Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

Study of the German Language

We wish to call attention to a lecture on this subject which Mr. Ertheiler proposes to deliver preparatory to the forming of classes. We have read it in manuscript and found in it a clear and judicious exposition of the objects and methods of this study.

Mr. Ertheiler gives good reasons, both as to mental culture and practical use, why the study is interesting and important to English and Americans, especially the latter. He alludes to some remarks by Professor Von Raumer as to the advantage of schools where the English and German languages shall be mutually taught, which may be read with advantage in this connection.

He points out the fallacy of the prevalent idea, that a foreign tongue can ever be learnt thoroughly by imitation and practice alone, without understanding of its theory and structure. In this, no less than other matters, he who knows not how to render a reason for the faith that is in him, will be incompetent to teach others, and often at a loss in his own practice when new cases come up. Indeed, without intercourse with natives, and even in the scenes and climate where a language has grown up, neither thorough acquaintance with its idioms and fine meanings, nor full command of it in speech and writing can be attained. But study of it theoretically and in good authors should precede, confirm, and intellectualize this familiar acquaintance.

Mr. Ertheiler points out different means which may be used according to the wants of different minds. We should infer from the lecture that he would be successful in practical teaching through patience, tact, and fixing the attention of the learner on leading points. This last is what most teachers fail in most, especially in the case of the German language, one with which it is easy to become acquainted if attention is directed to its roots, and the principles of its growth; very difficult, if taught by rote, and an accumulation of little rules, as it often is by teachers, either stupid and ignorant, or who, looking on this office merely as a stepping-stone to something better, a temporary means of earning a little money, pay no attention to thinking out a good method; and,

-293-

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