The church and the highlands



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? Or does it not rather seem as if the author had drawn the words at random out of the dictionary, more with the view of giving every word some chance of representation instead of teaching those expressions which we actually need and must know? A person might learn a whole dictionary by heart and yet would not be able to converse.

" I hold that, instead of beginning our studies with little useless sentences (so often taught), which no commonsense person was ever known to use, and which no one can ever put to a practical purpose, we ought to commence with flowing, connected, rational sentences, such as we are in the habit of employing in practical life. Instead of teaching phrases whose constructions are the same as those of our native tongue, we ought, on the contrary, to commence with

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idiomatic sentences, whose formations are utterly foreign to our mode of speaking, thereby dis­accustoming our minds from thinking in English, and becoming familiarised with the foreign ways of expression and thought. For this, after all, is the great difficulty; this is the point of the whole problem. We must learn to think in the foreign language itself. We must no longer think about our French or about our German, but in the language itself. No one can speak a foreign language who does not think in it. Of course, when we reside abroad it is easily understood how we acquire the power of thinking in a foreign language. There we are surrounded by Frenchmen, Spaniards, Swedes or Germans; we hear nothing but the foreign vernacular, and, being continuously obliged to make use of these strange sounds, we imperceptibly get so accustomed to them that, finally, they come just as readily and unconsciously to our tongues as the sounds of our own native language. The words become, in fact, so fully our mental and bodily property, that, as the French say, ' we possess them1 and think in them. How is a language learned? What is the meaning of this phrase, 'To learn a language' ? It means to translate our own in­dividuality into comprehensible sounds. It does not mean to study grammatical peculiarities. It is not to be attained by the study and translation of the classic works of literature. It is vain to attempt it by any school system. It must be accomplished, by a sort of mental reconstruction—of our whole outer and inner life. We must live over again the various incidents and sentiments of our life and must learn to express them in a foreign tongue. Life's various scenes have to be represented anew in strange sounds, which, constantly repeated, will soon become second

nature to us. Again and again we have to hear and repeat these sounds ; again and again we must apply them until at last they become just as familiar to us as the sounds of our native tongue. There will then no longer be any talk of translation from one language into the other. The words will have become so thoroughly impressed upon our memory that they come just as easily, readily and uncon­sciously to our lips as the sounds of our mother-tongue. Remember that we possess but one intelligence, and our • thoughts must ever be the same, whether we express them in English, Russian, French or German. Language appeals, therefore— at first at least—solely to the ear, tongue and memory, and though our intellect superintends and guides the whole initiatory process, it does not and cannot come into real action until the foreign sounds come just as unconsciously to our tongue as the sounds of our native language."

We make no apology for this lengthy excerpt from Dr Rosenthal's observations on the rational study of foreign languages, for the justness and lucidity of his remarks are beyond question. We hope that they will not be lost sight of by those who have the interests of the Gaelic language at heart, and some of whom may at this time be contemplat­ing some addition to our already superfluous stock of Gaelic grammars. The scientific aspect of the language is receiving an amount of attention from scholars which, in comparison of past neglect, cannot but be highly gratifying to our national pride; but there is some danger lest the purely antiquarian instincts of the master minds of native and foreign Celtic scholarship should lead to the unmerited neglect of the living language. There is no doubt that a compilation such as Dr Rosenthal has already


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An Tuil

An Tuil

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effected in the interests of those who desire to learn German, Spanish and French, is also desirable from the point of view of those—and their number, if not legion, is, at all events, considerable and increasing— who wish to acquire Gaelic—one of the most idiomatic and flexible of all languages. Our existing grammars leave much to be desired, if we are to consider those who are not so much concerned with the theoretical as with the practical side of the language. Indeed, with scarcely an exception, they are antiquated in their methods, and being for the most concerned with obscure questions of purely gram­matical import are practically useless from the point of view of the student who desires to write in the language, rather than of or about it. It is to be hoped that this long-felt want will soon be supplied to the public.




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