The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice


W.H.D.Rouse (1863-1950) was an exceptional teacher.

He pioneered the use of the Direct Method of teaching Latin. An account of his life and work by Christopher Stray, entitled The Living Word: W.H.D.Rouse and the Crisis of Classics in Edwardian England, was published by Bristol Classical Press in 1992 (ISBN 1-85399-262-3). A review of this book contains the following summary of Rouse's life:

“Rouse had a distinguished career at Cambridge, taking firsts in both parts of the Classical Tripos, and was a Sanskrit scholar as well as a classicist. After a six-year fellowship at Christ's College, he became a schoolmaster and eventually headmaster of the Perse School, Cambridge, which he took over at a time of financial crisis and put on a sound footing. His educational credo included a firm belief in the need for the involvement of both hand and eye; outside the classics curriculum, he pressed for the teaching of natural sciences by observation, and the learning of crafts. With his friend T. E. Page he became one of the founding editors of the Loeb Classical Library, and was still actively involved in translation work throughout his retirement. In 1911 Rouse was instrumental in starting a highly successful series of Summer Schools for teachers, followed by the establishment of the Association for the Reform of Latin Teaching in 1913; later he was to make gramophone records on the pronunciation of Greek, and a Latin course, for Linguaphone.”

M.A. Gosling, University of Natal, Durban.

Rouse published a collection of songs in Greek and Latin which he called 'Chanties.'

The Latin part of his book is now available here.

Here are two pieces by Rouse which explain and illustrate his method. And a further piece in which he justifies the learning of Latin.

Direct Method

Sixth Form Life

What’s the Use of Latin?


... For example, the importance of the order of the words in a Latin sentence is brought home to learners from the very first, and becomes quite natural to them, by means of question and answer. Upon order style depends, and if you are taught to realize the meaning of a Latin sentence as it comes, you will then later realise the meaning of a Latin paragraph as the phrases come, without having to hunt over on the next page for the verb, because in classical languages every phrase tells its tale as it goes and its meaning is absolutely clear. The only thing that has to wait, is the relation of those phrases to the others which follow.

To return to the direct method, a simple reading book is begun early, and then the words are explained so far as possible by Latin words already known, where they cannot be explained by the thing, the act or a picture. It is found in practice that a large vocabulary of words can be built up without using English, and that by and by it becomes possible to explain new things with the old words. Very soon all the explaining is done in Latin, and we are always careful even at the beginning if we use English words to apologise for them by adding anglice or ut aiunt, to keep up the illusion of a Latin world. In the first year in this manner, taking one lesson a day, the whole accidence is gone through, together with the simple sentence. In the second, the compound sentence. In the third year an untouched Latin author is begun—although in the reading book there have been a number of simple poems untouched, such as those of Martial or Catullus which are within the faculty of a beginner. In this third year is begun free composition and the recital of stories. In the fourth year the more formal translation from English into Latin is adopted, and that fourth year nearly ends the Latin course for those who do not take it as a speciality ; they do perhaps two or three Latin lessons a week in their succeeding years, but they do not leam very much new. However, a boy who has passed through that course will have done portions of some of the chief writers, Cicero, perhaps Caesar, Virgil, Tacitus, Horace, some poems of Martial and Catullus.

In the sixth form the staple work is reading aloud. Everything is based on that, and the greatest pains are taken to have it done well, with due observance of quantity and expression. If that be done from the beginning, it is very easy to tell when the reader understands and when he does not. A wrong division of words will show you that he does not, as well as doubtful intonation. I should rather have said when he thinks he understands, because he sometimes does think so wrongly. The master should know by experience, and he must make it his business to know, where in any given author or sentence a boy is likely to make a mistake, and he must guard against that by asking a question. Then having questioned as regards the meaning of a wrongly read passage, if the passage be then rightly read, pass on. There is no need to delay over it.

Details, of course, are missed in this way. It is quite possible that details may be missed even under the current system of teaching. I have known it happen! But I only mention that to show, that we are quite aware of the weak points, and we guard against them.

Then, of course, there are the occasional examinations, which consist largely of translation into English and similar tests. In beginning a new author it is wise to have a good deal translated into English, until you are confident that his style is familiar, and that a reasonable degree of accuracy will be got.

All new work is done in school, and that is a matter which has important results. For one thing, any good point, neat point, is enjoyed very much more. When you have a boy working by himself in his study with a dictionary, perhaps tired, he sees a point; it may interest him ; but when he sees it for the first time in class in the morning when he is fresh, with his master there instead of a dictionary, and with comrades who also see it, the. enjoyment is intensified very much. It is the difference between reading a good joke in Punch in bed and laughing at the ceiling, or reading it with your friends and having a good guffaw together.

Another result is, that nobody is afraid of cribs. No crib can tell a boy what questions I am going to ask him as we read the text. If he chooses to use a translation to revise, it really does him no harm, so long as the translation is good.

Then we ensure the new work being done, and not being done by a company but being done by each ; because although you may not perhaps have thought of it, it is a fact that by the direct method every boy from the very beginning is trained to attention, and that it is possible to tell when the boy is attending and when he is not. They always do attend if they are properly handled.

The home-work then in this case is not new work, which may be well done or may be cribbed, but it is revision of one sort or another, or exercises upon the work done. After this general description let me take three important branches of work to show you how they are dealt with.

The first is grammar. You have already heard how that is dealt with, taught after use. I mention it particularly, because you will frequently hear it said, that under the direct method grammar is not taught. It must be taught and must be leamt in the end under every method.The only question is,when, in what degree, and in what place.

The second is composition. Composition in the proper sense means expressing yourself in the language concerned : not only the narrow sense of translation into Latin and Greek from English; that is always going on from the very beginning in the class room, and what is heard by the ear is then repeated by the tongue, written down by the hand, and seen with the eye, so that there are four senses to reinforce the impression. I think it is common-sense to assume, that the impression wfll be stronger than if only two had been used. I may say even the fifth sense can be quite well brought in on occasion if you like, and you can express the meaning of the word for "sweet" by producing and handing round some sweets.

Occasional exercises of translation from English into Latin of catchy sentences, to illustrate constructions, are quite good, so long as they are occasional. No harm is done, and good is done, by this, if they are brought in when the boys know why, and realise that the translating of these sentences helps them. That is quite a different thing from making it the staple of the work.

In the third year the master tells a story, as I have already said, and the boys repeat it, first of all reproducing it almost exactly by imitation, and then embroidering it. If he gives them a sketch, they enlarge upon it. The same may be done with the aid of pictures. Lastly, easy pieces of English, so "cooked" that they will go simply into Latin without much change, are used in the fourth year.

When the boys get into the sixth form, a great gulf has to be bridged. Of course, to jump from that sort of work to the translation of pieces of unaltered English literature, is a very big jump, too big to take at once. The way that we have found useful to bridge this gulf is, at the beginning to set, as a daily exercise, a summary to be written in Latin of the text read that day in the school room. Supposing 250 lines have been read, a summary of that is to be written in Latin prose extending for perhaps a sheet of twenty or thirty lines. The boys are directed to use the words and constructions of the author as far as possible, and to train themselves by degrees to do it from memory. By that means new words are added to the vocabulary, in addition to the learning of new idiom. Afterwards English pieces are given, a few at first and more later, to translate in the usual way.

But I think the most striking effect in this department of the direct method, is seen in the writing of verses. Verses are done by ear without preliminary exercises. When the first piece of verse is read, the boys are taught the principles of scansion and quantity; but after that nothing more is necessary excepting careful reading aloud, and by the careful reading aloud it is possible to do quite good verses at the first try. I have kept a large number of these exercises, and I find .that the very first exercise shows very few, almost no faults, except such as the wrong position of the accent, or a word of wrong length at the end of a line, faults that have only to be pointed out to be avoided. The first exercise also shows who has a bad ear and who has a good ear. There are very few who are unable to write verses, I should think not one in fifty, although there are not many of them first-rate of course. By this means of imitation we find it quite easy to write all sorts of verses. In reading Horace we always imitate if not all the lyrics, at least most kinds.

Lastly there is translation into English. Here you must remember there are two sorts of translation, one which is a test, and the other which is an art. The test is used by masters for their own sakes, to discover whether their pupils have understood what they have been reading. When that has been satisfactorily shown, there is no further need to use it at all.

As an art it requires some special consideration. To know how to render a Latin text into English of good style and if possible of a style something resembling the original, wants consideration, but a very few lessons are enough to give the cue to those who are taught to do Latin well by itself and English well by itself. I should also like to add that if boys understand a thing, they never find any difficulty in expressing the meaning. Sometimes the rendering may be a little uncouth, but it is always clear, if they understand it. Muddled expressions and bad style are due to not understanding, and to that pernicious habit of construing—continually shifting the attention from Latin to English—which enables one to talk the most arrant nonsense without realizing it. The most remarkable fact about the direct method is that there never is any nonsense ; you will hardly deny, I think, that it is a common thing in ordinary schools.

Unseen translation does not play a special part in the direct method, because all the work is practically dealing with unseens. I have never found it necessary to do more than a few exercises, in the last term before boys go in for their scholarship, to teach them to do so much in the hour, and also to see whether perhaps there may be some gap in their knowledge that wants to be filled up. In the earlier stages, the translation of unseens is sometimes, but very rarely, used. It is not a useful thing at all, unless the unseen is very much easier than the text that they are in the habit of reading. To do an unseen, and to make a mess of it, is one of the most discouraging things the boy can do.

The method then with the sixth form is very much like that which you would see in any good French lesson, a lesson on Moliere, we will say, conducted by a Frenchman in French. Discussion is just as possible in Latin. If the boys are well encouraged to do their part, it is more like a conversation of intelligent friends over a dinner-table than a set task.

In summing up the facts, I would first of all call attention to the saving of time ; since every lesson is entirely a lesson in Latin, it is obvious that the practice in that language will be very considerably more than if you have the greater part of it expressed in English. If the master chooses, he can bring in anything he wants to practise and stick to it for a week. If at the end of that time it is not pretty well known, I should be very much surprised.

But the most important thing of all is the effect on the temper of the learners. It is not true to say, of course, that whenever boys are happy they are being well taught, but I think it is true to say that if they are not happy, they are not being well taught. I think that a test of good teaching is the temper of the taught. That is why I never can believe that our mathematical friends have got the right way of teaching mathematics (though I do not know what it is) because you hardly ever find a boy who does not hate it. From the very beginning it is a fact, that boys taught under the direct method are happy, and like to do it. First impressions are most important things in teaching, as Quintilian knew, and first impressions are the chief impressions which the boy will carry away with him into life. Instead of thinking of his school work, as he often does, as a series of horrible gloomy tasks, his memories will be of pleasant hours which he thoroughly enjoyed. If you remember that Latin is, for some boys, the highest intellectual exercise he has ever had or ever will have, you will see that these pleasant memories would be transferred to intellectual work. Hence the indirect results are very important.

In conclusion may I just mention the four statements which always meet us when we are discussing the direct method.

The first is that it is morally good for a boy to have to do what he dislikes. I do not know whether it is morally bad for him to have to do what he likes, but that seems to be implied too. Anyhow if the masters who make this statement apply the same rules to themselves, they must either be very gloomy folk or else very immoral.

Secondly comes our old friend mental gymnastic. It is very important that there should be mental gymnastic, but you will get mental gymnastic whenever your mind is exercised, and the difference between meaningless exercises of the mind and the direct method, is the difference between the treadmill, which is excellent for bodily gymnastic, and a morris dance, or a game of football. The game of football is harder work than the treadmill, but it is enjoyed. So the direct method is really harder work than the old method ; the mind is more exercised than by learning a meaningless table, but is not so much wearied.

The third is — and this was put very forcibly at the Headmasters' Conference—that the current system of teaching classics is fool-proof. These are not my words, but the words of a defender. He said, "Any fool can teach it". Well, I am quite sure that no fool can teach on the direct method, but it does not need anything more than intelligence and willingness to take trouble. It is willingness to take trouble which has been our difficulty all along. Those who are invited, will not take the trouble to investigate the facts, which they can quite well do. No doubt the reason in their minds is, that if they did investigate them and found them to be true, they would then be bound to take some very troublesome steps in order to improve the existing system. This is not my own assumption only but fortunately I have it admitted in print by Dr. Lyttleton in the School Guardian, where there was a little interchange of politeness some seven or eight years ago.

The last thing that is always said, which I have already answered, is that a few men have a gift for this kind of thing, but the majority of men have not. Of course, that is quite untrue. The truth is, as I have said, that anyone with intelligence, who will take trouble, is quite able to do the thing in a first-rate way...

Top of page

FEBRUARY 1934                SIXTH FORM LIFE


M.  Salvete, pueri.

P.  Salve tu quoque (mixto horrisono fragore).

M.  Quid hoc bonist?

P1. Gravedine laboro.

M.  Immo tussi, immo pituita.

P2. Immo tonitru!

P3. *Caelo tonantem credidimus lovem regnare, sed idem regnat in naso tuo.

M.  Impius es, O Nugipalamloquides tu ! At tu, non debebas foras ire, non oportuit te foras ire, non decuit, non par    erat, haud erat aequum.

P3. Paene hexametrum fecisti, magister.

M. Inscius equidem : poeta nascitur, non fit.

P3. Do tibi praemium (dat cartam pictam—risus).

M. Accipio donum amplissimum, et gratias reddo quam maximas : quod felix faustumque sit!

Sed quae est hodiemae recitationis materies?

P3. Titi Livi Liber tricesimus quartus.

M. Incipe.

P3. "Inter bellorum magnorum aut vix finitorum aut imminentium curas intercessit res parva dictu, sed quae studiis in magnum certamen excesserit. M. Fundanius et L. Valerius tribuni plebi ad plebem tulerunt de Oppia lege abroganda."

P4. Oppia lex quae fuit?

M. Mox audies. Perge.

P3. "Tulerat earn C. Oppius tribunus plebis Q. Fabio T. Sempronio consulibus, in medio ardore Punici belli, ne qua mulier plus semunciam auri naberet, neu vestimento versicolori uteretur, neu iuncto vehiculo in urbe oppidove aut propius inde mille passus nisi sacrorum causa veheretur."

P4. Heu ! quid mulieres dixerunt?

M. Tum quidem nihil, in medio ardore belli; amabant enim patriam magis. Quo autem anno? Invenies in dictionario antiquitatum.

P5. (quaerit). Anno ante Christum ducentesimo quinto decimo.

Sed addit, "vide sumptuarias leges". Quaenam sunt illae?

M. De sumptu, ne quis sumat scilicet, insumat, impendat, expendat, nimium pecuniae in luxuria, nempe vestitu, cibo, vino, et ceteris rebus huiusmodi: ne sumptus faciat.—Sed nonne est aliud quid rogandum?

P6. "Studiis" non liquet. Nonne hic nos studia agitamus?

M. Habes in mente et auribus Anglicum "study", sed cave.

Non est idem "occupy" et "occupo".

P8. Neque "necktie" et "necto" (risus).

M. Bene memoras tu quidem.—Sed ubi amamus aliquid aut odimus, ubi rei operam damus non sine motu animi, studium inest. Verbi gratia, cum petitores suffragia ambiunt petentes, sunt maxima studia hinc illinc.

P6. Intellego. Hi amabant Oppiam, hi oderant. Aliud autem est: "plebi"? Nonne debet esse "plebis"?

M. Licebat utrumque dicere antiqua lingua.

P7. Et "semundam"? An valet dimidiam unciam?

M. Valet.

P8. (novus homo). Sed non intellego ne "unciam" quidem.

[Novos nominabanms pueros primi in Sexta anni.]

P9. Unda est fere idem anglice, scilicet "ounce" ; et libra continebat duodedm uncias.

M. Itaque est unda duodedma pars aliarum quoque rerum, ut assis. Quis meminit partes assis?

P10. As, deunx, dextans, dodrans, bes, septunx, semis vel semissis, quincunx, triens, quadrans, sextans, uncia.

M. Et haec valent tantasdem particulas aliarum quoque rerum.

Habent quoque duos alios usus. Numquis scit?

P10. Usus hereditarius alter est, sed nescio alterum.

M. Usus bibentium ! Dicunt enim "uncias bibunt", vel "besses", et cetera, semper pluraliter: scilicet tot cyathos vim ex duodecim. Nonne meministi carminis? "Nam sic bibitur ..."

Omnes. "Nam sic bibitur, nam sic bibitur,

In cenis principum-pam-pom!"

M. *Sed quid de hereditate? Quid valet heredem facere totius rei?

P10. *Ex asse facere heredem.

M. *Dimidii?

P10. 'Ex semisse.

M. *Unius et dimidii? (risus).

P10 *Fieri non potest.

M. *Sed si fieri posset? (nullum responsum).

Ex sesquiasse.

P10. *An tu invenisti hoc ex animo?

M. *Non. Meministi "sesquipedalia verba"?

P10 *Memini! intellego! Sed "novi" nostri non intelligunt—sunt sesquiaselli! (risus).

M. Sed quantam excursionem fecimus, quantum de via digressi sumus!

P11. Si non molestumst, licetne aliud interrogare?

M. Licet profecto, immo debes rogare.

P11. Quid sibi volt "iuncto vehiculo"?

M. Equos vehiculo iungunt, inde fit iunctum vehiculum. lam ad Oppiam, precor. Perge, tu.

P13. "Capitolium turba hominum faventium adversantiumque legi complebatur. Matronae nulla nec auctoritate, nec verecundia, nec imperio virorum contineri limine poterant: omnes vias urbis aditusque in forum obsidebant, viros descendentes ad forum orantes, ut florente republica, crescente in dies privata omnium fortuna, matronis quoque pristinum ornatum reddi paterentur. Augebatur haec mulierum frequentia in dies ; nam etiam ex oppidis conciliabulisque conveniebant. lam et consules praetoresque et alios magistratus adire et rogare audebant; ceterum minime exorabilem alterum utique consulem, M. Porcium Catonem, habebant, qui pro lege, quae abrogabatur, ita disseruit."

P13. Id quod etiam nunc faciunt mulieres, ius suffragii petentes!

[Ante bellum enim haec dicebantur, ubi nondum datum est ius suffragi mulieribus.]

M. Ita, etiamque peiora. Nonne se catenis portae curiae constringunt, canuntque magna voce—"Suffragia date mulieribus!" Sed scribetis mihi domi oratiunculam de hac re.— Dic tu breviter quid sit compendium huius loci.

P14. Mulieres tumultum fecerunt, ut pristinus sibi status redderetur, liceretque sibi plus semunciam auri habere, vehiculo iuncto vehi, vestitu versicolore uti : magna erant studia faventium atque adversantium ...

P16. Hoc nomen Porcius ludicrum sonat.

M. Revocat in mentem sane Porcum. Sed nonne sunt apud nos quoque talia in usu? Apud Romanus erat Corvus—erat Scipio Asina—erat Aquila—erant duo Mures, et magnanimi quidem, non ridiculi mures. Multa autem nomina de corporis facie.


P16. Qui lingua titubat.

M.  Calvus?

P17. Sine coma!

M.  Rufus?

P6. Ruber!

M. Naso? Nasica?

P9. Cum longo naso.

M. Varus? (nullum responsum}. Cruribus ita distortis, ut genua alterum alteri appropinquet. Sed perge tu.

P4.  (xlii. 4). "Praetoria inde comitia habita ; creati P. Cornelius Scipio et duo Cn. Comelii, Merenda et Blasio, et Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, et Sex. Digitius et T. luventius Thalna". (ridet).

M. *Non compos videris esse corporis, nam semper sine causa rides.

P4. *At ecce aliud nomen, Ahenobarbus! ecce aliud, Digitius !

M. *Quot igitur digitos habuit?

P4. *Sex !! (risus). Ita stat in textu !

M. Claudite iam rivos, pueri, sat prata biberunt. Valete.

P. Vale tu quoque.

[Manifestum est hanc scaenam ex duabus compressam esse : sed cui malo? Idem fecit Plautus contaminando.]

Top of page

What’s the Use of Latin?

W.H.D Rouse

In memoriam

30 May 1863 – 10 February 1950

What’s the Use of Latin?

…........ You cannot learn Latin, again, without learning some Roman history, and that brings in English History  at once; we gain a new interest in our Roman remains and our museums, and we see that we are not unique and isolated, but one link in a great chain of generations which are all connected together.  We cannot scrap the past, and make a new pattern on a clean sheet, and all the rest of that nonsense.  As Landor said: “The present, like a note in music, is nothing but as it appertains to what is past and what is to come.”

          The schoolboy soon learns who the Romans were, and sees with a new understanding their magnificent roads, and their castles and villas, and their noble Wall, and the picture of settled peace which made England happy for centuries.  He will have a newunderstanding of his own England, and a pride in the pax Britannica and its rein of justice and honesty.  If it leads him to read thehistory of India, he will see peace and justice brought into a continent which had been torn from the beginning of time by internecine feuds and bloodshed, by ambition and fanaticism, and he will understand his duty not to let loose their wild passions again, for they are all there.  He will have found his union with one of the three great nations who have moulded our life: Rome with her order, Greece with her imagination, Israel with her religion; and he will hear echoes of all three in his worship, Alleluia, Kyrie Eleison, Stabat Mater.  Consider how such things may kindle his thoughts, and lift them high above the turmoil of life.

          Besides this, the boy will make acquaintance with many of the great men who left their legacy of wisdom and beauty, or the lighter gifts of gaiety and wit.  He will have read and learnt pieces of Catullus “the natural singer”, whom a few short verses have made immortal; of Horace, the noble spokesman of patriot devotion and the pleasant jester; of Virgil, most lovely and most lovable of poets; of Marial, with his stinging wit; of Livy, with his incomparable stories; of Tacitus, grim and gloomy subject of tyranny such as we would pray to be saved from; Tacitus who wrote a fine book about our own Enfland; of Caesar the master of war, and the great statesman, who tells us of the strange tribes which are akin to us; of Cicero, the eloquent orator, the racy letter-writer, who tells us our duties in such attractive stories, the foe of injustice, the statesman who was not always right but knew how to die for his principles.  It is true, the schoolboy will not learn much of those, but they will be more than names to him; and he may learn later to know them better and to love them.  One of the most gratifying things I can remember in my life, was when a boy who left school at sixteen to join Vickers Maxims, wrote home in the first week to ask for his Horace.  I have had plenty of evidence that boys do not forget.

         But the full harvest can be reaped only by those who make classics their chief subject at school, and do their three years’ special study before they leave.  That does not mean a narrow education, for it takes only about one-third of their time, the rest being given to English, French and German, Science and mathematics if they wish, to balance their studies and to carry on what they have been learning before.

         Now at last they begin really to enjoy the riches of antiquity.  And let me remind you, that there is only one way to do that: you must read it in the original, for translations are not enough.  A plain statement of fact can be translated, the dry bones of history, a book of research like Pliny the Elder, which is little more than the Stores Catalogue; but poetry cannot be translated, nor can the beauties of style  in any kind.  The matter may be there, but the manner is lost: and when the author desires to convince us of truth, or to attract and persuade us, the manner is more important than the matter.  The effect desired can only be brought about if we hear the speaker using the words he thought fittest, not ruled by reason, and I hope it never will be; it is ruled by feeling, by sentiment, and that is moved by the words of great authors.  Since what is preserved from antiquity is nearly always the best, whereas the rubbish has perished, our feelings are moved to the best issues.  And we read everything aloud in the original, so that the effect is made as the authors meant it to be made.  We read in large quantity also, not ten or twenty lines at a time, but 200 to 300 in double lessons of ninety minutes each.  In the three years we read, of Latin: All Virgil and Horace, a book or two of Lucretius, four plays of Plautus, parts of Lucretius, Catullus, Ovid, Juvenal with Martial, all Caesar’s Gallic War, parts of Livy, Tacitus, and Cicero; of Greek: all the Iliad or the Odyssey (sometimes both), three plays of Aeschylus, three of Sophocles, two or three of Aristophanes, parts of Theocritus and lyric poets, two books at least of Thucydides, parts of Herodotus, twelve speeches of Demosthenes, a great deal of Plato, some Xenophon and a little Aristotle and Lucian.  These are the regular stock: besides there are always a lot of oddments which occasion may suggest.

         And what has the boy gained from these?  First, as to the form: he has made acquaintance with perfection, or at least with standards which will help him to judge of everything else he reads - the first and best works of epic, drama,narrative,history, philosophy, oratory, and lyric.  As to the matter, he has learnt the thoughts of  some of the best minds in the world on the cief problems of religion, morals and manners, not to mention law, government and politics, for they all come up sooner or later.  And these are presented to him in an atmosphere free from prejudice.  He can ponder the wisdom of ancient days on its merits, without asking whether it be orthodox or unorthodox, church or chapel, liberal or Tory; he can how the old the sages satisfied their souls, solved or did not solve their perplexities; he can examine the effects of strict law and laxity, or limited monarchy or tyrrany, mob-rule or class-rule; he can see innumerable experiments in self-government, every kind and degree of excess or defect, and he can take warning by past experience.  He will find that while manners differ, principles do not, and that ought to strengthen his hold on his own; and above all, he can see the relations and the limits of religion and science.  Good conduct and high ideals are usually not preached to him; when they are told, it is in Cicero’s genial way, by stories which he can admireand remember, or by Aristotle’s cold reason which discusses the  Chief Good of man.  But most of what he learns is truth embodied in a tale.

          But to get the good out of Latin and Greek you must let the poor languages have a chance of living and not kill them at birth.  You must not begin Latin with exercises on the first declension, and so on to the fifth, so that your matter is determined by the scientific grammar.  If so, you begin with queens, whom your boys are not likely to meet, and goddesses, whom they will not see until they are seventeen, and tables, and I love (a word they don’t use); and go on to Labienus and his legions, and faith, hope and charity.  All that is unreal, dead to them in fact.  No language can be learnt that way; but the right way to learn it is as they learnt their own English, by talking about what they see around them, and what they do, and what they want.  Learn Latinnot by talking about it, but by using it.  Here are some aphorisms from the experience of an accomplished teacher of many languages.

Languages can be learnt only through sentences, not through isolated words.

Nature teaches phrases, pedants teach words, especially isolated nouns.

The study of literature can be pursuedonly after the language of practical life has been acquired.

Grammatical rules teach only the science of language, not language itself.

Learn to think in the language.

Nothing can be done well unlessit is done unconsciously.

The ear is the natural receptive organ of the language, the tongue the expressive.  To substitute the eye is a vital blunder.

Mastery can be obtained only by training eye, ear, tongue, memory at the same time.  The sounds will become second nature, so that you no longer think about them, but think in them.

And the Latin language is kind to beginners, for you have only to express what you do in four simple actions, suiting the wordto the deed - sedeo, surgo, ambulo, revenio - and you have the four conjugations.  The present tense singular and plural can be taught with the actions in three days, and there is the framework on which half the grammar can be built up.  But this is not the place to describe the whole process.  All I need say is, that the scheme has been made, every step by experiment; all the risks, if there were any, have been taken; the process has been proved by thirty years of practice; and all that is wanted in the teacher is intelligence, industry, and courage.  The result always is, that the language is taught better, in shorter time, and with more complete success, and - most important of all - the learners are happy all the while.  Do not suppose this is a soft option, slipshod work, inaccurate and unscholarly.  All that a student, of books learns has to be learned, but it learned in a different order and different proportions.  The work is hard for all, since all must attend or they are caught in a moment; but it is work within their capacity at each step, and the conscious growth of power gives each one confidence.  Thus the labourwe delight in physics pain.  I appeal to all teachers to seek the truth, and then follow it, not to shirk it if they can muddle along as they are, only because they will have to work themselves before they do better.  Seek first the Kingdom of Righteousness, and School Certificates shall be added unto you …………….


Top of page