An interesting couple of e-
“Wrong Way” Francois Gouin
The first exhibit you encounter focuses on the history of language teaching. The designers have chosen to begin that history with the amusing but poignant story of how one of the first language teaching methods was born, the story of Francois Gouin.
Francois Gouin (we'll call him Francois) was a teacher of Latin who lived in France
in the nineteenth century. A year or two before 1880, Francois decided he needed
to learn German. So he took a year away from his teaching job in France and went
to Hamburg. Borrowing from his methods of teaching Latin, Francois decided that the
best way to learn German would be to memorize a German grammar book and the 248 irregular
German verbs. He isolated himself in his room for ten days, and successfully memorized
the book and the verbs. Emerging from his ten-
But alas! In vain did I stain my ears; in vain my eye strove to interpret the slightest movements of the lips of the professor; in vain I passed from the first classroom to a second; not a word, not a single word would penetrate to my understanding. Nay more than this, I did not even distinguish a single one of the grammatical forms so newly studied; I did not recognize even a single one of the irregular verbs just freshly learnt, though they certainly must have fallen in crowds from the lips of the speaker.
Well, Francois wasn't about to give up. so back to his room he went. This time, remembering how he learned Greek by tackling the Greek roots, he decided to memorize eight hundred German roots–and of course to
rememorise the grammar book and irregular verbs. He was convinced that this go-
The stubbornness of our dear Lain teacher now becomes painfully evident. He was relatively undaunted by his first two failures to learn German. Next he tried what should have been a successful strategy: he tried talking with the customers in the shop below his room. But they laughed at him, and embarrassed, sensitive Francois decided to return to the solitude of his room. This time he tried translating Goethe and Schiller–but alas! Next, he spent three weeks memorizing a book of dialogues–but alas! Then he spent a full month memorizing the thirty thousand words of a
dictionary–but alas! And this time he went on to add: “…I understood not a word–not a single word!…and I permit no one to doubt the sincerity of this statement. Not a word!” He was still not ready to give up. He tried reading again. He memorized the dictionary again and later a third time. All to no avail.
Finally, his year-
Fortunately, there was a relatively happy ending to the story. Upon his return home
Francois found that his little three-
Francois Gouin's Series Method never became widely used, partly because Gouin was
not the entrepreneur that his colleague Charles Berlitz was. Gouin's ideas and methods
were the early inspiration for Berlitz, whose famous Direct Method enjoyed popularity
in the early 1900s and whose schools are still thriving. We can nevertheless happily
end the story of “wrong-