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AIDS TO THE STUDY OF SPANISH
It is absurd, I believe, to try to teach Spanish, or French, or German, or any other foreign language, to an American who does not possess a reasonably good command of English. The reasons for this ought to be obvious, but I am going to take the liberty of stating them. In the first place, English is the language of this country, and foreign language teachers, particularly if they are of foreign birth, will be wise never to forget this for a moment. I have always liked the ringing words of one of the "grand old men" of modern language teaching in the United States-Edward S. Joynes, for many years Professor of Modern Languages in the University of South Carolina, who wrote:
We must insist that for this American people there is only one mothertongue, to which all other languages are alike foreign, and to be studied as such, by its norms, and largely, too, for its sake. It would be better that our students should never know other languages than use them to debauch their English.1
Another significant statement on the same general topic comes from one of the recognized leaders of the teachers of Spanish in the United States, Lawrence A. Wilkins, Director of Modern Languages in the high schools of New York City:
All attempts to improve our teaching of modern languages should have, as their one supreme intent, not the making of Frenchmen, or Spaniards, or Spanish-Americans, but the making of sturdy, competent citizens of the United States.2
We can best follow the advice of these two men of unusual experience and unquestioned judgment by keeping constantly in mind the fact that we are teaching young Americans, and that we are not only teachers of a foreign language but also-and I think, inevitably-teachers of English as well.
Pedagogically, also, this point is well worth considering. Is it not illogical to expect a student who, despite years of close and
1 Methods of Teaching Modern Languages, by various authors, New York, Heath, 1915.
2 Address before New England Modern Language Association, May 8, 1920.
continuous contact with English, is unable to compose, orally or in writing, a paragraph of decent English, to compose one in decent French, or Spanish, or German, after a relatively short "exposure" to the language, even though the teaching is more intensive and he is relieved of the sometimes heavy strain of furnishing ideas as well as the language with which to clothe them? Should we not compel all students who are deficient in English grammar or composition, or whose English vocabularies are weak or erratic, to take extracurricular work in English before permitting them to begin a foreign language? Certainly the foreign language teacher's task would be lightened immeasurably by such a provision.
It is a condition, not a theory, however, that confronts us. Undoubtedly many of our pupils are deficient in English-in grammar and syntax, in vocabulary, in linguistic taste, in plain languageIt is our duty to face this condition, to try to correct these deficiencies. Practical means of meeting the need, at least in part, will readily occur to any experienced teacher. We can and should insist on decent English in all our work, even though our major emphasis is upon another language. We can devote a short time at the beginning of the course to a review of grammatical fundamentals and an explanation of grammatical terminology. We can and should in the course of our teaching constantly point out analogies and contrasts between the foreign language and our own. We can show how much of the modern vocabulary is common to all civilized tongues by emphasizing cognate words, and by showing the common Latin source of many words in English and the Romance languages. Such discussions not only are pedagogically sound, but they also help to stimulate interest. I may mention at this point a most valuable handbook which supplements the standard works on English namely, the Report of the Committee on Grammatical Nomenclature. Every modern language teacher should be familiar with this useful pamphlet. Another valuable aid is General Language, by Leonard and Cox, which should be very helpful in high schools.
Failure to grasp what it is all about, however, is not the only glaring fault of our pupils. Difficulty in learning to pronounce a
3 Obtainable from the National Education Association, Washington, D.C. 4 Rand, McNally & Co.
ti foreign tongue is the rule rather than the exception with Americans. Here, however, we have many excellent aids. First come the recognized handbooks on Spanish pronunciation, the best of which is he of course that of Tomás Navarro-Tomás. A brief treatise on Spanish pronunciation that is extremely helpful is Professor J. Moreno-Lacalle's Spanish Pronunciation (Scribner's). (Scribner's). Spanish teachers should know something of Spanish, as well as of general, phonetics, even though they do not use phonetics in any formal way in their teaching. As a matter of fact, most teachers do not use phonetics in elementary Spanish courses, and see no advantage in so doing; but all will find a knowledge of phonetics, however rudimentary, of great practical value in their work.
A powerful aid to the teaching of Spanish pronunciation is provided by the phonograph records prepared to accompany the Hills and Ford Spanish grammars (Heath). These records have the advantages of being patient, good-natured, and uniform, and when made, as in this instance, by a reliable and careful native-speaker, they are of unquestioned utility. Students have been known to club together to provide them for their schools.
"Verb" comes from Latin "verbum," which means "word." Verbs are the words of speech. It is hopeless to expect to master a language unless we can master its verb-system, which includes of course the use of pronouns and prepositions with verbs. In Spanish we have not only a generous allowance of irregular verbs, but have to contend also with orthographic changes and radical changes as well. Professor John D. Fitz-Gerald estimates, I believe, that there are practically twice as many verb-peculiarities of various sorts in Spanish as in French.
Fortunately it is possible to reduce this material to its "least common denominator," and this has been done successfully by Professor C. A. Graeser of the College of Charleston. Graeser's "Spanish Verb Chart" (World Book Company) contains all there is to say about Spanish verb-forms; it indicates very clearly accentuation and irregularities by means of differently-colored type and all
5 Manual de Pronunciación Española, Madrid, 1918.
A Primer of Spanish Pronunciation by Navarro Tomás and Professor Aurelio M. Espinosa is announced by Benj. H. Sanborn & Co.
this is accomplished in a small chart which can be folded up to fit the pocket. This inexpensive and useful chart is one of our best aids. May I say here that orthographic and radical changes in Spanish verbs are not nearly so hard to learn, and teach, as some people imagine. All the changes of these two sorts have their parallels in other parts of speech, but they are not so conspicuous of course because the two sets of forms are not so frequently placed in juxtaposition. It is easy to show the student, for example, that when we write
we are illustrating exactly the same principle that appears in
These changes are obviously mere conventions of spelling, general throughout the language, but most noticeable in verbs.
Let me add a parenthesis here to register my belief that the inclusion by some grammarians of inceptive verbs (conocer type) among the orthographic-changing verbs, in which we have a definite principle of change in spelling but absolute regularity in sound, is a pedagogical error. Such verbs should have special treatment.
Analogies may likewise be utilized to show the pervasiveness of radical changes in the Spanish language. The student is perhaps unconsciously—already familiar with this change in parts of speech other than verbs. Let him study this list:
and compare these changes with those of radical-changing verbs. If he knows Latin, he will readily recognize these:
It is not necessary to explain this matter by references to the different phonological treatment of tonic and atonic syllables, but even that much of scientific linguistics is possible in many classes. If the student has had French, it is possible of course to utilize the same general principle by showing the effects of stress in such words. as vouloir and mourir:
If the students can stand it, one may show the analogy more striking in the Old French forms:
Next to the mastery of verb forms comes the mastery of verb In Spanish the uses of the subjunctive, especially, present great difficulties to American students, who rarely use the subjunctive in English and who if they have had French have learned that the subjunctive is almost literally "on its last legs" there. Despite its almost total disappearance in colloquial English, despite its restriction in colloquial French, the subjunctive in Spanish seems to go on forever! In fact, it is far more hale and hearty today than it was in the eighteenth century. I have found it helpful to point out that in general the subjunctive is the mode of the unreal, the uncertain, the potential, and that practically the only case in which the subjunctive is ordinarily used to state a fact, accepted as such, is after verbs of feeling or emotion. Any Spanish teacher can easily provide his pupils with a brief summary of subjunctive uses, illustrated by examples (rather examples without rules than rules without examples!)
Personally I like to make a grouping somewhat simpler than is usual, treating so-called "clauses with indefinite antecedent" and "clauses with negative antecedent" as illustrations of the same principle-which they are in fact. One may use for this group the term