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HAD M. Gouin achieved nothing in his long life but to discover and point out the futility of the classical or book methods of teaching languages he would have accomplished enough for one man. What years of valuable school life are wasted in our schools and colleges in an abortive attempt to teach
boys and girls a language which they never acquire, but which even a single year's residence amongst people who speak the language would not fail to impart to even the dullest amongst them. Fortunately it is not now necessary to labour this point, particularly amongst Gaelic Leaguers ; for the fewyears' experience we have had in trying to impart a knowledge of Irish from the study of books has fairly convinced us that we must try other methods or
give up the attempt to bestow a working knowledge of our language upon any but a limited and select number of our people. But M. Gouin did not
content himself with demolishing old idols. He discovered and enunciated many principles of teaching in respect of languages, and if he did not elaborate and complete a perfect system of teaching, he at least offered such suggestions as have made the path easy for other reformers.

Amongst the principles discovered and enunciated by Gouin the following are important : —
I. A language must be learned at first through the ear and not through the eye ; that is, the teaching must be oral. This principle is stamped with nature's approval. No mother attempts to teach a young child to speak by showing it signs and characters in a book. It is only in the case of deaf and dumb children that such a method is resorted to. In this case it is a matter of hard necessity to substitute a remaining and less appropriate sense for the sense that is missing. Yet, in teaching languages from books, pupils are placed almost on a level with the deaf and dumb, for they are expected to acquire by
means of the visual organ the faculty of speech, which may be so much more easily acquired through the sense of hearing. If this principle is true in a
general sense, it has special force for Gaelic Leaguers. The class of material we find in Gaelic classes is most unsuitable for student work by book methods.

Many of our students have no knowledge of grammar in any language and could not, if they tried, acquire such knowledge. Many of them are beyond the age of effective student life, and cannot hope to gain proficiency in the language unless the path is made easy for them. Further, it is very necessary to bring our students into touch as soon as possible with the Irish speakers around them, and book Irish is useless for this purpose. The book lessons utterly fail the student when he is put to the practical test of conversation. Moreover, book Irish or literary Irish is generally found to present considerable differences in its words and constructions from local dialect Irish, and this interposes additional barriers between the learner of Irish and Irish speakers. The student is thus deprived of the stimulus and encouragement which he ought find in understanding, and being understood, so far as his vocabulary goes, by Irish speakers. Under the Gouin method the pupils ought to be instructed in the language as it is spoken in their own neighbourhood. Hence every word they learn they can speak, and are readily understood. They are able, from the first, to use what Irish they have learned to acquire more, and every Irish speaker they meet becomes a teacher to them.
II. Language must be learned by sentences and not by words.

The opposite plan followed by book studentsconstitutes one of their chief difficulties when they put down their books and hear the language spoken
in ordinary conversation. The student is unable to distinguish the separate words, and is hopelessly confused. Moreover, although he may know all the
words which he desires to use, he has to think out elaborate rules for building up his sentence, and if he forgets one of these rules he falls into some dreadful
solecism and gets laughed at for his pains. In the oral method the language is invariably taught by sentences, and the student has no difficulty in distinguishing the words in ordinary conversation so far as his vocabulary carries him. His power of intuition is evolved and evoked for the construction
of sentences — a more reliable power than that of memory.

III. The student must be made to think in the language he is learning.

This, of course, is necessary, whatever the system of teaching pursued, for no person can make much use of a language, as a spoken tongue, until he can think in it. With the book method of teaching two important obstacles are found to prevent the student's progress in this respect ; the English
printed word and the necessity for translation. At every step the mind of the student is tied down to the English word and the English idiom, which interpose themselves betwixt the idea and the Irish expression of it. In the oral method there are no such obstacles. English is used sparingly to create a correct mental attitude towards the lesson and to evoke the ideas ; thereafter the action conceived in the mind of the student is connected with its proper expression in Irish. Hence, in a very short time the student can think in Irish. There is no translation, and English is only invoked to call forth the onception, the rest being done in Irish.

IV. Gouin claims that all language falls into one of two categories, one of which he calls objective language and the other subjective language.

These divisions of language are, it is claimed, psychologically distinct. The former relates to objects and experiences external to the person speaking;
the latter are mainly conceptions and judgments of the mind. The ordinary experiences of life may be expressed in series of sentences, closely allied and
arranged in the order of time. This arrangement falls in with the natural order of mental activities, and is accordingly a powerful aid to assimilation and memory. The sequence of thought follows the line of least resistance by a succession of well-ordered steps, the only new element being the expression of the ideas. The student is made to live his own life over again, and live it in Irish. If the student has been brought up in Ireland he will have recalled to
him in the Irish language many of the facts of life as already known to him ; while if he has been brought up in the large cities of his own land or outside of Ireland he will learn many things about Ireland that will be interesting and useful to him, and he will have assimilated his information through the medium of the Irish language, which he is learning all the time.

The subjective language, that is, the language which embodies our judgments upon external objects, is dealt with in a different, but equally effective, way.
It is taught as class-room conversation, having reference to the work in hand or the immediate surroundings, and acquires a hold upon the minds of pupils as effective as does the language of the Series.

The inquirer is invited to compare the ordered sequence of the sentences in the following Scries with the disconnected and chaotic phrases found in an ordinary phrase book, and he will have little difficulty in deciding that the Gouin arrangement of the sentences is a true psychological help to the
acquirement of a language.

V. Grammar is taught in a new way and without requiring the student to learn off by rote a number of technical rules before he has any conception of
how these rules are to assist him.

This has, as already indicated, a special value for Gaelic League work. Many of our students are simply incapable of mastering the complexities of grammatical rules. Some of them are too young, some of them are too old, and most of them are too uneducated, to study grammar effectively. By the oral method we can give all comers a good working knowledge of grammar without the need of studying its rules or using its technique or terminology, just as a child learns to express itself correctly without any knowledge of grammar. To advanced students the teacher will impart a knowledge of the general principles of Irish grammar, and students who wish to pursue the
subject can then read the grammars for themselves.

VI. Just as the sentence is the all-important element of speech and not the isolated word, so the verb is the soul of the sentence, the element around which the idea is grouped. If the teacher should doubt this, let him select the verbs from any of the following series and repeat them to himself, and if he
has already conceived the general idea of the lesson, the verbs will suggest almost the whole meaning of the sentences. No selection of nouns or other words will have the same effect. On this matter we are at issue with another well-known oral method.

VII. The Gouin lessons are the language of real life and the language of truth. No false or absurd thing is ever said, so that the mind of the student is not demoralised by fictitious, absurd and obviously false and impossible statements. The student is merely carried through one of his own experiences, or through a fact with which he is first made familiar. This is a powerful help to assimilation and memory.

Here are some further advantages of the Gouin method, and more will be noted incidentally as our lesson proceeds--

1. It trainsthe ear and the imagination from the start, and teaches a knowledge of Ireland and Irish life at the same time that language is taught.

2. It is easy for the pupils and not too hard upon the teacher, provided he knows the method, and has suitable text books. The learning of our native
language by this method is a pleasant recreation and involves no drudgery.

3) English is soon forgotten and left out of the question. Even when used it is only as a help to evoke an idea, which idea is not a mere translation of an English sentence. This idea when evoked is immediately associated in the student's mind with an Irish sentence

4) Under our oral system all can learn, the young, the old, the brilliant and the mediocre, and the rate of progress does not vary much as between students ; just as children of various capacities learn to speak their mother tongue in much the same period of time.

5) The progress made by students in a real knowledge of the language is much more rapid by the Gouin system than by the book method. I submit
that it is also more rapid than by any other oral method.

6) Reading and writing are also taught in Gouin instruction, but these follow instead of preceding the oral teaching. This is the natural order, (1) speaking, ( 2) reading, (3) writing.

( 7) The series method may be effectively employed to teach history and other subjects in Irish. Historical series may be introduced at any stage, and the series will be none the less effectual for teaching the language while they also teach history and writing

8) The method may be profitably employed in Irish-speaking districts to teach reading, spelling, and writing, and to enlarge the vocabulary of students and teach them the grammar and construction of the language.

We claim the following advantages for the Gouin method as compared with other oral methods now in vogue : —
1) We use English to convey our ideas in the first instance, thus proceeding from the known to the unknown. Some of the others proceed on an opposite principle and use only the language to be taught. This proceeding is too like to the method of teachers in Irish-speaking districts who do not know the language of their pupils, but require the latter to know and use Irish from the first. We are able to indicate the meanings of words before we use them, giving their application afterwards. We can also give necessary explanations at any stage, and can proceed to teach abstract ideas from the first. As soon as we can walk without our crutch, we discard it.

2) We claim that the Series method of arranging language possesses a real scientific value in teaching not possessed by any other arrangement.

3) We claim that the verb is the important word in the sentence, and teach it first. Other systems that rely upon objects and pictures, i.e., upon nouns, cannot teach the verb first, and are at a consequent disadvantage. Our method is peculiarly suited to teach Irish, for the verb takes precedence in every Irish sentence.

4) A teacher by the Gouin method can take a large class and teach in a hall where other lessons are proceeding. Teachers by some of the other methods cannot do so

5) he Gouin method is not a proprietary method, and everyone is free to teach by it.

The writer of this handbook, however, holds no brief for any method or interest, except for the most effective method of teaching Irish, and recommends that, where practicable, various oral methods be tried
and that the method giving the best results in the particular circumstances shall be adhered to. Further, the intelligent teacher, having made himself
proficient in one or more of these methods, should introduce such modifications as he may deem desirable. While Gouin enunciated principles, he prescribed no well-defined method of teaching. Others have done so in his name, and whether they interpret his views correctly, or whether they may have improved upon his ideas, is not for me to judge. The intelligent teacher, as he gains experience, will be able to add many valuable touches to the system.




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teaching irish - macGinley - 1902
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