Saturday, September 1, 2012

Peckett on the "Direct Method" of Teaching Latin and Greek

"The Classics...need not to be defended, but to be taught. And, in these days, the way they are taught is all-important. It must be a way which helps pupils to understand deeply their beauty....It is, after all, the pupil and not the teacher or the parent who decides what he will learn, and he will learn what is taught attractively..."

"[T]he best way to learn any language is the way one learns one's own, by mother-wit; and the best way to remember a language is by using it, even though it has been falsely called 'dead.'"

"[The Direct Method] is not, as some have supposed, a panacea. It will help to make a good pupil brilliant, and the mediocre ones enthusiastic; but it will not turn a numbskull into a scholar or banish hard work either for teacher or pupil. It is not personal magic, as some who have seen demonstrations suppose. As that wise man Quiller Couch said, 'Any teacher with the gift to teach, and any pupil with an innate curiosity to learn, can play skittles equally with any theory'; and again, 'The teacher's personal fire is the beginning and end of the art, and most of its middle.'"

"The Direct Method assumes that a language is meant to be spoken and we can best learn it by speaking it. Latin and Greek were specially meant for oral delivery. Cicero at a banquet did not take out his tablets,
write on them with a stylus "Da mihi sal" and pass them to his neighbour in silence, but turned to him and spoke up like a man. The method has been called 'direct' because it seeks to connect, in the pupil's mind, the
word or phrase directly with the object it describes, avoiding the intervening obstacles of grammar and translation. Translation is after all only a magnificent treachery, and an exercise for Sixth Formers in the use of their own language. It is not worth all the trouble."

"The Direct Method aims at teaching the pupil to think in a foreign language. Most of those who have not been taught in this way say that this cannot be done. All those who have been taught this way know that nothing is simpler."

- Quotations from C.W.E. Peckett, "Direct Method and the Classics," The Classical Journal 46.7 (April 1951), 331-4, 336-7.

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