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
Amongst the principles discovered and enunciated
by Gouin the following are important : —
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.
The opposite plan followed by book studentsconstitutes one of their chief difficulties when they
put down their books and hear the language spoken
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
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 subjective language, that is, the language which
embodies our judgments upon external objects, is
dealt with in a different, but equally effective, way.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 : —
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