that has no connection with the school. In the course of time the treatment of the reading matter must become more independent, but the double aim — understanding and reproduction — never lost to sight. That the latter — reproduction — will have at its disposal an ever increasing stock of spontaneous forms of thought and expression, is self-evident. But what of grammar? Quite of its own accord it attaches itself in detail to the reading. At not too great intervals a revision of the reading matter, which had been studied in the meantime, should take place with definite chapters of grammar in view, and the results systematically classified and used to supplement former statements. There is not the least doubt but that the foreign language must be spoken in the class. Instruction in the classical languages has with its present-day methods not attained this goal. From this we can learn, how not to do it."


Although I do not agree in all details with the "Father of the Reform" whom I admire so highly, I have thought it best to give first an exact reproduction of his views. I reserve for myself the privilege of later showing how in practice much has assumed another form, whereby, however, his fame of having by a strong cry of warning cleared the course for needed and helpful innovations has not been diminished.


Vietor's views found enthusiastic approbation, but also from the opposition energetic protest. In the clash of opinions the modest, earnest man continued quietly in his course conscious of his purpose. He worked continually on his famous work, which soon reappeared in a new edition, Elemente der Phonetik und Orthoepie des Deutschen, Englischen und Franzosischen mit Rucksicht auf die Bedurfnisse der Lehrpraxis (Leipzig, Reisland's Verlag; the fourth edition appeared in 1898), of which he published in 1897 an abridged edition, Kleine Phonetik. He presented foreigners desirous of learning German with his excellent little book, German Pronunciation, Practice and Theoryii (2nd edition revised and enlarged, Leipzig, O. R. Reisland, 1890), as also with the pamphlet, Wie ist die Aussprache des Deutschen zu lehren? (3te Auflage, Marburg, Elwert's Verlag, 1901). He prepared Lauttafeln (phonetic charts), so advantageous in instruction in pronunciation on a phonetic basis, for German, French, and English (published together with Vietor's Explanations by Elwert in Marburg), and composed a Deutsches Lesebuch in Lautschrift als Hulfsbuch zur Erwerbung einer mustergultigen Aussprache (Leipzig, B. G. Teubner's Verlag, 1901). He founded and edited the periodical publications Phonetische Studien and the most authoritative organ of the German reform movement Die neueren Sprachen (Marburg, N. G. Elwert). And finally, as university professor in Marburg, developed a corps of capable modern language teachers to whom he gave a thorough training in phonetics as aid in their difficult calling.


And what Victor by his pamphlet had so well started, was successfully put into practice by like-minded, capable teachers with pedagogical talent, ever on the watch for the practical. A large literature relating to methods has appeared, and what Victor could merely here and there suggest has been elaborated in detail, and many a new hint, many a careful modification, many a piece of practical advice has proved of profit for the schoolroom.


As a lively interest has been manifested among American teachers for these writings, I would submit the following list which I have selected from the wealth of the reform literature as of greatest importance for further consideration:


BREYMANN, Der neusfrachliche Unterricht an Gymnasien und Realschulen. Munchen, 1882. KUHN, Zur Methode des franzosischen Sprachunterrichts. Wiesbaden, 1883.

MUNCH, Zur Forderung des franzosischen Unterrichts. Heilbronn, 1883.

(Zweite umgearbeitete Auflage, Leipzig, 1895.)

FELIX FRANKE, Die praktische Spracherlernung auf Grund der Psychologie und Physiologie. Heilbronn, 1884.

BREYMANN & MOLLER, Zur Reform des neusprachlichen Unterrichts. Munchen, 1884. HORNEMANN, Zur Reform des neusprachlichen Unterrichts auf hoheren Lehranstalten. 2 Hefte. Hannover, 1885, 1886.

A. OHLERT, Die fremdsprachliche Reformbewegung mit besonderer

Berucksichtigung des Franzosischen. Konigsberg, 1886.

BIERBAUM, Die analytisch-direkte Methode. Kassel, 1889.

RAMBEAU, Der franzosische und englische Unterricht in der deutschen Schule. Hamburg, 1886.

LOUVIER, Uber Naturgemassheit im fremdsprachlichen Unterricht. Hamburg, 3. Auflage, 1888.

A. VON RODEN, Inwiefern muss der Sprachunterricht umkehren? Marburg, 1890.

MAX WALTER, Die Reform des neusprachlichen Unterrichts auf Schule und Unwersitat. Mit einem Nachwort von Wilhelm Vietor. Marburg, Verlag von Elwert.

MAX WALTER, Der franzosische Klassenunterricht (Unterstufe). Marburg (Elwert), 1895.

MAX WALTER, Englisch nach dem Frankfurter Reformplan. Marburg, 1898.

KLINGHARDT, Ein Jahr Erfahrungen mit der neuen Methode. Marburg, 1888.

KLINGHARDT, Die Alten und die Jungen. Marburg, 1888.

KLINGHARDT, Drei weitere Jahre Erfahrungen mit der imitativen Methode. Marburg, 1892. KUHN, Entwurf eines Lehrplans fur den franzosischen Unterricht am Realgymnasium. (Mittel- und Oberstufe.) Marburg, 1889.

QUIEHL, Franzosische Aussprache und Sprachfertigkeit. Marburg, 1889.

(Zweite Auflage, 1893.)

E. VON SALLWURK, Funf Kapitel vom Erlernen fremder Sprachen. Berlin, 1898.

STIEHLER, Streifzuge auf dem Gebiet der neusprachlichen Reformbewegung. Marburg, 1890.

STIEHLER, Zur Methodik des neusprachlichen Unterrichts. Marburg, 1891.

MANGOLD, Geloste und ungeloste Fragen der Methodik. Berlin, 1892.

WATZOLDT, Die Aufgabe des neusprachlichen Unterrichts und die Vorbildung der Lehrer. Berlin, 1892.

BAHLSEN, Der franzosische Sprachunterricht im neuen Kurs. Berlin, 1892.

OHLERT, Methodische Anleitung sum Unterricht im Franzosischen. Hannover, 1893.

FETTER, Bin Versuch mit der analytischen Lehrmethode beim Unterricht in der fransosischen Sprache. Wien, 1890.


An almost complete bibliography of the entire material is to be found in Hermann Breymann's Die neusprachliche Reform-litteratur von 1876 bis 1893 (Leipzig, Verlag von Deichert, 1898), in which over 800 articles and books for and against the reform movement are cited. In his second bibliographical work, Die neusprachliche Reformlitteratur von 1894 bis 1899 (Leipzig, Deichert, 1900), Breymann, professor at the University of Munich, continued in his praiseworthy task.


Whoever would be convinced by visiting a German school of the practical results which those reform proposals and endeavors of Vietor and his followers have effected, to him I would recommend the Musterschule in Frankfurt-on-the-Main, under the genial direction of Max Walter. There Max Walter himself gives instruction in French and English according to the "new method," and a capable body of teachers are working successfully along the same lines under his guidance.


It cannot be denied that even to-day many university professors and teachers of modern languages in Germany are unfavorably disposed toward the entire reform movement. The old and easy method of grammatical analysis will undoubtedly for a long time boast of many stubborn followers, but in general we have proceeded to the order of the day regardless of their protests, and the so-called "December Conference," summoned in 1890 by the Emperor, recommended, beside a material abridgment in grammatical instruction, a method of teaching which should start with reading, whereby knowledge of grammar should be developed as the result of reading. A new goal, so ran the last decree of that Schulenquetekommission, shall from now on be set all higher schools, the practical (oral and written) application of the foreign language shall be placed in the foreground, and grammar shall be merely a means to the end!


In Austria the higher authorities had even earlier recognized the necessity of a reform in modern language teaching. As early as May, 1887, the Minister of Education in Vienna had declared that the methods of teaching English and French — deviating from those of the dead languages — must above all else strive to render the modern languages a means of mutual understanding. And in the ordinances of the Austrian educational authorities an important step was taken in advance of the German position, for the Austrian regulations exclude from the lower classes translations from the mother tongue, admitting them only as of secondary importance in the middle and upper classes. In place of this there will be substituted in Austrian schools in appropriate succession, dictation, questions and answers, remodeling, reproduction, etc.; in short, tasks which lie in the domain of the foreign language, which stand in connection with the reading and which serve to arouse Sprachgefuhl Hence they have in the official circles of Austria drawn final, definite conclusions from the reform in methods earlier, more distinctly and with greater vigor than in Germany.


I know that several prominent university professors in America, this land of rapid progress, even in most recent times regard training in speaking in foreign language teaching either as a goal not attainable by the school or as of little consequence. And others, perhaps, fear that with such an end in view the formal educational worth of language study would be lost. In reply to such doubts, Dr. Schulze, director of the College francais in Berlin, has spoken as follows: "If the modern foreign languages are taught in the way that formerly Latin was actually taught, with the intention of speaking it, they will exercise a very important and peculiar influence in the development of the child's intellectual power. They give the mind of the pupil a versatility, which instruction in Latin and Greek can never impart. They produce, as opposed to the tendency of classical instruction, directed solely toward the cultivation of the logical faculties, a productive ability, as it were an artistic ease in creation, which is absolutely necessary as counterbalance." Also Professor Adolf Tobler, the famous Romanist of the University of Berlin, has designated it as altogether too great resignation, as a modesty far overstepping the limits, if we believe that in foreign language teaching we must renounce the hope of imparting actual ability to speak. "To speak and write a foreign tongue is a means of instruction of such far-reaching consequence that it must be insisted upon." It is difficult to understand how the Tobler, who uttered these words, could in his sympathies remain more on the side of the opposition to the reform movement. Did he, perhaps, fear as university professor that the endeavors of the future teachers of modern languages could be directed too much toward attaining fluency in speaking? Or, did he fear that they would devote too much attention to the modern, living language, and too little to the older stages of its development, that they would train a generation of young people who should no longer take pleasure in the traditional, strictly philological study of the literary products of the Middle Ages?


In the clash of opinions, which resulted in the first decade after Vietor's reform pamphlet, two constantly more sharply defined hostile camps were to be distinguished; on the one side the teachers of the classics and the modern language teachers, who still held fast to the grammar study of former days, upon whose banner the battle-cry was inscribed "Logical Linguistic Training," and on the other the advocates of phonetics, the opponents of translating methods, those teachers who laid more stress upon Sprachgefuhl and practical application of the modern languages in conversation and independent written expression than upon extensive grammatical knowledge. The result was a secession of the modern language teachers favorable to the reform movement at the general German Philologen- und Schulmannertage. Every year, at the present time every second year, are held German Neuphilologentage, at which the hard-fought fight for the new ideals is waged. A crisis came at the Berlin Neuphilologentag of June, 1892, when Stephan Watzoldt advocated in glowing words the reform of foreign language teaching in the schools and universities, and where the vast majority of the conference cheered enthusiastically in approbation. The victory of the new method was decided.


By this, however, is not meant that we teachers of modern languages in Germany follow unconditionally all of Vietor's proposals. With most of us there has gradually developed in practice a method which holds aloof from the excesses of the two diametrically opposed tendencies; which proceeds, as it were, mediatingly, selecting from all reform experiments and innovations what is best and most useful for class instruction.


After my experiences and observations in America I should regard such a course most adapted to American conditions. What a few of the most radical reformers have demanded, to completely do away with systematic grammar, can be recommended least of all in a land where the majority of the pupils speak English as their mother tongue. The grammatical categories must be rendered more intelligible to the children, and for this purpose a language richer in accidence studied. The inflections of Latin, for example, are certainly of much assistance in acquiring a clear comprehension of grammar. But when Latin is not studied, or the stage is too early for this, the desired assistance in acquiring that grammatical insight which at all events must be attained in the school, should be sought in the richer German or French languages.


Therefore, work toward systematic grammar, even in modern language teaching! But do not start out with the system! Do not begin, as in former days, with practice in declensions and conjugations, but begin with connected texts, even if they be short and easy, out of which the grammatical forms and rules shall gradually be discovered! And when a sufficient amount of grammatical material has been collected, then place together what is homogeneous, what is related, and build up the system. This analytical-inductive course is warmly recommended even by those who style themselves "moderated reformers" (gemassigte Reformer), as whose representatives in Germany I would name, before all others, Wilhelm Munch (Zur Forderung des franzosischen Unterrichts, 2. Auflage, Leipzig, 1895) and Oskar Ulbrich (Uber die franzosische Lekture an Realgymnasien, Berlin, 1884). Munch regards grammar as the backbone of all language instruction, but warns against the "too much" in grammatical rules and exceptions, recommends limiting one's self to the typical, the important and the essential. With Vietor he advocates with all firmness "learning to speak," without which modern language will incur the curse of ridiculousness. He recommends continual practice in conversation in connection with the reading, which shall form the central point of the instruction. He emphasizes the ethical and aesthetical means of instruction, which the cultivation of a correct pronunciation affords; he wishes to see the pupils held to reading, beautiful as well as judicious, and demands of every teacher of modern languages that he himself master the living language, and, if possible, attain in the foreign country fluency in speaking and a faultless pronunciation. In his high regard for phonetics Munch also agrees with Vietor, and demands of the teacher a knowledge of the elements of sound physiology; warns, however, against introducing the scientific terminology into the class-room. Especial emphasis he lays upon careful drill in the sounds peculiar to the foreign language, as also upon a most distinct articulation, but looks upon phonetic transcription as superfluous. He recommends frequent practice of the ear and also frequent dictation; admits the worth and importance of free composition, of independent oral and written expression of thought; he wishes to see foreign language compositions carefully prepared even in the earlier stages of instruction, and Sprachgefuihl developed, but he would not give up all practice in translation, although admitting that the doing of native classics into the foreign language, formerly so popular, was nonsense, as naturally even the best achievements of pupils in this line could be but bungling.


The reading according to Munch may no longer be a mere grammatical note-book. The content shall have its influence, and not merely in the later stages of instruction when the characteristic peculiarities of the nation's classics and their importance from the standpoint of the history of civilization are to be brought home to the pupil, but from the very start, where material of more valuable content shall be discussed. Here he opposes the theses which Wendt (Hamburg) proposed at the Neuphilologentag in Vienna, according to which the reading of the poets should be limited to six months, while grammar and the history of literature should be entirely excluded from the school. With Vietor and Watzoldt, Munch also emphasizes the fact that the final goal of foreign language teaching must be a comprehension of the foreign people's spirit, its peculiar civilization. An important factor in this is an acquaintance with the Realien. Klinghardt in 1886 was the first, to my knowledge, to call attention to this field, and by Realien he understands what in Latin and Greek are called "antiquities"; that is, everything that is connected with the civilization of modern nations in their interpretation of life.


By means of direct observation this should be brought into even greater prominence for class and private reading through textbooks and university lectures. Applied to American educational conditions, the resulting demand upon German and French instruction would be to impart to the pupils a knowledge and understanding of the more important details of the geography and history of Germany and France, of the sagas, folk-lore and civilization, of the government and institutions, of the manners and customs of former and more recent times; yes, even to make the pupils to some degree conversant with such material, as is to be found in R, Kron's useful "Readers": German Daily Life: Information on the various topics of German Life, Manners, and Institutions (Newson & Co., New York), and French Daily Life: A Guide for the Student as well as for the Traveller (Newson & Co., New York).


Many and various other suggestions for further enlivening modern language teaching have followed. Divers tendencies run along beside those already defined, and find their place in the teaching of foreign languages in German schools. It is traceable to the influence of such suggestions, when the most recent Prussian Lehrplane (1901) allow instead of translations free compositions in the foreign language to be written in the upper classes, which are considered to be as good a proof of knowledge as was formerly an exercise interlarded with grammatical difficulties.


Some years ago Vietor and his friends presented a petition to the ministry in Berlin, and emphasized that the new method, favored even by the government, trains the pupil from the very beginning in free expression in the foreign tongue, and that consequently no translation of the old style could be demanded of him in the final examination. The Prussian government seems to recognize the justice of this objection and also in this direction to allow the teachers of the modern languages the desired freedom in method. In other respects, also, material concessions have been made to the demands of the reformers: The German gymnasium should lay greater stress upon oral performances in modern foreign languages than upon written, and should desist entirely from written examinations. While in the official ordinances of the 70's one could still read "development of fluency in speaking cannot be the task of the school," the most recent Prussian Lehrplane demand training in speaking, intensity in reading, familiarization with the foreign people's spirit. A new concession to the method of not translating is the ordinance that even in a reading period a discussion of the content in the foreign language may, at times, be substituted for the translation of the text into the mother tongue. The use of phonetic transcriptions, which was formerly forbidden in German schools, has, to be sure, not become generally adopted, but is certainly allowed where a teacher regards it as profitable. Reading and speaking, practice of the ear, dictations and free compositions have now, by official order, been brought into the foreground, the study and the methods of modern foreign language teaching have indeed changed very materially from those of former days; have been remodeled to meet the demands and needs of a new time and of modern educational ideals.


Martin Hartmann, who stands at the head of the modern language teaching reformers of Saxony, has made in various directions pregnant suggestions. In his work Die Anschauung im neusprachlichen Unterrichte (Wien, Eduard Holzel, 1895) he showed with what profit and success pictures can be used in teaching, and how excellently they are adapted to force the children to speak and to convey to them the materials of the foreign language without the use of the mother tongue. This same Professor Martin Hartmann advocated Schulerkorrespondenz, and has brought it about that to-day thousands of German schoolboys and girls, under the guidance of their teachers, correspond with other pupils in France and England. Every year he engages foreigners, capable elocutionists, to read to the pupils in the various cities of Germany selected specimens of French, English and American literature. As is well known, in Germany instruction, even in the foreign languages, is given only by German-born teachers (the few foreigners, teaching in private schools, could scarcely be taken into account); hence it can be estimated how profitable it must be for our pupils to hear foreigners. Similar arrangements, especially for Berlin, were made fourteen years ago by Kabisch and Bahlsen, and during each winter opportunity has been offered foreign language teachers to hear those poetical and prose pieces which should be taken up in class, read by French and English reciters. As this has met with such great success in Germany, it should encourage American teachers not to be satisfied with occasionally sending the pupils to a theatrical presentation of a French or German classic, but to afford them as well frequent opportunity of hearing German and French readers. Here we must take into account the question of a "standard pronunciation," and it seems to me to be of particular importance for instruction in German that teacher and pupil have continual opportunity of hearing that pronunciation which since the transactions of the German Aussprachekonferenz is alone regarded as authoritative, the North German stage pronunciation. In addition to the work of Wilhelm Vietor already mentioned, Die Aussprache des Schriftdeutschen, mit der phonetischen Umschrift des Worterverzeichnisses (Leipzig, Reisland), I would here recommend his little pamphlet: Wie ist die Aussprache des Deutschen su lehren? (third edition, Marburg, 1901) and the brochure of Theodor Siebs, professor at the University of Greifswald: Deutsche Buhnenaussprache (Berlin, 1898).


In the teaching of French in American schools the question as to what pronunciation is to be taught as standard could scarce arise, as from time immemorial the French of the Parisian society life, and in elocution the stage pronunciation of the Theatre Francais have been indisputably authoritative.


It is quite natural that those who in America teach their German or French mother tongue should be more or less under the influence of a provincial dialect. Whether or not they have the desire to rid themselves of this dialect and acquire a standard pronunciation, they cannot at any rate close their eyes to the evident fact that a supreme court of appeal is in a certain sense necessary and, for the sake of as uniform a pronunciation as possible on the part of the pupil, desirable. American pupils in the three or four years during which instruction in German is imparted have often just as many, if not more German teachers; one of whom may be under the influence of a south German or Austrian dialect, another under the influence of Berlin or Saxon provincialisms, while a third may come from Hanover, and more or less consciously may introduce the characteristic features of his native dialect into his teachings. It is impossible to completely eliminate the consequences, but in the interest of a pure and true pronunciation of the High German taught in American schools it would be, by all means, desirable if the resolutions of the Aussprachekonferenz could be recognized as standard in all doubtful cases, for German, with as great unanimity as has so long prevailed in the teaching of French.


In order to establish a certain uniformity of pronunciation, French as well as German texts have been published for American schools with accompanying phonetic transcriptions, and I would urgently advise teachers at least to give them a trial: a French anthology, Chrestomathie Francaise, Morceaux Choisis de Prose et de Poesie avec Prononciation figuree a l'Usage des Etrangers, par Jean Passy et Adolphe Rambeau, Precedes d'une Introduction sur la Methode Phonetique (second revised edition, New York, Henry Holt, 1901); and for German instruction has appeared the first volume in a series of "Ideophonic Texts for Acquiring Languages," edited by Robert Morris Pierce: Schiller's Wilhelm Tell, Act I, Editorial Critic George Hempl (New York, Hinds & Noble, 1900).


The demand that the present-day teaching of modern languages shall make the pupil conversant with the so-called Realien has aroused great activity in another direction. Not only have teachers selected other and more modern materials for school reading, and avoided the exclusive study of classic, authors or historians, but they have even supplemented the reading with maps, sketches and pictures, which, by means of very detailed explanations render many things clear to the pupil which the schoolmen of former times believed unworthy of discussion in class. They have begun, and surely with all propriety, to take interest in pictures which represent French and German landscapes and cities, places of historic interest, famous architectural monuments, yes, even streets and public squares, imposing personalities of earlier and more recent times, types of everyday life, in fact everything that could be interesting and instructive from the standpoint of the history of civilization. It has been recommended to portray in the elementary books the inside of a French or German city or peasant house, to reproduce original letters in the characteristic handwriting, for it is, I am sorry to say, a much-lamented drawback that even our most advanced pupils, in spite of a most thorough mastery of the foreign language, are not able to decipher letters written by foreigners. In evening and commercial schools it would be profitable not to withhold from the pupils even business correspondence, but to bring to their attention Lettres d'affaires, Circulaires, Lettres de change, etc.


At the same time the coinage of a foreign land would naturally be discussed; many a new text-book for German schools already gives reproductions of coins. Professor Wilhelm Scheffler in Dresden recommended that not merely a map of Paris in the Middles Ages, a bird's-eye view of Berlin or Holzel's Paris be hung in the class-room and made the basis of conversation in the foreign language, but he has had even models constructed on trustworthy historic lines, which bring in plastic form before the eyes of the pupils the Bastille, the Theatre Moliere and a Ruelle, i.e., a literary salon of the seventeenth century. In like manner he intends to issue in the Verlag des Dresdener Frobelhauses a model of the Weimar theatre at the time of Goethe and Schiller, a presentation of the Glockenguss, etc.


In a discourse delivered at the forty-fifth meeting of German Philologen und Schulmanner at Bremen, September, 1899, I recommended the establishment of Neusprachliche Unterrichts-archive in which the material for object lessons should be kept, together with a rich library to furnish the teacher of modern languages with a knowledge of the Realien important for his subject, and orient him in a domain into which his previous study had not directly initiated him. Such Neusprachliche Unterrichts-archive should be, as it were, the armory out of which we could choose weapons for methods of teaching full of life and inspiration.


Thus briefly only have I been able to touch upon the manifold tendencies which in our day are endeavoring to serve and further instruction in the modern foreign languages. One thing I hope has been brought home to my readers in this general survey of the field; the ways and ends of modern language teaching are now conceived to be totally different from those of the dead languages. Activity, endeavor and courage are shown by the reformers, and we may hope that after the gale which has swept off so much of the dust and dead ballast of modern language teaching has died away, an enlivening breeze may blow through the classes, to the delight of the pupil and joy of the teacher.

Endnotes

i Der Sprachunterricht muss umkehren! Ein Beitrag zur Uberburdungsfrage von Quousque Tandem (Wilhelm Vietor), Heilbronn, Verlag der Gebruder Henninger, 1882. In the mean time several new editions have appeared.

ii The best German, German Sounds, and how they are represented in spelling, the Letters of the Alphabet, and their phonetic values, German Accent, Specimens. The German edition was entitled, Die Aussprache des Schriftdeutschen, mit dem Worterverzeichnis fur die deutsche Rechtschreibung in phonetischer Umschrift sowie phonetischen Texten; 4te Auflage, Leipzig, Reisland's Verlag, 1898.





Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 4 Number 3, 1903, p. 180-196
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9774, Date Accessed: 1/23/2022 4:49:31 PM

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