Language (1954)

This 169-page pamphlet explores the relations between language, thought and culture; offers suggestions for teaching the mother tongue; and illustrates the contribution of imaginative literature and of broadcasting to education.

The complete document is shown in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go to the various chapters.

PART I: Language: what it is and what it does

Chapter 1: Language, Thought and Culture (page 3)
Chapter 2: Language in the World of To-day (13)
Chapter 3: The English Language Abroad (22)

PART II: Learning the mother tongue

Chapter 4: English in England (43)
Chapter 5: English in Primary Schools: The Teaching of Reading (51)
Chapter 6: English in Secondary Schools: The Teaching of Composition (65)
Chapter 7: English in Further Education: Problems of Communication (83)
Chapter 8: Welsh and English in Wales (94)
Chapter 9: French in France (110)

PART III: The language of imagination

Chapter 10: Language and Literature: Prose, Poetry and Drama (133)
Chapter 11: Language and Broadcasting (151)

Epilogue: Language and the schools: a synoptic view (161)

Appendices (165)

The text of Language was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 13 April 2022.

Language (1954)
Ministry of Education Pamphlet No. 26

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1954
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


[title page]



in primary and secondary schools and in
further education

Ministry of Education
Pamphlet No. 26


[page ii]

This pamphlet contains a large number of quotations, and the authors, titles and publishers of the works from which they come are recorded in footnotes. The Ministry wishes to acknowledge the ready way in which publishers and others gave permission to use these quotations where copyright is involved.

[page iii]

POLONIUS: 'What do you read, my Lord?'

HAMLET: 'Words, words, words.'

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Preface to Part I2
Chapter 1: Language, Thought and Culture3
Chapter 2: Language in the World of To-day13
Chapter 3: The English Language Abroad22

Preface to Part II42
Chapter 4: English in England43
Chapter 5: English in Primary Schools: The Teaching of Reading51
Chapter 6: English in Secondary Schools: The Teaching of Composition65
Chapter 7: English in Further Education: Problems of Communication83
Chapter 8: Welsh and English in Wales94
Chapter 9: French in France110

Preface to Part III132
Chapter 10: Language and Literature: Prose, Poetry and Drama133
Chapter 11: Language and Broadcasting151


Appendix A: Some Notes on Reading
Appendix B: Scheme of Hours for Teaching French in France168

[page v]


No pamphlet can hope to embody a full treatment of the large subject of language, and this one does not pretend to do so. It is not a scientific account of the history or philosophy of language nor a manual of method, but has three limited purposes.

The first is to trace as simply as possible the relations between language, thought and culture and to illustrate the importance of language, and of the English language in particular, in world developments.

The second is to make some suggestions for teaching the mother tongue. A substantial section is therefore devoted to the teaching of English in England. The treatment is not detailed except in two particulars: the teaching of reading in primary schools and the teaching of composition in secondary schools. These two tasks are of such crucial importance that they have been dealt with in the pamphlet at close range. The remainder of this part of the pamphlet constitutes a brief restatement of certain principles, based on the evidence of work done in schools and of the advice given in a large number of books, recent and not so recent, on the teaching of English. Associated with these chapters are two studies of the mother tongue in Wales and France. From these it is hoped that there emerge stimulating contrasts and comparisons, and that the teaching of English is thereby displayed in a fresh and wider perspective.

The third purpose is to illustrate the contribution of imaginative literature and of broadcasting to education and, in particular, to the practice of speaking and writing.

In a recent contribution to The British Journal of Educational Studies Dr. M. M. Lewis, Director of the University of Nottingham Institute of Education, writes:

'Teachers find themselves in a world dominated by communication and devoted to the production of more, and more complex, means of communication. Those who are sufficiently critical of themselves and of their tasks recognize that somehow they lack guidance in what society really demands of them and in the proper use of the instruments with which it so copiously surrounds them.'
Dr. Lewis goes on to make
'an earnest and urgent plea ... for studies and discussions which will survey what is happening in the diverse fields of work that bear upon the development of communication and will consider its implications for education'.
This pamphlet is an introduction to such a study. The Ministry of Education hopes that, as a sequel to reading the pamphlet, many teachers will be encouraged to turn to other books which pursue the philosophical, linguistic and pedagogic aspects of language study.

[page 1]


Language: What It Is and
What It Does

'In some sense we literally create the world we speak about ... in trying to speak about what the world is like we must remember all the time that what we see and what we say depend on what we have learned.'

Professor J. Z. YOUNG (1)

'And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion.'

T. S. ELIOT (2)

(1) Doubt and Certainty in Science. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1951.

(2) Four Quartets, p. 22, 1944 edition. Faber and Faber, London.

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Even the most trifling problems of language study in the classroom raise questions that are ultimately issues of philosophy and psychology. Such issues cannot be pursued far in a pamphlet, nor would most teachers have the time or patience to pursue them very far. But it is useful to know what some of these problems are, how they have been dealt with by the classical philosophers and how they are handled by thinkers at the present time. It is useful also to realize how closely problems of language and of meaning are related to human happiness all over the world.

The three chapters which follow do not attempt more than this. Those who are looking solely for guidance in matters of classroom technique may prefer to omit them altogether. But it is hoped that most teachers will be prepared to give some time and thought to those wider human problems with which the study of language is so closely connected.

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Language, Thought and Culture


THEORIES of language are not, on the face of it, of much interest or use to teachers in the classroom. But the problems and decisions with which the teacher is faced, day by day, are rooted in the nature of language; some acquaintance with what language is, and what men have thought about it, may be illuminating and may be of practical help. For instance, there has been, of recent years, a greater emphasis on forms of expression and on means of learning other than the verbal. How far is it right and desirable to emphasize the visual arts, not only for their own sake, but also because they seem to some people to afford a means of expression and of learning which suits certain pupils better than words? If this is a deluded or exaggerated claim, we ought to know why. If it is true that 'without speech no reason, without reason no speech' (1) we ought to do some hard thinking about certain recent educational fashions. If, on the other hand, it could be established that 'thinking' goes on independently of words, and if language is only one medium among many into which thinking can be translated, then the importance of 'literacy', in its traditional sense, would need to be reconsidered. There is at the present time a great deal of careful and enlightened research being done, much of it quite new, in the various branches of linguistics and semantics. Much of it has fresh light to throw on the teaching of language and literature, especially in the mother tongue. Much of it is of immense social and political importance in the newly developed parts of the world. But very little of this work is yet known to the layman and very few of its results have yet been incorporated into the practice of teachers. The social and linguistic problems involved, however, have already affected the conditions in which teachers are called upon to work, and in many cases they have influenced the pupils in their daily lives.

The Double Nature of Language

Before considering some of the many views that have been held at different times about language, it is useful to distinguish between its two main aspects or functions. There is, on the one hand, a

(1) Muller: Lectures on the Science of Language, Vol. II, p, 73. Sixth edition. London, 1871.

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skeleton of rules and precedents, handed down from generation to generation, to which men and women must conform if they are to communicate within a speech community. On the other hand are all the individual, private and personal variations and modifications of the accepted base. Thus, language operates on two levels simultaneously or, as it were, with two gears. There is within it a slow ponderous element that belongs to the ages and that changes only slightly unless there is a vigorous interference from outside, an invasion or a migration. There is also a private and personal element of a lighter and more imaginative kind, which, though based upon the code, delights in variety, in personal flourishes, in specialized associations and sometimes in deliberate and evocative ambiguity. It was this second element in language that caused Samuel Johnson to confess 'that I have indulged expectation which neither reason nor experience can justify ... Sounds are too volatile and subtle for legal restraints; to enchain syllables and to lash the wind are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength.' (1)

This distinction is important to teachers. It helps, for instance, to resolve the stubborn contradictions between grammar and usage. It helps to elucidate the nature of poetic language and of revolutions in poetic language. Most of all, from the teachers' point of view, it is necessary for understanding the linguistic processes of young children, for whom language is more an imaginative activity than a fixed and codified means of communication. With this basic distinction in mind it may be useful to consider the long historical contest that has gone on since the days of Socrates, and even earlier, about the nature of this miraculous power - for it is no less - of thinking and communicating through an orderly code of sound and symbols.

Some Classical Views on Language

Reflection on language is one of the oldest and most constant pre-occupations of man. Dr. J. V. Langmead-Casserely maintains that 'all forms of philosophic doctrine and convention can be reduced to beliefs about the function and range of language'. (2) In primitive communities the word is endowed with magic power and in early classical times the emancipation of language from superstitious ritual and its enthronement in the seat of reason, of which it came to be regarded by the Greeks as the verbal counterpart, was the work of many philosophers before Socrates. The Sophists were the first

(1) Samuel Johnson: Preface to the English Dictionary.

(2) J. V. Langmead-Casserely: The Christian in Philosophy, p. 165. Faber and Faber. London, 1949.

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to speak of grammar, rhetoric and dialectic. The Stoics claimed that it is only through speech that man's distinctive intellectual character can be truly discerned. It is speech that endows man with his humanity. 'In our other faculties,' says Isocrates, 'we are no better gifted than the animals. Many of them are fleeter or stronger or otherwise better than we. But, because we are endowed with the power of persuading one another and explaining our thoughts, we were not only reclaimed from bestial ways of living but came together and founded states and established laws and invented arts. It was speech that enabled us to perfect almost everything we have achieved in the way of civilization. For it was speech which laid down the categories of right and wrong, nobility and baseness. For the ability to speak rightly is the surest sign of a good and dependable soul.' (1) This identification of speech and reason ('logos' being the common term for both) to which Socrates added the creative as distinct from the communicative powers of language, was the basis on which Plato's philosophy rested. To us who inherit these ideas as an assured possession, it is difficult to measure the magnitude of the intellectual advance which the Greeks made between the 'divine word' of Heraclitus and the logic of Aristotle.

At other periods of history there was a comparable interest in language accompanied by bitter controversies. In the middle ages language was a weapon in the struggle between the Nominalists and the Realists. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, both in England and in France, the nature of language was a central issue of philosophy, and once again the most diverse views were held and advocated, as indeed they are at the present time. These divergencies show many interesting variations and gradations; a simple exposition of these may be the easiest way of stating the main issues that have interested thinkers in the past and continue to engage their interest at the present time.

Language and Thought

The two extremes are easily formulated. At one is the distrust of language evidenced by Bishop Berkeley, who regarded language as a barrier between the mind and its ideas in their purest form. 'It were therefore to be wished that everyone would use his utmost endeavours to obtain a clear view of the ideas he would consider, separating them from all that dross and encumbrance of words which so much contribute to blunt the judgment and divide the attention. In vain do we extend our view into the heavens and pry into the entrails of the earth, in vain do we consult the writings of

(1) See Werner Jaeger: Paideia: The Ideas of Greek Culture, Vol. III, p. 89. Blackwell and Mott. Oxford, 1945.

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learned men, and trace the dark footsteps of antiquity: we need only draw the curtain of words to behold the fairest tree of knowledge whose fruit is excellent and within reach of our hand.' (1)

At the other extreme is the view of those who see in language not only a means of communication and a vehicle of thought, but a creative power, the formative element in our experience inextricably involved in our interpretation of reality. Like Coleridge, these thinkers would at all costs 'endeavour to destroy the old antithesis of Words and Things'. (2) There is no danger that they will disregard or under-estimate the possibility of carelessness in the use of language and its deliberate or unconscious misuse. Nevertheless, whatever its shortcomings, they argue, language is all we have. We no longer live in a 'merely physical universe, man lives in a symbolic universe. Language, myth, art and religion are parts of this universe. They are the varied threads which weave the symbolic net, the tangled web of human experience ... No longer can man confront reality immediately; he cannot see it, as it were, face to face.' (3) So it is that language, and other forms of symbolism, create for us a new 'dimension of reality', the mark of true humanity, and there is no possibility of entering that heritage without the secret of words.

Between these two extremes come many shades of intermediate interpretation. Some maintain that words inevitably distort the image of truth or that, at least, they may be made to do so. For those who find the world in which they live unpleasant to contemplate, there are almost irresistible temptations, in Aldous Huxley's words, 'to create a verbal alternative to that reality, a parallel with it but quite different from it'. (4) Goethe and Shelley both have passages in which words are represented as a shroud or smoke obscuring the light of the sun. Santayana also wrote that language 'like other conventions, takes root in the organism, develops there a life of its own and, by its inner tensions or accidental entanglements, distorts the facts it professes to report'. (5)

Others have found language a more congenial partner to truth in spite of its imperfections. A Sanskrit parable relates how Mind and Speech came before God and asked him to decide between them. God decided in favour of Mind, on the grounds that Speech, though necessary, only imitated and shadowed the activities of Mind.

(1) Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge.

(2) See Coburn: Inquiring Spirit. Routledge and Kegan Paul. London, 1951.

(3) Ernst Cassirer: An Essay on Man, p. 25. Yale University Press. New Haven, 1944.

(4) Aldous Huxley: The Olive Tree and Other Essays, p. 84. Chatto and Windus. London, 1936.

(5) Santayana: Dominations and Powers, p. 140. Constable. London, 1951. (U.S.A., Chas. Scribner's Sons.)

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Samuel Johnson (1) claimed that 'he was not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven'. He agreed that language might be a necessary instrument of thought yet he wished 'that the instruments might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent like the things they denote'.

In modern times the gift of language has been more highly rated. Keynes, in his Two Memoirs, refers to Professor Moore and his 'method of discovery by the instrument of impeccable grammar and an unambiguous dictionary'. (2) Much the same concern for language is shown by psychologists of various schools of thought. Professor Spearman, for example, has argued that 'such stability as does occur (in our experience) would appear to derive almost wholly from the fact that concepts, being expressed and employed in conventionally accepted language ... they thus become like molten bullion poured into coining moulds, whence - after due milling, punching and pressing - they issue as legal tender for general circulation'. (3) Professor Piaget makes much the same assumptions, and so do some biologists. Professor J. Z. Young claims that 'a man born blind, on acquiring his sight has to learn to pay attention to the outline of things. He does this as a child does by learning to select those features of the sensory aspect that have names. When children make drawings they tend to show only parts that they can name. In learning a language, therefore, a person not only gains the advantages of communication with his fellows; he also sharpens his own observations.' (4) This double truth is developed in the next chapter.

Recent Work

The great revival of interest in language study at the present time has been already mentioned. There is, indeed, scarcely a characteristic movement in the thought of our time that does not involve a deep concern with the nature of language. After the work of Kant and the extreme development of the romantic-idealist tradition came the materialism of Darwin and of those who saw in language merely a biological phenomenon. This concern for origins rather than ends was the first of three distinctly modern developments leading to a behaviourist view of language which is now widely held, though it is also strongly contested. It would, however, be admitted,

(1) Samuel Johnson: Preface to the English Dictionary.

(2) J. M. Keynes: Two Memoirs, p. 88. Rupert Hart-Davis. London, 1949.

(3) Spearman: The Nature of Intelligence and the Principles of Cognition, p. 264. 2nd edition. Macmillan. London, 1927: acknowledgement is also due to Mrs. F. Spearman.

(4) Young: Doubt and Certainty in Science, p. 91. Clarendon Press. Oxford, 1951.

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even by those of contrary views, that the biological approach, by encouraging related studies in language and psychology, has advanced in some ways the understanding of the language processes of young children.

The second relatively modern development arises from the physical sciences and is evidenced in the elaboration of non-linguistic symbols and the progressive divergence of these from natural language. This was noticed by Paul Valéry, who wrote in his essay on Leonardo da Vinci:

'We see speech dwindling in importance in every field where accuracy is on the increase. ... Speech has become more and more a means for the first rough approximations and is being ousted as systems of purer notation develop, each one more adaptable to one special use. ... Words no longer consummate the act of the mind's possession.' (1)
A third modern development has been the anthropological approach on which the work of Malinowski and, to some extent, of the American, Edward Sapir, is based.

Sapir's work, (2) however, illustrates and contributes to a movement which is even more recent and which is regarded by some as more fruitful than those resulting from the biological, psychological, physical or anthropological sciences, none of which is concerned with language primarily or for its own sake alone. The study of linguistics, to which Sapir made an important contribution, is now treated as a special science with its own considerable material, its own methods, its own aims and its own field of knowledge. The new science, according to Professor Alf Sommerfelt, was born as long ago as the beginning of the last century

'as a comparative historical grammar, which it remained for quite a long time. Although methods were, according to our present standards, often vague and arbitrary, many important traits of the main languages used by the old civilizations of Europe, Asia, and Africa and their genetic relationship were worked out and established in their main characteristics. Then, about 1870, the influence of Darwin and of natural science led to the introduction of new methods based on the belief that linguistic changes are of the same nature as those observed in the physical world. It was held that languages changed through the action of "blind laws". If the results upset the character of the language, and especially of its grammar, it was contended that the speakers would even out irregularities by creating new forms "by analogy", that is to say, by the imitation of some widely used forms. These general views, which originated in a group of eminent German scholars, were not accepted by all linguists, but they led to much stricter methods of research than those current in the past. The new methods brought into bold relief
(1) Valéry: Léonard et Les Philosophes. Librairie Gallimard (all rights reserved). Paris, 1937.

(2) See especially: Selected Writings of Edward Sapir (Ed. Mandelbaum). London, 1949.

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the difference between philology, the study of written documents and their language, and linguistics, which has as its object of research the study of language as such, both written or unwritten.' (1)
For nearly a hundred years, according to Professor Sommerfelt, the new science was bedevilled and misled by mistaken analogies from Darwinian biology. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, a group of French and Swiss linguists were able to demonstrate that the conception of languages and dialects as entities, developing like plants and animals, is unfounded; and that linguistic development is infinitely more complex than this because of the constant interplay of external and internal tendencies, the latter of a kind ignored by biological science. During the present century this work has been extended by a number of linguists, Slav, Scandinavian, German and American. Their studies cannot be referred to in detail here, but they are worthy of attention by those who are interested in language as a determinant of human problems, intellectual, social and political. Among the important names are those of Sapir, Bloomfield (unlike the others, a behaviourist), de Saussure and Sommerfelt. Their investigations have covered not only the principal western European languages but also the Slav languages and many of the languages of Asia, Africa and America. The new science, it should be emphasized, is not a branch of grammar or philology, or of psychology, from all of which it is distinct; nor should it be confused with the parallel and complementary science of semantics.

Language and Culture

Not only is a consideration of language fundamentally important in any discussion of the very process of knowing, and of the nature of knowledge, but it is equally important in considering man's relation to the society of which he forms a part, and the cultural milieu to which he belongs.

To think of a language is often, though not always, to think of a people. Nationality derives from many sources, and the relative importance of these varies from time to time in the history of a people. Religion, a common homeland, a common sense of history, are at least as important as language. Equally, a particular culture has many facets, not the least important of which are non-linguistic forms of achievement, in the arts and sciences for instance, as well as in other branches of human effort and achievement, for example in architecture, agriculture or technology. But in the consciousness of nationhood language is usually, if not the decisive, at least a very

(1) Prof. Alf Sommerfelt: Recent Trends in General Linguistics. Contributed to Diogenes Number 1. Quarterly Publication of the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, published by Hamish Hamilton, London.

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important factor. Many would agree with Madariaga that 'languages are the most direct expression of national character. They are the first impress of the mind of man on the outer world.' (1)

For this reason the vernacular has frequently been the symbol of the struggle for national identity among people for whom national self-consciousness was becoming a force. It has been so in our own history. Alfred the Great wrote, in his translation of Gregory's Pastoral Rule:

'Therefore it seems better to me, if it seems likewise to you, that we have some books which are most needful for all persons done into the tongue which we can all understand; and that you act ... to the end that all the youth now in England of free men who have the wealth to be able to apply themselves to it, be set to learning until the time when they can read English writing well. ... '
Erasmus, knowing the psychological importance of the mother tongue, emphasized the necessity of using the native English for sermons, 'being better calculated to stir up emotions and impulses'. Cheke advocated a form of linguistic isolationism, insisting that the vernacular should be preserved in its purity 'unmixed and unmangled with borrowings of other tongues'.

The same is true of other vernaculars. Indeed, English itself has been confronted by the revolt of dependent or nascent cultures. The relations of the English and Welsh languages are referred to in another chapter, but at this point it is interesting to note the strains and stresses that have existed, almost from the beginning, between the English language here and in America. H. L. Mencken (2) points out that, as the Revolution in America drew to its close, there was a widespread tendency to reject English precedent and authority, in language no less than in politics. Webster, the lexicographer, declared that 'as an independent nation our honour requires us to have a system of our own in language as well as in government'. (3) It is said that at the close of the Revolution certain members of Congress proposed that the use of English be formally prohibited in the United States in favour of Hebrew. One variant of the story reports that the change was rejected on the grounds that it would be more convenient for Americans to keep the English language and to make the English speak Greek.

What, then, are the relations between language and culture? Without exaggerating the linguistic element it may be said that in so far as language affects and moulds the presentation of ideas

(1) Madariaga: Englishmen, Frenchmen and Spaniards, p. 183. Oxford University Press. London, 1928.

(2) H. L. Mencken: The American Language, p. 7. 4th edition. New York, 1947.

(3) Webster: Dissertations on the English Language. 1789.

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it is bound to play a part in differentiating various patterns of culture. It is language that enables an individual, not only to seize the immediate experience, to fix it and to distinguish it finally from the welter of experiences and to give it greater vividness, but also to transcend the immediate world. Bergson believed that 'without language intelligence would probably have remained riveted to the material objects which it was interested in considering. ... Language has greatly contributed to its liberation.' (1) By creating more occasions for reflection, and by making it possible and easy to recall experience, language enables man to dwell upon the past and to incorporate it into his present way of life. So, too, it enables him to contemplate the future and to formulate purposes and ideals. In this sense language is woven into our experience, and is not merely a parallel activity. In so far as language is interpenetrated with experience, transcending the present and the individual, it is the basic element within a tradition, and so within a culture.

Language, as Johnson affirmed, is the most immaterial of the instruments at man's disposal. Yet in many ways it is the most enduring. 'Languages are as slow rivers that by continual alluvia take in and let out the waters that feed them, yet are they said to have the same beds.' (2) The English language remains very much what it was in the time of the Tudors, yet dynasties have been overthrown, revolutions have occurred in government, in social life, in science and technology and in literature and the arts. New worlds have been discovered and they have brought new life to the homeland. But the language which was at the beginning of these changes has only slightly modified its course, and much of the tradition which it enshrines still remains. Tradition in civilization is very largely synonymous with a body of symbolic texts embodied most often in language. These illustrate the values of the community, and in consequence guarantee a tradition or a form of education which is the means of preserving the continuity of a culture. But more than that, language can help to create a tradition and a culture. Berkeley, in spite of his mistrust of language, admits that 'it cannot be denied that words are of excellent use, in that by their means all that stock of knowledge which has been purchased by the joint efforts of inquisitive men in all ages and nations may be drawn into the view and made the possession of one single person'. (3) The individual experience of a single life is transformed into the collective knowledge of mankind, and this collective knowledge in turn is the heritage of each single person.

(1) Bergson: Creative Evolution, p. 167. Macmillan. London, 1911.

(2) Howell: Epistolæ Elianæ. 1754 edition.

(3) Berkeley: Op. cit.

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'It was something for the children of Israel when they came into Canaan, to enter upon wells which they had not digged and vineyards which they had not planted, and houses which they had not built; but how much greater a boon, how much more glorious a prerogative, for any one generation to enter upon the inheritance of a language, which other generations by their truth and toil have made already a receptacle of choicest treasures, a storehouse of so much unconscious wisdom, a fit organ for expressing the subtlest distinctions, the tenderest sentiments, the largest thoughts and the loftiest imaginations, which at any time the heart of man can conceive.' (1)

(1) R. C. Trench: On the Study of Words, p. 29. 10th edition. London, 1861.

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Language in the World of To-day

IN 1948 the University of London Institute of Education appointed a Professor of Education to be concerned with the teaching of English primarily as a foreign language. In his inaugural lecture on November 17th, 1950, Professor Bruce Pattison said:

'English is assuming a range of functions no other language has ever exercised before. It is native to more people than any other language, with the doubtful exception of Chinese, and the political and economic importance of the United States and the British Commonwealth make their common speech the chief medium of international communication at a time when communication has to be attempted on a scale vastly beyond any that has ever been necessary or possible before. In the past the few people who moved about the world for business or pleasure picked up smatterings of foreign languages sufficient to serve their purposes. To the small extent that language learning formed part of educational programmes it was intended as a cultural discipline for a minority. Now quite ordinary people in an increasing number of countries have to learn a foreign language, and English is the first choice of more and more of them. Asia and Africa are trying to absorb much of the civilization of Western Europe, and the chief medium by which they can enter into communication with it is English, which is becoming a lingua franca among the educated classes of different traditions all looking to Europe and America for technical information and guidance in social and intellectual development. No language has ever been called upon to serve such various ends of such a variety of people. The demands for English are widespread and urgent. They will, in sum, call on almost the full range of the language's possibilities as a means of communication; and to see that the innumerable kinds and degrees of ability to use the language are attainable by those who need them is a tremendous educational problem, and perhaps also a social and political problem. International exchange can be direct and clear only in so far as both parties to it can handle effectively the signalling system they adopt. In those areas which are trying to graft European civilization on their own traditions the level of education will rise only as the students' control of English becomes wider and surer.' (1)
Professor Pattison was, naturally, concerned in this address with the contemporary importance of English as a world language, but much of what he said is applicable to language generally as a means of communication in the modern world. Language is one of the decisive elements in the complex of forces, material, psychological and spiritual, by which the destinies of nations are being shaped at the present time. For this there are several reasons, distinct, but operating together on the most powerful scale.

(1) Bruce Pattison: English Teaching in the World To-day. Evans Bros. London 1950.

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The Growing Importance of Language in a Changing World

First comes the accelerating spread of technological knowledge throughout the world, together with the power, military and industrial, conferred by applied science and large-scale organization. This process, which, starting in Western Europe, has already transformed the greater part of North America during the last century, is now transforming Asia, Africa and South America and is well established in the Antipodes. As a purely industrial phenomenon, quite apart from its social consequences, a technological and agrarian revolution on this scale is incompatible with mass illiteracy. It will be impossible for great countries like India, Pakistan, China and Brazil, with all their national resources and their large populations, to fulfil their national aspirations so long as the bulk of their populations remains unable to read and write. Without a large educated class of officials, business executives and professional men and women, and without vast reserves of skilled and literate artisans, these countries cannot hope to feed, employ and defend their populations or to maintain a powerful role in world affairs. For government, for industry and commerce and for food and hygiene, eventual universal literacy is regarded by them as indispensable to their future existence.

From the recent UNESCO publication, Progress of Literacy in Various Countries, (1) it is possible to give a fairly clear picture of the extent of illiteracy and the degree to which the problem is being solved among the 26 contributing countries (which do not include the United Kingdom). (2) In Belgium, Canada, France, Hungary, the United States of America and among the white population of South Africa the proportion of illiteracy is well below 10 per cent. In the Argentine and Finland it is above 10 per cent but well below 20 per cent. Spain, Yugoslavia and Italy are in the 20-40 per cent illiteracy group. Turkey has 69 per cent of illiterates, Egypt 85 per cent and India (1931) 90 per cent. Within most countries there are several complicating factors. For instance, the proportion of illiteracy varies between men and women, between the urban and rural communities, between the various nationalities that may compose a state (Yugoslavia, for example) and between the several generations of a people. It would be unfair to indicate the proportion of illiterates in these countries without also referring to the progress that has been made in the struggle against illiteracy. Some countries have achieved remarkable results. The following, for example, have maintained an average of 25 per cent reduction in ten years -

(1) Progress of Literacy in Various Countries (Monographs on Fundamental Education). UNESCO. Paris, 1953.

(2) Undoubtedly the position has improved still further in some of these countries since the last census.

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Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, the United States of America and Yugoslavia. Nevertheless there are some countries where, in spite of a progressive improvement in the proportion of literates to illiterates, the actual number of illiterates has increased. The report from which these facts have been taken concludes that 'an average rate of progress of less than 10 per cent per decade is not sufficient to keep the numbers of illiterates in a country from increasing with the growth of the total population'. Because of this the number of illiterates has increased in each of the following countries for the periods specified - Ceylon (1910-46), Colombia (1918-28), Cuba (1919-43), Greece (1920-28), Mexico (1930-40) and Turkey (1935-45). In Portugal, which did not contribute to the report, it is reliably believed that the proportion of adult illiterates is now under 40 per cent as against 70 per cent only a few years ago.

As science and technology transform the industrial, agrarian and commercial scene, so the new pattern of economic life breaks up the traditional social organization. The caste and tribal systems loosen and disintegrate (as is happening in Africa and the Middle East at the present time) and with them disappears also the whole tissue of beliefs, taboos and obligations natural to stable societies. Without the means of rational thought and communication (that is, without reading and writing) and without access to new or more highly developed sources of values (without literature, for example) the moral and intellectual vacuum left by these dissolving primitive institutions cannot but be serious.

Thirdly, the world is rapidly shrinking, by the annihilation of distance, to a size where every movement in one part is felt throughout all the others. By fast transport, especially in the air, by wireless, telephone and telegraph, by films and newspapers, by the incessant movement of governmental and commercial representatives, the whole world has become a sounding board: places as 'remote' as Lhasa, Bechuanaland, Bogota, Bali, Korea, Kashmir, Cambodia, have all made world newspaper headlines within the last few years. It is thus no longer possible for primitive people to insulate themselves from the influence of literate strangers bringing with them the ideas and institutions, customs and propaganda of other civilizations. It is equally impossible for literate peoples with high standards of living to ignore the aspirations of the more backward communities amongst which they are thrown for commercial, administrative or military reasons. And what is true of the more spectacular meetings of East and West, of Christian, Moslem, Buddhist and pagan, of primitive and 'civilized', is no less true of the intricate relations between the different nations of single continents and

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between different racial or religious groups. There is a growing need for easier linguistic communication and for a fuller mutual understanding of the cultures and the national aspirations which the different languages enshrine. There is more need also for the separate peoples, assaulted as they are by waves of new and unsettling ideas, first to understand their own problems and then, through education, to assess the value of other people's ideas and - unfortunately - of other people's propaganda. It is now too late to recall that evil communications corrupt good manners. The communications exist, and only education, in which language and literature must play an important part, has much hope of making 'progress' safe.

Possibility of a World Language

This period of rapid social change has seen various attempts to found and propagate a world language which would do as much for trade and culture to-day as Greek did in the ancient world and Latin in the Roman Empire and later in medieval Europe. There are, for instance, the synthetic languages like Esperanto, and there are English and French, each of which, for rather different purposes, and to some extent, in different parts of the world, is used as a lingua franca by people to whom it is not a mother tongue. Similarly Spanish and Portuguese have a wide range outside the Iberian countries. The wide spread of these languages, as well as the considerable understanding of German in many parts of the world, has eased, but has not solved, problems of communication. These are specially acute for the English-speaking peoples. Indeed, it may be that some simplified variant of English is the likeliest language to establish a world currency. However this may be, the widespread use of English in various parts of the world, even at the present time, raises some interesting speculations which deserve a chapter to themselves (Chapter 3).

The Use of Vernacular Languages in Education

Quite apart from the possibilities of a world language, there is another linguistic problem which has international or political bearings. It was suggested earlier that, not only do the different peoples of the world need easier linguistic communication between them, but that those peoples whose social institutions and cultures are in rapid flux cannot fully measure their own needs and meet their own problems without a rational language widely available through print. This is a problem of great importance to the British Commonwealth and Empire, in which every year brings self-government a little nearer in some territory in Africa or the Far East, the Pacific or the Caribbean. The same problem is acute in some

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sovereign states with largely illiterate populations, such as Mexico and Egypt, and in French, Dutch and Portuguese colonial territories or former colonial territories such as Indonesia. The importance of attempts to create literate populations in areas where the vernacular has not previously been written down or where it has been overshadowed by another national language in government, trade and culture, warrants some brief discussion of what has been and is being done in this field, especially in British territories.

Any attempt to encourage a 'dependent' vernacular as the medium of education will encounter opposition from many sides, and from mixed and often contradictory motives. This is not the place to examine the political and psychological difficulties, which are, in any case, less serious than formerly. More serious and more relevant to the present argument are the practical obstacles which remain even when attempts to use the vernacular, educationally, have been accepted in principle. There are, for instance, often a large number of different vernaculars or dialects current in a single territory - not only in large states like India, Pakistan and China but also within a territory no larger than Nigeria or New Guinea; in Mexico, for instance, there are at least fifty different Indian dialects. Most attempts to 'standardize' orthographies in circumstances such as these have failed, so a choice must be made; the favoured language and the chosen script are usually the simplest or those used by the greatest number of people: e.g. Hindi in India, Urdu and Bengali in Pakistan, Swahili in parts of East Africa, though it is true that all these languages are challenged by other important regional languages. The chosen vernacular, if it has no written form, must be transcribed into a suitable orthography which is phonetically correct and amenable to the demands of existing type-setting machines and typewriters. There remain the even more formidable problems of systematizing the grammar, of selecting a scientifically graded vocabulary for teaching, of writing and printing primers and readers, of devising visual and aural aids, and eventually of writing and printing school books, reference books, newspapers and books of literary, practical and general interest. If the spoken vernacular has not only no literature, but no folk-literature except of a debased kind, this is probably the greatest difficulty of all. The problem of finding and training teachers is bound to be acute, not only at the start, but for several generations afterwards.

In spite of all these difficulties, this impossible looking task is in fact being done, not just here and there but all over the world, in scores of different tongues. More is now known about the methods, the difficulties and the achievements of such work since the publication by UNESCO of the reports of two conferences, convened in Paris

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and in Africa, to study the use of vernacular languages in education and to make recommendations. (1) These reports, supplemented as they are by descriptions of work done in different parts of the world, constitute an authoritative account of what is now recognized to be one of the most urgent tasks of to-day and which offers a serious challenge to the universities of Britain, America and the Commonwealth, where the bulk of the research is going on.

Once a vernacular language has been transcribed and made available in schools, public opinion in the area will usually favour its use as the medium of instruction for primary education: i.e. for the first five or six years of compulsory school attendance. In this, public opinion will usually be backed by educational opinion, not only locally but elsewhere. It is now generally agreed that literacy in these conditions is best approached in two stages, i.e. through the vernacular, even though the eventual goal is literacy in the 'official' language. That such is generally the eventual goal is no disparagement of indigenous cultures and need prove no impediment to self-governing institutions; rather the reverse. Few vernaculars have the full range of words or ideas necessary for technological and professional purposes. Some are clearly inadequate for instruction in higher secondary and university education. In any event, no people wishes to exclude itself from the main stream of world ideas or to deprive its most intelligent nationals of the opportunity of higher education abroad, or of posts in foreign commercial concerns or international agencies and in the learned professions and the civil service. The more energetic and ambitious the territory, the greater its needs of literacy in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese or Dutch, according to its special relationship with Western nations. In general, therefore, the vernacular will not suffice, for some time anyhow, as the medium of instruction in secondary schools and will certainly not be adequate for university education. But it will continue to be taught in secondary schools as a 'subject'. In the primary schools it will be the first language learned and, if at all possible, it will be the medium of instruction throughout the primary stage, the second, or 'official', language being introduced in speech about the third year, and in writing in the fifth or sixth year. Local circumstances will determine the details, but this general pattern is known to be accepted in many of the areas which have been studied. In these areas the vernacular is also used generally for what is known as 'fundamental education', i.e. education for raising the standards of social life in backward communities; it will commonly be used

(1) The Use of Vernacular Languages in Education (Monographs on Fundamental Education). UNESCO, 1953, and African Languages and English in Education (Editorial Studies and Documents No. 11). UNESCO, 1953.

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also in adult education of the more conventional type, though adult classes are found also in English, French and other 'official' languages or in some form of lingua franca, e.g. Basic English or Creole.

It is in adult education and in 'fundamental' education that the most spectacular work has so far been done to combat illiteracy on 'mass' lines. Some adult education was started before the war in the countries of Latin America and the Middle East, but most of what is going on now in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been started within the last six years and has been stimulated, if not actually begun, by UNESCO and the other specialized agencies of the United Nations or by the British, American and Commonwealth Governments. Among sovereign states and self-governing Dominions special mention may be made of Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Iraq, India, Pakistan and Ceylon. The Mexican campaign is perhaps the best known. This started with a new law in 1946 by which every literate person was compelled by law to teach one other person to read and write. Mexico is now served, in urban and rural areas alike, by teams of teachers and social workers competent to give instruction in language (Spanish and Indian), health and hygiene, agricultural method, rural crafts, music, drama and games; many of the teams are equipped with film projectors, gramophones and radio. In Mexico also, at Patzcuaro, 250 miles west of Mexico City, is UNESCO'S first international training centre for producing the cadres necessary for spreading 'fundamental education' in other parts of the world. UNESCO is also conducting a 'pilot project' in Haiti, in co-operation with the Haitian government - the first sovereign negro government in the world. In the Marbial Valley in Haiti are all the typical problems of 'backward' areas: over-population, land hunger, deforestation, soil erosion, poverty and intermittent famine, illiteracy and a declining agriculture. In this experiment in fundamental education the vernacular or, more properly, the lingua franca used is Creole, with French as the second language. The Mexican centre aims at training 5,000 specialists in the next twelve years. Only a fraction of these will be linguists, but all will depend on new linguistic methods for communicating with their students and for enabling their students to understand and retain the necessary knowledge. The British Government, the Commonwealth Governments, and the various authorities in British dependent territories have played their full part in these developments. Indeed, the work done in various parts of the world under British rule is almost certainly unsurpassed anywhere else. Much of the power is supplied from Britain through the work of British universities, institutes of education and schools of oriental and other languages.

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Learning Foreign Languages

Whatever the success of the various national campaigns and whatever the future of Basic English or of other 'international' languages, it is clear that more people in all countries will need and wish to acquire some mastery of one or two languages other than their own. The range and skill of certain European peoples in the use of other languages is remarkable even at the present time. Probably the outstanding examples are Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands, where English, in particular, and German to a rather less degree, are read and spoken by a very large number of people in all walks of life. In Norway, English is taught not only in all the secondary schools but also, after a lapse during the war, in the last two years of the primary schools, that is between the ages of twelve and fourteen. As a result, the fluent use of English is not confined to the professional and governmental classes but is widespread throughout the middle classes, and, in Oslo, is frequently found among the skilled artisans. Much the same is true of the Netherlands, where the commercial importance of English is a powerful factor. It is no doubt true that the return of large numbers of Norwegian and Dutch people to their own countries after the war stimulated the popularity of English; but the greater part of the credit must go to the work of the schools and colleges, to the official educational policy of the Norwegian and Netherlands Governments and to the British Council. English is commonly and fluently spoken also in Finland, Denmark and in Luxembourg. In the last named country the language programmes of the secondary schools are remarkable. English, French and German are all learnt by large numbers of pupils and there are some who, in addition to these languages, are also studying Latin and Greek: all this is in addition to the mother tongue (a Germanic language but different from German) with its quite considerable literature. In Belgium good English is common - though not so common as in Holland - in addition to French and Dutch and a good deal of German. In Germany and in some countries of Central Europe the use of English is wider and more fluent than that of French and German in Britain. In France and Italy the knowledge of foreign languages is probably no wider or better than in England. More is said in the next chapter about the use of English abroad.

In England and Wales the learning of foreign languages raises some questions for the future. It is probable that a bigger proportion of the population than at present needs some knowledge of at least one other European language, and that a bigger proportion of those who have the knowledge ought to speak the language better than they do. It is improbable that English children have any inborn

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disability for learning foreign languages (and quite certain that Welsh children have none) by comparison with the children of other nations. French, German or Spanish might therefore find a wider place than they do in our secondary schools of all types, provided that sufficient teachers can be recruited and trained and that the courses of study can be carefully adapted to suit the special needs of pupils in different schools. In the grammar schools there is no doubt that the standard of spoken French has improved in the last twenty years and that all the emphasis recently laid on oral practice and on visits abroad has been well worth while. At the same time, it is difficult not to conclude that our tradition of approaching French and German in a deep and scholarly way through literature as well as language has been right. Most educated Englishmen would not exchange their knowledge of French or German literature and history for mere conversational fluency. But the two are not incompatible, and courses in modern foreign languages ought to keep both in view, as very many now do, both in schools and in higher education.

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The English Language Abroad
'And who in time knows whither we may vent
The treasure of our tongue? To what strange shores
This gain of our best glory shall be sent,
T'enrich unknowing natives with our stores?
What worlds in th'yet unformed Occident
May come refin'd with th'accents that are ours?
' (1)
WHEN Samuel Daniel wrote these lines he would have been astonished to know the extent to which his prophecy would be realized, for not only the Occident but the Orient, too, has taken to the English tongue. It is impossible to give an accurate figure of those who speak English, but, on the basis of the many estimates that have been made, it is generally agreed that English is the mother tongue of at least 175 million people. Of these, the United Kingdom accounts for over 48 millions, the United States 112 millions, Canada six, Australia six, New Zealand two, South Africa one, and other areas over three millions more. (2) In addition, there are over 17 million bilingual people for whom English is nearly as ready a means of communication as is their mother tongue. This figure is made up of the Welsh-speaking population of the United Kingdom, the Irish-speaking population of Eire, the French-speaking population of Canada, a large portion of the Africaans population of South Africa and the various other bilingual nations of the Commonwealth. To these should be added the 13 millions in the United States of America who preserve their native German, Italian, Polish, or other of the 15 or so major languages represented there. This takes no account of the millions in India and Asia for whom English is the lingua franca. Nor does it include several millions, in Europe more especially, who learn English as a foreign language from an early age. How far, then, has the language travelled from the time when Mulcaster could write that 'the English tongue is of small reach, stretching no further than this island of ours, nay not there over all'? (3) Of the 200 millions and more who speak the English tongue nearly a tenth live in the Commonwealth overseas, and seven-tenths in the United States of America.

1 Daniel: Musophilus, 1599.

2 These figures, which are based on the last census, are now certainly larger.

3 Mulcaster: The Educational Writings of R. Mulcaster. Glasgow, 1903.

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There are several different senses in which English may be called a 'world' language, apart from its use as a mother tongue in the English-speaking countries. English may, for instance, in the course of time establish itself as a universal lingua franca and be learned by other linguistic groups wholly or mainly for the purpose of intercommunication. As a lingua franca, sometimes in a simplified or debased form, English already serves such a purpose in many parts of the world. If this particular function of the language develops, as it may, not by any formal international agreement but almost, as it were, by accident, the dissemination of suitable teaching methods, and perhaps of simplified forms of the language (though this is more debatable) will become important. Indeed, research into the teaching of English as a foreign language is already an important commitment of at least one British university, as was mentioned in the last chapter.

In many parts of the world where English is not spoken as a mother tongue it has been, and sometimes still is, used as the official governmental language, and as the medium of secondary and higher education, sometimes of primary education also. In India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma, where new national and regional languages have been adopted, the use of English is still widespread for governmental and professional purposes and in higher education. Much the same is true of the Philippines. In Liberia, a sovereign negro republic, English is both the official language and the medium of all education. In British colonial territories English is the official language, but in almost all of them the use of vernacular languages is encouraged as a medium of primary education and, to some extent, in secondary education as a special subject. In many countries of the Middle East English is a compulsory auxiliary language in the schools and is used to some extent for official purposes and in university education. In Wales, Ireland, Canada and South Africa, English is one of two national languages, the two standing in a rather different relationship to one another in each of these four countries.

The teaching of English as an auxiliary language in various parts of the world presents problems that are different from those involved in teaching it as a mother tongue. At the University of London Institute of Education these problems are being systematically investigated. The Institute turned its attention first to problems of structure rather than, directly and immediately, to those of vocabulary as other investigators have done. The importance of structures was, indeed, perceived by earlier workers, but the Institute goes

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further than others in basing its teaching on the graded development of structures. It regards the syntactical, morphological, intonational and stress patterns as a necessary framework to be fixed as early as possible in learning another language; at the higher levels it gives increasing importance to semantic problems. The general aim is to give the learner a complete system from the beginning and to develop it gradually into an increasingly complex organization. Action and visual aids are employed; but the language system, analysed into recurring patterns, is the governing factor in deciding what to teach and what methods to employ. The Institute's work is likely to have a wide and profound influence on the teaching of English abroad.

Mention must also be made of Basic English, which was devised by. Dr. C. K. Ogden. Following the report of a Committee of Ministers under Mr. R. A. Butler in 1944, the Prime Minister made a statement on March 9th, the text of which was published in Command Paper No. 6511 both in its original form and in Basic English (incidentally two corresponding versions of the Atlantic Charter were published in the same way in the same paper). This statement affords readers the opportunity of judging the effect of Basic English on their own eyes and ears in a context already familiar to them in the original English.

ON MARCH 9TH, 1944

OriginalBasic Version
The Committee of Ministers on Basic English, after hearing a considerable volume of evidence, have submitted a Report which has been approved in principle by His Majesty's Government. The Committee, in their report, distinguish between the use of a system such as Basic English as an auxiliary international language, and as a method for the teaching of ordinary English. In this latter field, several very promising methods, other than Basic, have been developed in recent years, which make use of progressively increasing vocabularies based on analysis of the words most frequently used in conversational and literary English. In foreign countries, the method used in the teaching of English will naturally be a matter for the decision of the Departments of Education of those countries, and, where teaching is conducted in British Institutes, it will be a matter for the free decision of thoseThe Committee of Ministers on Basic English, after hearing the views of a great number of experts, have made a statement on the question which has been given general approval by His Majesty's Government. It is pointed out by the Committee in their statement that the use of a system such as Basic English as an international second language is something quite separate from its use for the teaching of normal English. In this second field, two or three other systems which give signs of working very well have been produced in the last five or ten years. These make use of selections of words, increasing by stages, which are based on observation of the words most frequently used in talking and writing English. In other countries, the system used in the teaching of English will naturally be a question for the decision of the Education Offices in those countries, and where teaching is given in British Institutes,

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who direct the teaching of English whether they employ any of these methods or the Basic method. There is no reason why His Majesty's Government should support one method rather than another. So far, however, as concerns the use of Basic English as an auxiliary international language, His Majesty's Government are impressed with the great advantages which would ensue from its development, not in substitution for established literary languages, but as a supplement thereto. The usefulness of such an auxiliary language will, of course, be greatly increased by its progressive diffusion.those in control of the teaching of English will be free to make use of any of these systems or of the Basic system. There is no reason for His Majesty's Government to give more support to one system than to another.

So far, however, as Basic English is offered as an international second language, His Majesty's Government take the view that much good would come from its development, not in place of languages rooted in history and used by great writers, but as an addition to them. The value of such a second language will naturally be increased if it is more and more widely used.

Basic English is limited to a vocabulary of 850 words, though these words may be added to by new compounds and by selected lists of technical or professional terms, foreign words and words in international currency. Only 18 of the words in the general Basic list are verbs. Another 80 or so are 'operators', a Basic term that covers adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions. Of the rest, 600 are nouns and 150 are adjectives, for which the Basic names, respectively, are 'things' and 'qualities'. It will be seen from the Basic version of Sir Winston Churchill's statement that this apparently stringent restriction of vocabulary, especially of verbs, does not necessarily cripple the range of thought or expression and does not necessarily involve the use, except very occasionally, of ugly inversions and circumlocutions. Indeed, one of the characteristics of Basic is frequently a certain clarity of tone and simplicity or limpidity of structure. Basic compels the writer to think out his subject matter analytically before committing his thoughts to paper, and this brings certain clear advantages in some contexts and for some purposes, as well as serious limitations in others.

The purpose of Basic English is clearly given in the Prime Minister's statement. Whilst it may or may not be adopted in certain countries as a stage towards the learning of English, its professed purpose is not primarily this, but rather its utility as a lingua franca between peoples who speak different vernaculars but share common political, social or economic interests or who have common institutions. Examples of such areas are the various territories of East, West and Central Africa and parts of South-East Asia and the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, including Ceylon, and the Pacific islands. In these areas there is little or no common ground between a large number of local languages; some kind of English has long been used for commercial and other purposes. The main contrast, therefore, in some cases, is not between Basic and original

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English but between Basic and debased forms of English such as 'pidgin'. In countries with high standards of living and with close and continual connections with England and America the use of Basic has not usually been advocated. It has found no general acceptance in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, where standards of spoken and written English are very high, nor is it much used, as yet, in the other countries of Western, Southern and Central Europe. People in these countries need English primarily for communication with English-speaking people and for reading English and American literature in the original. For these purposes Basic English makes little appeal and little is therefore known about its possible usefulness as a bridge to full English in countries where English is a regular first foreign language.

A variant of Basic has been developed at Harvard by Dr. I. A. Richards. He and his assistants have not only worked out a revised system but have applied it to a wide range of text-books, teachers' and students' manuals, gramophone records, film strips and films, all of which have had wide currency across the Atlantic. Dr. Richards's system has been adopted for a number of governmental purposes in the United States, as, for instance, in the plan for training foreign seamen for the U.S. Navy. It differs from Basic in having fewer words in the general list but permitting the addition of fresh material, general as well as specialized, at certain stages.

There are several other systems of simplified English applied in carefully graded stages to teaching English as a foreign language. Some of these are practised by private schools of language study and some constitute the basis of the publications of certain firms of publishers who have specialized in this field. Most of these systems rely, for the selection of vocabulary, on word-frequency tests and are based, in one way or another, on the acquisition of phrase patterns and sentence patterns and on the systematic expansion of vocabularies learned through typical situations. The research necessary for any and all of these systems is still in its early stages. There will be world-wide interest in the work done at the London University Institute of Education, at Harvard, by the British Council and elsewhere in developing new methods of teaching English to those to whom it is not a mother tongue.


English in the United States

Partly because of its immense size, and partly because the story of the fortunes of the language is longest and most voluminous there, the United States offers the best picture of the development of the

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English language whenever it acquires a form of independent life abroad, as it must do whenever the various members of the English-speaking world develop a consciousness of their own national individuality. Accordingly, a short sketch of the way the language developed in America forms an important part of any consideration of the English language abroad.

Even after the Declaration of Independence the English language in America remained closely tied to its origins, and the power of tradition in this most sensitive of all social phenomena took a considerable time to lose any of its effectiveness. Nevertheless, the conditions making for divergence existed, not only in the environment which the colonists found and to which they had to adapt themselves, but in the very nature of the immigrant group. As Sir William Craigie wrote:

'The colonists were too few in number, and many of them too uncultured to bring with them the whole of that marvellous language of which Shakespeare could not exhaust the riches. It may safely be said that no colony ever carries with it the whole of its mother tongue, and this is all the more certain when that tongue has already attained a high level of literary development.' (1)
Moreover, most of the colonists doubtless spoke the dialect of their home counties or a variant of southern English marked by local peculiarities.

Changes soon began to occur, and to some the divergences appeared to be radical. John Pickering wrote in 1816 that

'upon an impartial consideration of the subject, therefore, it seems impossible to resist the conclusion that, although the language of the United States has perhaps changed less than might have been expected, when we consider how many years have elapsed since our ancestors brought it from England, yet it has in so many instances departed from the English standard, that our scholars should lose no time in endeavouring to restore it to its purity'. (2)
Eight years previously The British Critic had noted that 'the common speech of the United States had departed very considerably from the standard adopted in England'. This was inevitable. The physical and social conditions were different and, as Williams Archer noted, 'new words are begotten by new conditions of life, and, as American life is more fertile of new conditions than ours, the tendency towards neologisms cannot but be stronger in America than in England'. (3) The English language had found itself 'transplanted to spaces it had never dreamed, in its comparative humility, of covering; to conditions it had never dreamed, in its comparative innocence, of

(1) Craigie: The Study of American English. S.P.E. Tract XXVII. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

(2) Pickering: A Vocabulary or Collection of Words and Phrases. Boston, 1816

(3) Archer: 'America Today', Scribner's Magazine, February, 1899.

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meeting; to find itself grafted on a social and political order that was without precedent and example and was incalculably expansive'. (1)

These considerations would affect mainly, if not exclusively, the vocabulary only of the language. Other factors served to influence pronunciation and other features. There was the elementary fact of distance from England and the encouragement thus given to divergent development. But even more important was the relaxation from literary traditions and from English social standards, and the recognition so given to what would have been regarded as dialect forms in England. The dialects survived in England, but there they did not usurp the pattern. In America, as is bound to occur in any country very far from the source of the language, a weakening of the central tradition permitted dialect forms to assume unprecedented importance.

The effect of the American Revolution was to transform a situation where change was proceeding smoothly and naturally into one where linguistic change, among others, was sought as a desirable aim in itself. In language, as in the various fields of government, there was a conscious tendency to reject English precedent, and the war of 1812 increased this tendency. The general argument was stated in 1781 by John Wetherspoon: 'Every state is equal to and independent of every other; I believe none of them will agree, at least immediately, to receive laws from another in discourse, any more than action. Time and accident must determine whether we shall continue to consider the language of Great Britain as the pattern on which we are to form ours.' (2)

Among the most prominent in asserting these differences and the need to encourage them was Webster, the lexicographer. 'As an independent nation,' he wrote, 'our honour requires us to have a system of our own in language as well as government.' (3) In another place he maintains that 'there is nothing, which ... so debases the genius and character of my countrymen as the implicit confidence they place in English authors, and their unhesitating submission to their opinions, their derision and their frowns'.

Jefferson thought it not improbable that the changes in American English would in time 'separate it in name as well as in power from the mother tongue', the main argument being the one most frequently adduced: 'the population and commerce of America will force their language into general use'. (4) It was this argument that

(1) Henry James: The Question of Our Speech. John Farquharson on behalf of the estate of the late Henry James.

(2) Wetherspoon: Collected Works (Ed. Green). New York, 1801.

(3) Webster: Op. cit., p. 20.

(4) See G. P. Krapp: The English Language in America, p. 9. 2 vols. Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. New York, 1925.

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appealed to Webster, who borrowed Samuel Daniel's prophetic mantle. 'Within a century and a half,' he thought, 'North America will be peopled by a hundred million of men all speaking the same language ... Compare this prospect, which is not visionary, with the state of the English language in Europe, almost confined to an island, and to a few million people; then let reason and reputation decide how far America should be dependent on a transatlantic nation for the standard and improvements in language.' (1) Nor was this enthusiasm for the English language in America confined to natives of that land. A Frenchman, Roland de la Platière, in addressing the Academy at Lyons in 1787, spoke confidently of the language of the United States as the possible universal language of the future. (2)

Complementary to the desire to shake off British traditions and standards of speech was the American need to encourage native American standards. In 1774 a proposal was put forward to create an American Society of Language, to act as a kind of Academy. 'The English language,' it is remarked, 'has been greatly improved in Britain within a century, but its highest perfection ... is perhaps reserved for this land of light and freedom... . I beg leave to propose a plan for perfecting the English language in America, thro' every future period of its existence. That a society for this purpose should be formed, consisting of members in each university and seminary, who should be stiled Fellowes of the American Society of Language.' (3) That this idea was in the air is suggested by the appearance of a similar proposal as early as 1721 by Hugh Jones. (4) In 1780 it was put forward again by John Adams in a letter to the President of Congress: 'The honour of forming the first public institution for refining, correcting, improving, and ascertaining the English language ... is reserved for Congress; they have every motive that can possibly influence a public assembly to undertake it. It will have a happy effect upon the union of the States to have a public standard for all persons in every part of the continent to appeal to.'

This reference to the effect a native American standard might have upon the unity of the American people touches an important feature of the situation. It was generally felt that an American standard was necessary in order to encourage the integration of the varied nationalities that were entering more and more into the pattern of American life, and to prevent possible disintegration

(1) Webster: Op. cit.

(2) See Krapp: Op. cit.

(3) The Royal American Magazine. 1774.

(4) Jones: An Accidence to the English Tongue.

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of the new nation - a fear that was ever present to the leaders of the people. Webster, for example, remarked upon the need 'to have a uniform national language to which all foreigners settling in this country should conform'. (1) They were fortunate in having in New England a relatively compact community with a short but vigorous tradition of independent existence. Moreover, New England began with initial advantages. The compactness of the community gave a high penetrating power to its ideas, while its speech bore a close relation to that of South-East England and to London.

In spite of the attempt on both sides to emphasize the differences, either to encourage their perpetuation or to condemn them, it remains true, and is generally recognized by American scholars as well as others, that the differences between the two forms of the English language do not, by any criterion, constitute radical divergences. No one would deny that the differences are there. Indeed one of the intentions of the authoritative Dictionary of American English (Craigie and Hulbert) is to exhibit 'clearly those features by which the English of the American Colonies and the United States is distinguished from that of England and the rest of the English-speaking world'. (2) But it is in idiom and vocabulary, rather than in the basic structure of the language, that these differences are principally revealed, and, indeed, there is a wide variety of idiom and intonation, and no doubt of other linguistic elements, in different parts of the United States.

H. L. Mencken, in The American Language, insists that the difference from 'standard English is not merely a difference in vocabulary, to be disposed of in an alphabetical list; it is also a difference in pronunciation, in intonation, in conjugation and declension, in metaphor and idiom, in the whole fashion of using words'. (3) Differences in pronunciation and intonation certainly exist and they are easily recognized, but they are not such radical differences that examples cannot be paralleled in Britain itself. In contradiction to the views of H. L. Mencken, Professor G. P. Krapp writes: 'One is not surprised that the inflectional system as now used in America differs but little from that now used in England, or from that used in both America and England in the seventeenth century.' (4) Professor Banck believed that except in pronunciation the distance which the English language in America had travelled in its separation from that of England was chiefly measured in its

(1) See Krapp: Op. cit., p. 19.

(2) Craigie and Hulbert: Dictionary of American English on Historical Principles, Preface to Vol. I. 2 vols. Chicago University Press, 1938.

(3) Mencken: The American Language, 4th ed., p, 103. Routledge and Kegan Paul. London.

(4) Krapp: Op. cit., Vol. II, p. 28.

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vocabulary. It is easy to exaggerate the importance of the differences that can be readily pointed out. These differences impress themselves upon Americans and English alike just because the overwhelming body of vocabulary, and the character of the linguistic structure, are identical. Were the differences so very great one would be struck, not by dissimilarities, but rather by the vestigial similarities.

In so far as these differences exist, the American form of the language has exerted an increasing influence upon the language in England. As Weekley pointed out: 'the earliest traces of the American influence ... are to be found about 1800, in connection with rather censorious English protests against supposed ... American coinages'. (1) But until considerably later the passage of new words was almost exclusively westwards, apart from those which related to the new physical and social environment of the Americans. 'With the nineteenth century,' Dr. Craigie points out, 'the contrary current begins to set in, bearing with it many a piece of driftwood to the shores of Britain. ... The variety of these contributions is no less notable than their number. In the early days the chief exchanges in both directions were on the upper level of usage, but from the beginning of the present century the chief English borrowings have been from American slang.' (2) The vigour of the Americans in their handling of the language, which was compared by Virginia Woolf to that of the Elizabethans, their willingness to forego the recognized rule where it might hinder vivacity, and their inventive capacity in vocabulary, are bound to affect others, the young especially; so long as the English language remains sufficiently firm to its tradition, it can often profit from its borrowings, as it undoubtedly has done in certain respects, both in common usage and in literature.

English in the Commonwealth

The history of the English language in the Commonwealth has some similarity to that of the language in America. Geographical, social and cultural factors combine to give the development of the language in these territories some resemblance to the pattern of development of the language in America. While the great body of the English language, in vocabulary, structure, intonation and pronunciation, is identical in all these lands, there are signs of divergence amongst them and between them and the mother country. This is particularly so in Australia where the physical conditions are most different from those of Britain. Professor Hancock in Australia writes: 'The Australian has rejected, almost at a blow, the beautiful names of an intimate countryside - fields and meadows,

(1) Weekley: Adjectives and Other Words. John Murray. London, 1930.

(2) Craigie: Op. cit.

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woods, copse, spinney and thicket, dale, glen, vale and coomb, brook, stream and rivulet, inn and village. But in their place is a new vocabulary of the bush - billabong, dingo, damper, bushwacker, billy, cooee, swag, swaggie, humpy, stockman, jackeroo, squatter, bushranger, sundowner, brumby, drover, never-never, outback, back blocks.' (1) This habit of rejection and replacement, and sometimes of re-interpretation, grew naturally out of the different circumstances and the growing sense of national identity, especially after the 1914-18 war.

Apart from these factors and from the influence of her Pacific neighbours, a great deal of the character of the English language in Australia, particularly its pronunciation, can be accounted for by the composition of the early English settler communities, which contained a large Cockney element. This was later diversified and reinforced by dialect influences deriving from Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Meanwhile, considerable influences have been exerted from America. In New Zealand, where there appears to be evidence of increasing divergence from the home standard, American influence is less strong and, in spite of an accelerated modification of pronunciation, the form of the written language is less different.

In Canada the position of the English language is more complex. At one time, on account of the emigration of loyalists from the American Colonies into Ontario and New Brunswick, the greater part of the English-speaking population of Canada was American in origin. It was only after the settlement of Highlanders and the heavy migration in the nineteenth century that the balance was restored. Another difference is the presence in Canada of several indigenous languages, for example those spoken by Eskimo peoples. Here the policy is to emphasize, where it is possible to do so, the teaching of English, and to use the vernacular only orally, and in order to teach English. A more important factor is the presence of French-speaking people, who compose about one-third of the population. Although these are more concentrated in Ontario and Quebec than in other parts of Canada, they are found in various proportions in all the ten provinces. English is taught, either as a mother tongue or as a second language, to all children. As a second language it is introduced between Grade VII and X, although in Quebec Grade V has been chosen. The adjustment in the relations of the two official languages in the schools is a matter of some complexity from the purely pedagogical point of view, and the influence of the English spoken in America serves to make a complex situation still more challenging.

(1) Quoted in Baker: The Australian Language, p. 34. Angus and Robertson. Sydney, 1945.

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In South Africa English is one of two official languages. But, whereas in Canada English is the language of the great majority of the population, in South Africa it is the language of a minority of the white population, which is, in turn, only a minority of the total population. At the beginning of the century, it is true, the English language was strongly predominant. Nowadays it is spoken chiefly in the few large towns and cities. One of the most important problems facing the schools of South Africa, therefore, is that of the relations of the two official languages in the schools, and the organization of the schools is designed, in consequence, to meet this problem. Generally speaking there are two types of schools - 'dual medium' schools, where English and Afrikaans are used by all the children, and 'single medium' schools, where only English or Afrikaans is used, with the other official language introduced as a special subject. The general educational policy in all four provinces is to introduce English at an early stage where it is not already used as a medium.


In the countries of Europe English is not an auxiliary language, in the sense used earlier in the chapter, but a foreign language, often a first foreign language. It is learned primarily for the purpose of conversing and corresponding with English-speaking people, of visiting Britain and America, of reading English and American books and seeing English and American plays, and of carrying on business with the English-speaking countries all over the world. In the section which follows, a survey is made of the teaching of English in the schools of six selected countries of Western Europe. The different problems of aim, method and organization encountered in these countries are summarized but no attempt is made to pass judgment on the methods employed or the results achieved.

Scope and Aims of English Abroad

In the six countries under review - Belgium, France, the German Federal Republic, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden - English studies are much more extensive to-day than they were before 1939. Here and there, however, the main increase of interest in English had already occurred before the outbreak of the second world war: this was, for example, the case with France, where the reversal of the relative positions of English and German in schools took place in 1918 and the years immediately following.

Understandably, the general ends in view in the study of English vary from country to country. In Sweden, for instance, the aims are predominantly practical: pupils learn English in order to acquire possession of a valuable tool for commercial and scientific pursuits.

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In France, on the other hand, what may be called cultural aims are regarded as at least as important as practical ones.

Other reasons, too, may determine the position which English occupies in the curricula of schools. In the Netherlands, English is started as a rule a year after French, which is a more difficult language for the Dutch; but it is studied by all pupils in schools corresponding to our own grammar schools, as well as in continuation schools. In Belgium, with her special bilingual problem, English is sometimes the first modern language, but it generally comes after the second national language, which - depending on the area - is French, Dutch or German; even so, English is studied by all pupils in secondary schools in the Flemish parts of Belgium and by three-quarters of those in the Walloon areas. In France, English is the first modern language for three-quarters of the boys and girls in lycées, collèges and cours complémentaires (these last are special courses organized in, or attached to, elementary schools, in which the pupils have the curriculum and schemes of work laid down for the first four years of the lycées and collèges, but omitting Latin).

English is the first modern language in all Norwegian and Swedish schools which include a foreign language in their curriculum, i.e. in all schools corresponding to our grammar schools and in many elementary schools. In 1950 the Swedish Riksdag adopted a proposal that, subject to the successful outcome of experiments, English should be a compulsory subject in all elementary schools for three years beginning in the fifth school year, and a voluntary subject for a further two years. In Norway English has had a special position in the curriculum of secondary schools since the Education Act of 1896 made it a compulsory second language. As a result of this Act middle schools, which later developed into realskoler, became entirely non-classical, and modern language sides, which devoted much time to English studies and came to be called 'English lines', were established in the grammar schools as the counterpart of the 'classical lines'. English became the first foreign language in Norway in consequence of the Education Act of 1935, which introduced it into the curriculum of the last two years of the elementary school course (i.e. for pupils of about twelve years of age). (1)

In Western Germany, including West Berlin, English is everywhere the first modern language, except in the Rhineland-Palatinate and the southern half of Baden-Wuerttemberg, in which two areas it takes

(1) At present English is taught in all urban elementary schools in Norway, and in all rural schools organized on the same lines. Other rural schools are free to teach it if they can make suitable arrangements (if necessary, by co-operating with other schools). English, however, is not compulsory for pupils in any of these schools; it is taken by those who wish to take it and who are considered to have the necessary aptitude.

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second place to French. It is studied by practically all (1) pupils in Lower Saxony from the age of ten, and by at least 90 per cent of those of similar ages in West Berlin. AIl pupils in the age groups fifteen to nineteen learn English in Hamburg, Bremen and Schleswig-Holstein, as well as in Lower Saxony; the percentage falls to 70 in Baden-Wuerttemberg and to ten in the Rhineland-Palatinate.


The age at which pupils begin to study English in the six countries depends on a number of factors. As a first modern language English is started throughout Western Germany and in West Berlin at the age of ten, and in France at ten or eleven; as a second modern language it is started two years later both in Germany and in France. In Sweden it is begun in the fifth or seventh school year, i.e. when pupils are eleven or thirteen. The starting age is twelve in the Netherlands; as has already been mentioned, it is also twelve in Norway if pupils begin the language in their elementary schools - otherwise it is fourteen. In the modern sections of secondary schools in Belgium boys and girls may start English at the age of thirteen, and in the classical sections at fourteen.

Wide variation is to be found in the amount of time allotted each week to English in the schools with which this section is concerned. In Belgium, if English is the second modern language, pupils devote to it three weekly periods on the modern sides of secondary schools, and two on the classical sides; if it is the first modern language, the number of periods is increased to four. In France, where the lessons last nominally an hour, the average number of periods is three a week, but there are considerable fluctuations according to the type of course followed: as a first language on the modern side English receives five periods a week in the first two years, three in the next four years, and one and a half in the year in which the second part of the baccalauréat is taken; on the classical side the number is three throughout, except in the final year (one and a half). As a second modern language on the modern side English is studied for four periods a week for two years, for three in the next two years, and for two in the final year; the number of weekly periods on the classical side is one less at each stage except in the final year, when it is one and a half, but in the third and fourth years of the course it is four for those who do no Greek. In Germany the weekly average for all kinds of school is four periods of 45 minutes each. In the Netherlands the number varies from three to five. In Norway it is five in elementary schools and from four to eight in the secondary

(1) By all except those in six Gymnasien, where Latin is the first foreign language, and English - started two years later - the second.

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schools (or even nine or ten on the modern language side of a four-year rural grammar school or of a five-year grammar school whose pupils have not had an English course in their elementary schools); here again the teaching periods usually last for 45 minutes. In Sweden the average is four, but the exact number ranges from two to seven.

The Teachers

The role of the teacher in modern languages has, of course, special importance, since it is unlikely that his pupils' accent and intonation will be better than his own. On the whole, the courses pursued by intending teachers of English are not dissimilar in the six countries. Those who aim at teaching in grammar schools usually study English, often with another language, at a university for four or five years. (1) University studies are also undertaken sometimes by teachers in other types of school, though more often such teachers have undertaken their advanced English studies in training colleges, in courses which generally last two years for students aged about eighteen years on recruitment, or up to five years if recruitment to the colleges - as in France - takes place at an earlier age. Belgian students proposing to take up posts as teachers of languages study for the most part three languages other than their mother tongue, i.e. German and English, as well as French and Dutch; on appointment to a school some of them may not have a high degree of fluency in all these languages, but they concentrate on perfecting their knowledge of the one they will be called upon to teach. For all teachers of English in the six countries a period of residence in an English-speaking country is regarded as highly desirable, and indeed sometimes as essential (as for those who, in the Netherlands, seek the full qualifications as teachers in secondary schools).

Special Problems of English as a Foreign Language

The particular difficulties which the English language presents are not the same in all respects for pupils in the countries under review. For example, the normal word order of an English affirmative sentence needs little special study by the French boys and girls, but it does not come naturally to German pupils. Nevertheless, our pronunciation and intonation are hard for all who do not speak

(1) In Sweden students spend about four years in preparation for the general degree of filosofie magister, for which they take three subjects in succession, each for a period varying from a year to eighteen months (or even two years. if the highest level is aimed at). In addition, those seeking qualifications as teachers of advanced forms in grammar schools prepare for the filosofie licentiat, often with the filosofie doktor; for this degree they have to devote four more years to their special subject (e.g. English).

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English as their mother tongue; hard, too, are our wealth of vocabulary and idiomatic expression, the peculiarities of our prepositional usages, and the employment of some of our tenses - particularly the continuous forms (I am singing, etc.) and our use of 'do' with the infinitive.

The problems confronting the teacher of English as a foreign language are quite different from those with which the teacher of English as the mother tongue has to contend. They are more closely akin to those of the modern language teacher in this country. It would clearly be outside the scope of the present chapter to discuss in detail the methods that are used in the different countries, but some points deserve mention.


In all kinds of school oral methods are favoured, i.e. teachers use English as the ordinary language of the English lesson, unless some clear advantage is to be gained by the use of the mother tongue. It is usually in the treatment of grammar that teachers in all six countries have recourse to their own language. Grammar, incidentally, appears to occupy all pupils for about a fifth of their time, in the early stages of their English courses at any rate. Memorization plays a part in English work everywhere - though, in Norway and Sweden, only in the early years or when songs are learnt for singing. Mostly, it is poems or extracts from Shakespeare's plays that are memorized, but sometimes it is also prose. In all six countries some use is made of the radio for English work. Usually the lessons followed are those broadcast on the various national systems; occasionally, however, pupils listen to the B.B.C., especially when the schools - as many in Sweden - are equipped with tape-recorders, by means of which the broadcasts can be repeated at a time convenient for internal organization and appropriate to the pupils' stage of development. In Norway regular lessons for schools are broadcast at three levels on the national system; in addition, pupils are encouraged to listen to B.B.C. programmes outside the normal hours of school, in order that they may have additional opportunities for hearing spoken English. In several of the countries the younger teachers are more inclined to experiment with broadcasts in language work than their older colleagues; but in France it is doubtful whether this teaching aid is used as much as it was before 1940. In Sweden a special series of lessons is broadcast twice a week, at three different levels, for elementary schools on whose staff there is no teacher with a diploma for English teaching. In several of the countries much use is now made of recordings (both tape and gramophone recordings).

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In Sweden films are often used in the English course. Here a special film English by Film has been shown in some schools, but it is used more in adult education. In most Swedish schools English sound films, without captions in the native language, are shown to the higher forms, which have fairly regular opportunities of seeing important productions such as Hamlet, Pygmalion, The Winslow Boy, Passport to Pimlico and Good-bye, Mr. Chips. Scenes of special interest in these films are often studied by the pupils in advance of the film showings, usually in booklets that have been prepared for the purpose.


With beginners in all the countries use is made of course books in which the English passages have as a rule been specially devised so that the pupils receive a properly graded introduction to the language. The reading matter of the course books is often made to centre on the life of an imaginary British family - a device which serves to give boys and girls an early acquaintance with our everyday customs and institutions. Later on, interesting differences are to be observed in the books selected for study. In some of the countries the pupils soon embark on the reading of works by established authors. In the Netherlands, for example, abridged - and, where necessary, simplified - texts are tackled from the second year, and Belgian practice is similar, except that the texts are introduced more usually in the third year of the course. Simplified editions are also used early on in Norway and even later as supplementary readers in secondary schools. In France, on the other hand, the main reading material takes the form of extracts of English authors. These extracts vary in length, but they are always long enough to be reasonably self-contained, whether the subject be a description of nature or of an action, a character sketch or an argument. The extracts are studied with great care, according to the general principles of the explication de texte, which are discussed in Chapter 9. In Germany, Norway and Sweden, too, books of extracts are employed, but in these countries the reading of complete texts is perhaps more common than in France. In some of the schools of Germany, Norway and Sweden school periodicals written in English are read; occasionally English newspapers are studied, especially in their weekly editions.

Study of Literature

On the value of extracts as the main item of study in a linguistic or literary course opinions may legitimately differ. It is commonly held that pre-occupation with extracts divorced from their contexts

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inclines teachers and pupils to stress intensive reading at the expense of extensive, that it prevents pupils from forming their own opinions about the place of selected passages in the author's complete scheme, that it leads to an exaggerated respect for form, and - more serious, perhaps - that it encourages boys and girls to come to conclusions about writers without having any real acquaintance with the true scope of their work. There is unquestionably substance in these objections. Yet there is much to be said on the other side, especially when pupils are studying a language and a civilization other than their own. In the countries under discussion boys and girls at school dispose only exceptionally of the time needed for wide reading in English. Well chosen extracts can give these pupils not only an appreciation of the range of authors who - on both sides of the Atlantic - have used the English language for their expression but also, and this is clearly of the utmost importance for them, experience of the different styles and vocabularies fitting particular occasions. Furthermore, it is conceivable that the study of well varied extracts may give foreign pupils a more balanced view of British, and American, scenes than they would secure from the reading of a few complete works - whose themes, unless selected with great care, might assume in the pupils' minds a representative character which they did not possess. After examining the English books usually read in senior classes in one of the countries, one observer thought that pupils might easily form a completely erroneous idea about Britain and the British people - it might seem to them, for instance, that the percentage of drunkards, ne'er-do-wells and scoundrels of one sort or other was higher in Britain than in their own country. Yet another factor which may prevent pupils abroad from getting, through complete works, an up-to-date picture of life in our islands is the operation of international copyright; it seems that the present popularity of Oscar Wilde in Continental schools owes much to the fact that he died at the turn of the century.

In the upper forms of schools in the six countries pupils usually make a special study of at least two of Shakespeare's plays - in Sweden, however, only in extracts. To list the other authors read, either in complete works or in substantial extracts, would be almost to give an inventory of English letters from the time of Chaucer, or even earlier, to the present day. It should be noted that among these authors are many Americans.


Except to some extent in Sweden, where by tradition there is much translation into English, written English work in the early years of courses in all the countries consists usually of dictation, sentence

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exercises (other than translations), and simple reproduction of stories and other passages read aloud by the teacher or studied - in class or at home - by the pupils. In Sweden pupils in the first year are being called upon more and more to write exercises involving answers to questions or the re-writing, in their own words, of stories and other material, with perhaps such changes as may be necessitated by some alteration in the general setting of the subject matter (for instance, they may be required to recount in the first person a story originally told in the third). In most of the countries the writing of summaries of reading, leading to essays on set subjects, plays an important part in the later stages of English courses.

It is interesting to note that the written English test in the Norwegian examen artium for pupils of the modern language side consists of a single essay, written on a subject either of a general nature or related to approved text-books. Candidates, who are given five hours in which to write the essay, may not take any books with them into the examination room. Most of them appear to choose the subjects connected with the approved texts. Recent examples of questions are:

1. (On Galsworthy's Justice). Recount briefly what happened to William Falder at his lodgings and at the office on the morning of 7th July, when he ended by forging the cheque. Then say how counsel for the defence tried to prove to the jury that Falder could not be held responsible for the crime he had committed. What is your personal view on the subject? (1948)

2. (On The Merchant of Venice.) 'Our feelings towards Shylock are sometimes of sympathy and sometimes of contempt.' Refer, with reasons, to some of Shylock's actions or speeches which arouse your sympathy, and to some which arouse your contempt. In conclusion, what do you gather from The Merchant of Venice as to Shakespeare's feelings towards Shylock the Jew? (1950)

3. An English historian has claimed that the British founded their Empire in a fit of absence of mind. Sketch in brief outline the geographical and political development of the British Empire and of the modern Commonwealth, giving your own comment on this statement. By way of conclusion, explain in a few words what you think are the bonds which keep the British Commonwealth together. (1950)

English and the Universities

In some of the six countries (e.g. Norway and Sweden) a qualification in English is essential for those who seek admission to universities and to most professional careers. In others such a qualification is necessary for admission to certain university faculties (e.g. those of science in some universities of Western Germany, and those of science and philology in all Belgian universities). In practically all the countries university professors and lecturers of every faculty are able to act on the assumption that they can refer their students to English periodicals and books in their original language.

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Learning the Mother Tongue

'For the uttering sweetly and properly the conceits of the mind ... English hath power equally with any tongue in the world.'


'The language which grows up with a people, is conformed to their organs, descriptive of their climate, constitutions and manners, mingled inseparably with their history and their soil, is fitted beyond any other language to express their prevalent thoughts in the most natural and efficient way ... The language of a nation's youth is the only easy and full speech for its manhood and its age. And when the language of its cradle goes, itself craves a tomb.'


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The chapters which constitute Part II make up nearly half this pamphlet. Learning to use the mother tongue is clearly a serious and important matter for everyone, and teachers will rightly expect that in this pamphlet it should be dealt with at length and in some detail. The mother tongue chiefly concerned is, naturally, English, but the special problems of Wales and of the Welsh language are dealt with in Chapter 8. In Chapter 9 the teaching of French in France is examined, not with a view to slavish imitation, but for those illuminating comparisons and contrasts that come from noting sympathetically the practices of another nation.

In Chapter 5 (English in Primary Schools) and Chapter 6 (English in Secondary Schools) the emphasis is placed on English language as distinct from English literature. But this is an unreal and in some ways a dangerous distinction, which is employed for convenience only. It is hoped that readers will not neglect to link these two chapters with Chapter 10 (Part III), where the complementary importance of literature is examined and where the teaching of literature - prose, poetry and drama - is dealt with in some detail.

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English in England

The National Importance of Language

IN Chapter 2 the practical importance was considered of high standards in the teaching, understanding and practice of language, both spoken and written. The importance of exact and easy communication was seen especially as an international need, but it is also a national need, industrial, social and cultural. The teaching of English will therefore be considered in general terms in the present chapter before the special problems of teaching it in primary and secondary schools and in further education are dealt with separately in Chapters 5, 6 and 7.

The word 'cultural' was used, a few lines previously, in third place after 'industrial' and 'social', but it is culture, in fact, which has traditionally had most of the teachers' attention in the teaching of English. For the historical and philosophical reasons given in Chapter 1 that was natural, but it is important that the commercial and social reasons for improving the teaching of English should not be overlooked. These will therefore be examined first, though the cultural issue cannot be excluded, at any stage, and the argument will return to cultural considerations later as being, in the last resort, the controlling ones.

English in Everyday Life

Most teachers are familiar with the local employer who complains that the products of his town's schools cannot spell, punctuate, compose, or hold themselves up straight and speak audibly at an interview. These complaints, most of which, except perhaps the last, do not diminish, are not new. They have been made as long as most teachers can remember. They are not therefore a product of 'new-fangled' methods in the primary schools or of early specialization in the secondary schools, though the complainants have recently come to believe that these two tendencies are at the root of most of their difficulties with young employees and students. The keen young teacher of English, in his early days, often feels that these complaints are unfair and that they overlook the broader purposes he is trying to carry out. The same teacher, however, after ten or fifteen years' experience, sometimes comes to realize that there is a good deal of truth in what the employer or the parent or the college tutor says; by then he himself may be a teacher of the sixth form or a headmaster or a careers master and he has full opportunity to

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know how much his pupils depend on good habits of speaking and writing which ought to be formed early in life but often are not. In any case, these complaints are too general and have been going on too long to be no more than a grumbling kind of perfectionism. They are, indeed, no longer made only or mainly by local employers but also by very large organizations, including the Civil Service, (1) which recruit nationally. They are made by the Forces also and by those who have to teach science students and even arts students at the universities and in post-graduate studies.

It is true, as anyone who tries to write conscientiously knows, that no piece of writing is ever permanently satisfying to the author and that few are fully satisfactory even at the time they are written. But allowing for a reasonable and salutary dissatisfaction with other people's prose, and even more with one's own, there must be room for considerable improvement in standards and methods that seem at present to fall so short of many people's requirements. One further proof may be the low view that some well-educated foreigners, especially the French, appear to take of our national use of English. For the moment, however, it may be convenient to ignore the reasons for our very slow progress in improving the use of English (some progress has certainly occurred if the whole national situation is fairly considered over the last fifty years). Most experienced teachers of English accept that better could be done, but few believe that either the causes or the remedies are those often suggested in public discussion. Indeed, some of the remedies proposed in letters to the press and to the heads of schools are believed by many teachers of English to be among the likeliest ways of making things worse. The first task therefore is to show, if possible, that improvements could occur without meretricious short cuts and without damage to the best in our national culture.

English in Industry and Commerce

For business purposes of all kinds, from the performance of humble routine tasks in industry and commerce to the most responsible executive and administrative work, efficiency is liable to turn, from time to time, on communication in speech and writing. In the professions the same is true, with the addition that language may be, in some professions, not only the vehicle of communication but also the very stuff of their activity. The scale and scope of modern industry and trade have not diminished but rather increased the importance of plain and exact communication. The speed at which business is done makes mistakes of meaning more troublesome, costly and dangerous than ever. Nor have mechanical contrivances

(1) See The Complete Plain Words (Sir Ernest Gowers). H.M.S.O.

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made speech and writing any less important. The telephone and dictaphone have taken some work away from the pen, but they have added it to the voice and the typewriter. Translation, interpretation, paraphrase and summary are indispensable to modern commercial and political conferences. In science, transport and technology, though much depends on quantitative measurement and symbolic notation, the element of prose statement - explanation, directive, summary and record - cannot be eliminated. Such statements must, moreover, be exact and intelligible, to an increasing degree, to match the increasingly exact performance of the machines and the men who operate them. If this increasing complexity and refinement of performance are not answered by rising standards of plain, exact and practised expression, not only will our affairs suffer but the language itself will be debased as it struggles to perform its hopeless task. This is actually what is happening. Jargon is, to some extent, the product of haste and pressure, but it comes also from so many people having to say and write more than they have the skill to express plainly without long cogitation.

An Outline of Method in English

In the last resort there can be only one answer: practice - frequent, careful, suitably chosen, suitably graded, well supervised, and done in such a fashion as to give it some reality and, if possible, some interest. Such practice ought to take precedence over any other kind of written linguistic exercise in a secondary school. Grammar, for instance, is a tool; much of the ancient and wearisome controversy about grammar is no more than shadow-boxing. It is only reasonable to suppose that a knowledge of the structure of sentences is useful at a certain stage in learning to write. To this knowledge most experienced teachers of English would add an acquaintance with the parts of speech and their functions. Much of this necessary grammatical ground work involves drill. Experienced teachers of English find, however, that in grammar schools at least, the accidence and syntax needed for the purpose of composition can usually be mastered by pupils of average ability in the equivalent of one weekly lesson for about three years; in other kinds of secondary school more time would probably be necessary. When this grammatical minimum has been mastered, practice in continuous composition is more important than further grammatical elaboration such as is common in learning an inflected foreign language. As grammar will not be mentioned again in the pamphlet, it should be added that a systematic study of grammar by older and abler pupils is another matter altogether. What has just been said applies only to grammar as an aid to correct usage.

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Spelling, punctuation and handwriting are so important that they ought not to be left to chance or to incidental treatment alone. They, too, involve an element of drill and repetitive practice that may sometimes be dull or difficult. But there is no reason why spelling and punctuation should not be tackled early and finished with as specific exercises as soon as possible. Further, there is no reason why, almost from the start, they should not be practised to a considerable extent through continuous composition. Indeed, the value of isolated exercises in spelling is probably very limited, and in punctuation it is negligible. In handwriting, on the other hand, there is more scope than is often given for short and frequent special practice. Already the handwriting exercise has been restored to favour by the growing interest in good scripts of italic and other origins.

When all these contributory matters have been dealt with, whether by specific exercises or by continuous practice, or by both, the secret of good composition has still to be revealed. This lies in a ready and suitable choice of words used with a sense of form. The range and certainty of choice will be powerfully assisted by reading and by discussing what is read; reading and discussion apart, it is more likely to develop from continuous practice in composition, oral and written, than from vocabulary exercises. A sense of form will usually be assisted by a knowledge of grammatical structure, and must be supported by good habits of punctuation, well understood. But form is a wider matter than punctuation alone. It involves selection, order, proportion, judgment, and these come mainly from systematic practice in continuous composition and précis, assisted by reading, especially reading aloud, and by well guided conversation and discussion. All these elements of linguistic skill are important to children of all ages and all grades of ability, and their development at different stages of the educational system is dealt with further in Chapters 5 and 6.

The Social Importance of English

The second importance of language to the community is social. The nation needs to read and write, to speak and listen for reasons other than that of supporting the vast paraphernalia of modern business. With low standards in the use of language, man is stunted in those very faculties that distinguish him most plainly from the animals.

Because human relations are complex and subtle, communication is bound to be a difficult art and its failure or success must affect the attitudes of people to one another. It is true that some persons are naturally glib and that glibness is not only a useless but a dangerous quality in human relations. Conversely, the sincerity and force of

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some others who are awkward of speech and stilted or ungrammatical in writing shine through their very difficulties. But, generally speaking, moods, feelings and meanings which are badly conveyed or are bottled up cause much misunderstanding, and much unhappiness and frustration to their subjects. To convey praise or encouragement in a few simple words or to apportion blame with restrain is a valuable human accomplishment which depends to some extent on a command of language as well as on personal character. To conduct an argument, not only lucidly but with moderation, as well as force, is partly a matter of expression and tone, as well as of temper. The deepest feelings sometimes need to be put into words, and the right words are an important part, as well as an expression, of the feelings. These examples of the social importance of language may seem personal or high-flown. But the same applies to the whole range of human relationships, in all sections of society, and at all levels of meaning. Language can bind and can estrange, can heal and can hurt, can ease and can obstruct, can amplify and can restrict. For every instance where language is socially harmful through deliberate intention there are countless others where it fails or hurts through imperfection alone.

The Cultural Background of English

Though the preceding paragraphs have dealt chiefly with the practical and social aspects of language, its cultural importance has been already mentioned and must now be developed further. Reading and listening are the source and nurture of most people's command of their own language, more so even than any form of composition exercise, oral or written, and much more so than specific exercises aimed at correcting faults or imparting particular forms of linguistic skill. Reading, however, is not primarily (in the modern world at least) a practical or a social activity, though it can and often does occupy itself with the ordinary matters of communication. Reading without 'literature' would be a poor thing and no amount of practical reading matter, however plain, would keep a living sense of language alive. The language is preserved, renewed and invigorated by its highest and most unpractical forms - its literature, its history, its poetry. Any scheme of teaching that divorces writing from reading or reading from literature is likely to be sterile. Writing, speaking and listening, in their different ways, should enlist, from time to time, the great and worthy themes of literature; and this not only for pupils of high intelligence, but for all; the noble utterance is often also the simple one. This unity of 'literature' and 'language' has important implications for an English syllabus and these are further examined in Chapters 5, 6 and 10.

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English as the Central Subject of the Curriculum

'What is English?' asks Professor I. A. Gordon in his book The Teaching of English. (1) His answer, but for a fragment of New Zealand vernacular, might have been given in London, Glasgow or Manchester as fairly as in Wellington.

'As a result of its varied origins it has been many things in the past. English has been figures of speech and parsing and general analysis, the correction of sentences, and rules for the use of "which" and "that". English has been the qualities of prose style (classified like the gears of a car into high, middle, low and neutral; or elevated, plain, and the rest). English has been the periods of literature, the kinds of literature, gush about Shelley and chit-chat about Charles Lamb, the enjoyment of literature and be-hanged to the external examination. English has been Grimm's Law, Indo-European roots, and the three periods of Latin influence. English has been the development of self-expression and the disciplining of sensibility. English has been clear thinking and logic for the young citizen. English has been the Conciliation with America with the docile first year and Hydriotaphia with the restive third. English, cries one group, should contain a solid grammatical preparation for the learning of Latin. English, cries another, should be the core subject. English, cry yet other voices, should never have been allowed into the syllabus; English is what my typists should have learned at school; English merely prepares the proletariat to understand the words of command. English, laments many a floundering novice teacher, is the most difficult subject of all to teach. English?, responds a treble voice, I speak English, don't I? My cobbers understand me. Why the heck should you have to teach me English at all?'
The rest of Professor Gordon's book, based on a wide observation of English in New Zealand schools, forms the answer both to his own question and to the final question of the 'treble voice'. It is, broadly, the same answer as is given in the present chapter. English is 'a threefold skill, the ability to express oneself in spoken or written speech and so to initiate communication; the ability to understand the spoken or written speech of another and so to complete the communication; and the ability to feel or appreciate the appeal of literature ... the third an extension of the second at a different level'.

There is, however, still one question to be faced. In a subject having so many different parts, each capable of almost indefinite development, each drawing on different powers of the mind and personality, and not all necessarily compatible with one another except at a deep level, where lies the unity of idea that can prevent English from breaking up into a flurry of unrelated fragments of

(1) Gordon: The Teaching of English, Chapter 3, p. 41. Wellington and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1946.

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knowledge, skill and 'appreciation'? Such a unity, if it exists, must not be a strait waistcoat or a mere formula - 'the natural successor to the Classics as a linguistic discipline' or 'the core of the curriculum'. If such terms as these have any meaning they mean something that English is ill-fitted to do or to be. English, it is true, contains within itself several distinct and valuable disciplines; but it is not itself a discipline, like Latin, nor has it the ordered architectural structure of history or philosophy. It is, however, or it could be, the finest and most accessible expression of our national culture, the only national culture in Europe that goes back without an 'ideological' break for over 400 years. In France and Germany, French and German have been honoured with a central position in education. These languages and literatures are given the time, attention and respect - at all ages and stages - that ought to be accorded to the efflorescence of the national way of life and to the medium in which the nation's activities are carried on. In some parts of Wales and in pursuit of an acknowledged policy the Welsh language and literature have the same honoured place.

In England, for various reasons, this has never happened, though many girls' schools and some boys' schools have done their best to set a high value on the mother tongue. But, until some general change occurs, the teaching of English will not flourish as it should. There will be - as there have been - small advances on particular sectors, partly offset by small retreats on others. 'Appreciation' (officially recommended in 1921) replaced pure grammar (officially recommended in 1911) but by now both these prescriptions have fallen into relative disrepute. 'Drama' has replaced the study of annotated texts of Shakespeare's plays but there is no guarantee that the children's time is always better employed than it used to be. 'Dictation' has disappeared, and exercises in comprehension, with 'objective' answers, have swept the board: but the teaching of English is little the better. English cannot, in fact, hoist itself up far by pulling in turn at the straps of each of its own boots. Probably a slow general improvement is taking place the whole time; but this is scarcely perceptible in any one teacher's life-time and the improvement would be difficult to demonstrate conclusively to a sceptic.

No substantial and permanent progress is likely to take place until 'English', literature as well as language, is regarded by all in authority as the central expression of English life and culture and as the central subject in the education of every English child of every age and every grade of intelligence. The French, the Welsh and the Scandinavians are not afraid to exalt their national cultures and to honour their national languages accordingly. The English have at least an equal need to recognize their own most priceless inheritance

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before it is seriously debased. The Departmental Committee (1) recognized the problem clearly in 1921 but it is still there. Their words are as true to-day as they were thirty years ago:

'We make no comparison; we state what appears to us to be an incontrovertible primary fact, that for English children no form of knowledge can take precedence of a knowledge of English, no forms of literature can take precedence of English literature, and that the two are so inextricably connected as to form the only basis possible for a national education.'
A sense of pride in the English language and a scholarly conscience about its scrupulous use should be the first qualification of any teacher.

(1) The Teaching of English in England, p. 14. Report of the Departmental Committee appointed by the President of the Board of Education to enquire into the position of English in the educational system of England, 1921.

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English in Primary Schools:
The Teaching of Reading

The Earliest Stages

WHEN children come to school they have learned to speak (at least in the most literal sense), and they have therefore taken not only the first step but the biggest and most important step in mastering the use of language. This is not the place to trace in detail the intricate stages by which a child achieves speech. Words are only the last and most refined medium through which he comes to communicate; he is apprenticed to them through a number of other cruder means of communication, such as movement and gesture and a great variety of vocal noises. The sense of power that comes to children when they first speak is well known to parents; the achievement is generally a welcome relief after the psychological difficulties of the months when a child already has something to say but has not yet the words to make his meaning clear, or to name the objects or persons he wants to identify to himself and to others.

By the time they come to school few children are yet free from babyish forms of speech; teachers would not expect it to be otherwise, even with the most forward children or with those from the most literate and affectionate homes. Even the most precocious talkers need a good deal of help in consolidating, expanding and refining their powers. For many it will be a considerable time before words and phrases which are latent in their consciousness are ever used at all, however imperfectly. Each time a new word or phrase is successfully used, there comes a fresh extension of confidence, and both teacher and child feel something of the same rewarding sense of liberation as the family experienced when the first words of all were uttered. With some children these rewards have to be struggled for with great patience, and with much devotion on the teachers' part; these children come to school able to speak, it is true, but with little to say and little evident wish to say it, for they have been ignored or repressed at home and they are shy or sullen and on their guard. Because their speech is stunted and unready, they are not only slow to express what they have learned or enjoyed in school but they are actually slow to hear and are unwilling to give themselves either to effort or to enjoyment.

For a varying period, therefore, the infant school must concern itself with speech, to the virtual exclusion of reading and writing,

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for the readiness for these has not been reached except by a very few. For some children this pre-reading period may be lengthy; for many it will last at least a year; and for almost all it will exist, if only for a few weeks or months. It need hardly be added that, at all times, the quality of the teacher's own speech is very important. It should be not only clear, pleasant and correct, but unaffected. There is a gratifying consensus of opinion that the infant schools of this country are fortunate in this respect, and credit is due to the teachers and to the training colleges for the attention which has been paid to speech in the last twenty or thirty years.

Learning to Read

In his valuable book The Language and Mental Development of Children (1) Dr. A. F. Watts writes:

'For private and public reasons alike children must learn to read, for, where the ability to read is not general, the maintenance of a high level of civilization is hardly possible, and, where the power to get enjoyment and information from books is lacking, the development of a satisfactory personal life is unlikely to be realized.'
It has been said already in this pamphlet, that any conception of an urban or industrial civilization, or of forms of education, that can dispense with reasonable standards of universal literacy is a piece of wishful thinking or a form of educational defeatism.

It is no service to education to pretend that learning to read is a simple process, or that the problems set by this all-important stage in education can be formulated categorically. The whole process is complex and the elements of the problems involved are interlocked in a kaleidoscopic pattern. For example, questions of different teaching methods are important, but they are not of supreme importance, provided that the teaching is good of its kind; it would certainly be wrong to treat the different methods as though they were in necessary conflict and to suppose that any one of them, in isolation, promised the only hopes of success. It is even less helpful to seize on small abstracted elements, like spelling or vocabulary, and to hope for much, if any, improvement from radical changes in them alone. Even if the whole group of pedagogic problems associated with reading is considered together, the examination will still be partial, and the findings may be faulty, through the neglect of personal and social factors of even greater importance. It is, accordingly, these personal and social factors which will be considered first. Many of them have been forgotten or ignored in the popular criticisms that have been common recently.

(1) A. F. Watts: The Language and Mental Development of Children, Chapter IV. p. 89. Harrap. London, 1944.

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The Conditions and Antecedents of Reading Ability

Time and the work of many devoted teachers, scholars and writers have now killed the notion of a standard reading age, and with it, the notion of learning to read as an isolated mental trick to be acquired once and for all by standardized tuition and the use of standardized material. Every teacher of experience, and every parent who has tried, knows how difficult it is to teach an unwilling and uninterested child to read - or to teach one whose mental or linguistic ability has not yet reached a stage of readiness for reading. The teacher's task, however, is not merely to wait inertly until the child expresses a readiness to read, but to do all she can to create, not only the readiness, but the felt need and interest which encourage the child to make the effort. Children develop the necessary interest and powers at varying ages. A few read very early; some, and not always the less intelligent, read late. Generally speaking, experience shows that most children seem to want to read at about five and a half to six and a half and they often make a good start at a mental age of about six and a half. A few may not read till seven or eight, and a very few may be so backward in development, or so poorly endowed, that their mastery of reading is not only slow and difficult but remains insecure for a long time.

The discovery of exactly stated mental age as contrasted with chronological age is comparatively recent, though experienced teachers have always spoken of children as 'forward' or 'backward' for their years. The importance of good general development in mastering reading is obvious: but, equally, the beginnings of reading depend on other conditions too, both outside and inside the school. Among these factors are powers of observation and attention, and the ability to speak readily and consecutively. Associated with these powers, in turn, are physical, social and emotional factors, together with the stimulus of the school, as a place, and of its teaching staff as persons; and, last but not least, the home background. Is the home a place where books are seen and used and where there is any conversation worth the name and any suggestion, tacit or otherwise, that reading makes life more interesting? Dr. Watts categorizes these factors, or some of them, as follows:

'The intelligent child from a good home where there is a good reading tradition will learn to read quickly, whatever the method employed in teaching him; in fact, in many cases he will hardly need method at all. The intelligent child from a home which is poor in linguistic resources will learn to read as soon as he realizes the value of being able to do so; and this will not take long in a sympathetic school environment. The dull child from a good home will learn to read, if persevered with, even along comparatively unenlightened lines, because he will come to understand, sooner or later, that to read will be a necessity to him and

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that not being able to read will be thought pretty deplorable by his friends. It is the dull child from the low-grade home, where little reading is done and where little improving conversation is heard, who constitutes the teacher's constant problem. It is he who is responsible for the unending succession of new primers and fresh methods of instruction; and teachers fail, as a rule, with this type of child whenever they begin formal instruction before the indispensable preliminaries have been satisfactorily got over.' (1)
The Beginning of Reading in the Infant School

The whole life of the infant school should be an encouragement to read, and, at the risk of tedious repetition, this is repeatedly emphasised throughout the present chapter. From the day the child enters school he should find books a natural, necessary and important part of his life. There will be picture books and scrapbooks, some with reading matter; some without. There may be a quiet corner in which he can sit and turn the pages. Having seen others read, having heard the teacher read, some children will probably pretend to read. The teacher reads stories about pictures, pets and toys and childish adventures. The children, sitting or standing by her, see the page from which the magic words come. Questions are asked. 'I'll look in the book and see what it says' - says the teacher or parent, striving to answer the child's question. 'Let us see if the book tells us how to do it.' The child draws and paints. The teacher may write underneath what he says his drawing is, and he 'reads' that. Outside school there are street names and shop names, bus signs and advertisements; and there is the child's desire to 'grow up' and to do as admired grown-ups do. To awaken desire is the first essential of teaching reading. Having awakened it, it is essential that the teacher knows how to proceed, for reading comes to very few, if any, by nature, unassisted.

Methods of Teaching Reading

It is easy but misleading to speak and write of different methods of teaching reading as though each were self-contained and self-consistent, and as though the teacher had an absolute choice between them. This is not so. In a process which is as subtle and complex as learning to read it is unreasonable to expect safe, ready-made prescriptions. The truth is that to those who do not have to teach infant children to read, the achievement is a near miracle. Those who have to do it know that, whatever their psychological assumptions, whatever their nominal choice of 'method', they are not, in fact, either the prisoners or the beneficiaries of any set routine. They may rely broadly on one system of principles rather than another, but,

(1) A. F. Watts: Op. cit., p. 91.

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like all artists and craftsmen, they perform their miracles empirically, drawing more on experience than on precept, taking their material as it comes, with all its plasticity and all its intractability, solving one problem at a time, changing their tools when necessary, and blending 'methods' to suit the circumstances and the pupils. In any consideration of 'method', therefore, it should be understood that the word stands for no more than a particular attitude or standpoint, together with a broadly true account of the kind of practice that is likely to follow, with more or less of variation, to suit all the circumstances. Whatever methods are used, it is essential to keep alive the interest and zest which carry the effort, and to ensure a sense of success and growing mastery at every stage. A child who is constantly failing gives up. This is sometimes due to starting too soon, sometimes to rigidity or artificiality of procedure, sometimes to dullness of matter or to lack of incentive or purpose.

Within such a flexible definition of 'method' it is possible to differentiate between two contrasting forms of approach, viz. that which builds up a recognition of wholes (e.g. sentences and phrases) from parts (e.g. words) - and of words from letters - and that which begins with the recognition of wholes as units of meaning and uses such recognition to teach the component words and sounds. The two forms of approach may usefully be called the synthetic and the analytical, and on them are based the four 'methods' usually spoken of in the history, theory and practice of education as the alphabetic, the phonic, the 'look and say' and the 'sentence' or 'global'. The first two are synthetic, the second two analytical. They may be considered briefly in turn.

Those who are now middle-aged may remember being taught to read by the alphabetic or spelling method. They learned their alphabets and built up words by spelling out the letters by name and not by sound. There was a good deal of parrot-work about the system, and the primers in use, at the early stages anyhow, contained little matter of any interest for its own sake. Those who learned to read by such methods have probably forgotten how it was done, and they may be forgiven if they attribute their progress less to the method than to the individual attention they received, to the care and enthusiasm of the teacher, and to a great deal of peaceful leisure time during which they had access to interesting reading books and magazines, some of which were theoretically beyond their powers. Although no general revival of the alphabetic method may be expected, it is worth noting that many children enjoy learning the alphabet, and recognizing letters by name, and that they will do this for themselves if it is not done in school; in any case they soon need this knowledge in order to be able to use a dictionary.

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The alphabetic method was superseded generally in British schools by the phonic method. Like the alphabetic method, this is a synthetic process, but it uses the sounds and not the names of the letters so that, by practice in building up the sound of a word from the sounds of its constituent letters, children are enabled to pronounce new words without assistance from their teachers. For many years this method held the field and it is still unchallenged in certain schools in this country and in a great many schools abroad, especially in countries whose spelling is almost purely phonetic. Its weakness in England, apart from the drudgery associated with it and the poverty of thought and interest of many of the primers based on it, is that phonic teaching cannot teach the child to deal successfully with the large number of English words that are not phonetically spelt.

But for many teachers any synthetic method is psychologically unsound and, therefore, unacceptable in principle (in so far as these teachers are prepared to talk in terms of 'principle' at all). They have therefore approached the teaching of reading from the other end, i.e. by some method or combination of methods which uses the recognition of whole words and phrases from the beginning, and which relies on interest and meaning as well as on aural drill and memorization. The so-called 'look and say' method, which embraced principles of this kind, was an embryonic version of what is now known as the sentence method or global method. Dr. Watts notes that as early as 1881 a book was published in America on The Sentence Method of Teaching Reading, but it was not, he says, before the decade 1920--30 that the method was popularised in England. He writes of it:

'The sentence method of teaching reading is claimed to be a good one, because it follows natural lines. Its advocates remind us that people speak, as a rule, not in single words but in words used together to make sense, and, in view of this, they maintain that, when teaching children to read, we ought to begin with the statement of simple ideas in sentences, to attend next to phrases and words, and after that, rather than before, to analyse words into sounds and learn the names and shapes of the letters required for writing them.' (1)
The early stages of reading, taught in this way, are based, not on books or primers, but on sentences or phrases displayed on cards or sheets of paper. The subject matter of the sentences or phrases consists of material drawn from the activities and experience of the children and is intended, from the start, to convey meaning relevant and interesting to them. 'The child is not called upon,' says Dr. Watts, 'to face the drudgery of ploughing through pages of dull

(1) A. F. Watts: Op. cit., p. 93.

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matter of the pig-in-a-wig, cub-on-a-tub variety.' (1) When the children are accustomed to reading and copying the isolated short sentences, reading books are introduced, and these deal with familiar and interesting material expressed in a limited vocabulary. According to calculations made by Dr. Watts - and these agree with other figures quoted by Dr. William Gray in a pamphlet recently written for UNESCO (2) - the number of words in a first primer usually ranges from 50 to 150, and each word may be repeated from seven to twenty times. The method encourages the practice of silent reading and the use of story readers, as distinct from primers and manuals, at the earliest possible stage. Indeed, with the abler children, many teachers now ignore even the formal early exercises of the 'sentence' method. Reading is learned, from the start, by the same means as it is practised later: i.e. by the natural association of ideas, pictures and literal symbols within a familiar context, such as a well known story or a recognizable situation drawn from experience.

The basic idea underlying the sentence method of teaching reading is finding general advocacy in English schools and in the schools of many other countries. This is true even in France, though French is a more phonetic language than English and the French approach to the study and practice of language is logical and formal to a much greater degree than our own. In studies which have been prepared by UNESCO and by the International Bureau of Education the use of 'global' methods is shown to be widespread, to be increasing, and to be correlated markedly with educational progress and a high degree of literacy in the population. At the same time it is well to remember the warning given at the beginning of this section: viz. that any attempt to isolate separate methods as certain recipes for success in all circumstances is crude and misleading. Just as the phonic method encourages 'barking', so the sentence method encourages wild guessing; just as the phonic method holds bright children back, so the sentence method alone might never teach some dull children to learn to read at all. Granted that the general principles of 'sentence' teaching seem on the whole to be sounder and more successful than others, there is still a place for some phonic instruction, and perhaps for some alphabetic knowledge for some children. Dr. Watts sums up the matter in a sane and helpful way:

'To sum up, we may say, then, that while the better method of teaching little children just beginning to read is along sentence method lines, it will always be advisable, sooner or later, to introduce some phonic instruction. But it is clear that the same method, or combination of
(1) A. F. Watts: Op. cit., p. 94.

(2) W. Gray: Preliminary Survey of Methods of Teaching Reading and Writing. UNESCO, 1953.

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methods, may suit one type of child and not another, or suit a given type at one stage and yet be unsuitable at another. Some children may need a great deal of phonic drill at a particular point in their progress and be able to dispense with it altogether later. Others may always need a little drill.' (1)
To this summary may be added the parallel contribution of writing to reading. With some children writing comes first, and many seem to learn their letters better by trying to form them for themselves on paper.

The Expansion of Reading Ability

In countries with phonetic languages it is common for the basic elements of reading to be mastered in about a year and for the whole process to be complete in two or three years. Even in France, where the language is not wholly phonetic, it used to be assumed that any child ought to have finished with learning to read in less than three years; but, as will be seen from Chapter 8, this assumption is now qualified with many reservations. In England certainly no such assumption could be made.

At all ages, right up to the end of the primary school, there will be those who need a great deal of help, though these will be very few in the older age groups. All through the primary stage, the competent head is concerned about the reading ability of every child; she knows the causes, so far as they can be known, of any backwardness and difficulty, and she takes steps to see that adequate help is available. Such help nearly always means individual attention, or work in very small groups, and it is surprising with what ingenuity some schools provide it, even with large and overcrowded classes. Some schools use graded 'readers'; nearly all now try to provide in addition, or instead, a quantity of attractive books of the kind found in educated homes. From the earliest to the latest years in the primary schools the books provided include stories, information and instruction, and they are of varying grades of difficulty. The teacher interests herself in what the children are reading for themselves. She hears their accounts of books they have read. She sends them to books to find the answers to their questions. They learn their way about encyclopædias and dictionaries and they learn to use indices and tables of contents. They become familiar with illustrated books of natural history and with books about machines - often of surprising difficulty. At all stages, too, the teacher reads to the children on every suitable occasion. A book is the natural accompaniment, source, or completion of most of their experiences.

(1) A. F. Watts: Op. cit., p. 96.

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Special help of a corrective kind is also needed, in groups and individually, a great deal for some pupils and a little for most. Many teachers keep a book in which they record the special difficulties of individual pupils, noted not only from reading aloud but also from watchful discussions during silent reading. After the initial stages of reading are secure, a mixture of oral and silent reading is natural. The intelligent child wants to read something that is more advanced than the reading books in general use, and all will enjoy testing their skill silently on additional readers that are a little simpler than the one last read with the teacher's help. When part of a story has been read aloud, the rest can often be left to silent reading. And when silent reading has taken place there ought often to be a discussion or a series of discussions to ensure that the children have understood what they have read, so that, not only can they recapitulate the story or the information, but they can comment sensibly on it and pass on to other relevant ideas suggested by the reading. Nor can reading be kept in a watertight compartment. Looking at pictures, drawing pictures and making things are admirable aids to reading, and, as soon as the children are capable of writing short sentences and paragraphs, their reading and composition ought to begin to grow up together, as they will have to do, and ought to do, later on.

At all stages of the junior school, and even in the infant school, reading has begun to assume the double function which it has in later life: to secure necessary and useful information and to exercise the imagination and enlarge the experience. At all stages, there should be a great many books about; a few standard class readers are not enough. The teacher should be manifestly interested in books, and in talking about books, and there ought to be as wide a tolerance as possible of what the child reads for himself out of school - for this is where he gets a great deal of his practice and his experience of new words and idioms. The growing interest in the real world can be met by books of natural history and simple physical science, by historical and geographical romances and by stories of discovery, mountaineering and travel. Further discussion of literature for younger as well as older pupils will be found in Chapter 10.

Every class of juniors ought to have its own library, and, indeed, a number of junior schools have built up excellent school and class libraries. Valuable advice about the choice of books can generally be obtained from the children's department of most public libraries, or from those organizations which have made a special study of the reading habits of young children. The books should always be carefully chosen. They should be not only pleasant to look at and to handle but also attractive in their language and ideas.

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Discarded publishers' samples, technical works, poorly written adult novels, and badly printed and illustrated school books of former generations should find no place in class and school libraries.

Reading and Writing

Writing, in the sense of composition, will not be treated, as reading has been, at close range in this chapter; that is reserved for the next chapter on English in secondary schools. During the first four or five years in the primary school, written composition remains at the same stage as reading occupies in the first year or year and a half in the infant school. That is to say it is an accomplishment in its rudimentary stages only, starting at different ages with different children, often starting spontaneously, and needing encouragement and approval rather than instruction and correction; dependent mainly on personal incentives and experiences that have been enjoyed and remembered in the child's own simple and vivid imaginative way. Writing, for young children, is inextricably associated with reading, and what follows is not so much a treatment of composition, for its own sake, as an extension of the treatment of reading and its ancillary activities.

Some children begin to write before they read. Their childish scribblings and drawings suddenly contain odd letters, usually capitals. These odd letters are seldom combined at first, and often the children, after writing them, ask to be told what they are and what sounds they make; a little later they begin to want help in putting the letters together to make names and short words. With some children writing and reading develop side by side until, suddenly, reading goes ahead with a sharp acceleration. With all children the two developing skills assist and reinforce each other and both are mixed up with pictures and picture making and with various practical experiences. This kind of casual and spontaneous writing goes on - and ought to go on - right through the infant school and well into the junior school. The teacher may sometimes write for the child underneath his drawing and the child may attempt to copy what has been written. Or he finds names and sentences written under various pictures and he attempts to copy some of them. There are wall newspapers of the children's own composition, written by the teacher, and weather charts, all of which involve some reading and may involve some writing.

It is important, from the beginning, that the physical skill of writing should be made as easy and attractive as possible. This means that the tool that is used should be one which fits the child and which he can use with best effect, and with pleasure, so as to achieve results which please him and others. Pencil comes first and

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pen and ink much later. The paper on which the child writes should be such that he can acquire some sort of rhythmic movement of his hand, and, for this reason, most schools now use unlined paper. In many schools writing grows out of rhythmic patterns. All through the primary school it is desirable that the tools of writing and the paper on which it is done should be such that the child works with satisfaction and success. Poor school ink and hard-pointed nibs make work hard and unsatisfying.

As writing develops there will be many unobtrusive opportunities for the improvement of spelling and punctuation; but reading does at least as much for spelling as do precept or instruction, and it is probable that spelling and punctuation (up to the age of eight or nine) are less important than certain other aspects of composition that ought to be developing with the teacher's active and watchful help. After that age some systematic attention to spelling, and even more, to punctuation, is justified and necessary. But yet another kind of active help and guidance is even more necessary, and this is something that is not always recognized, though it is important right from the start. Some children are never at a loss for ideas. Many others are. They lack experience and they lack matter, and, unless the supply of both is stimulated and amplified by the teacher, the writing of many children will be meagre - as their private letters are often meagre and conventional. Nor is material enough. The material needs to be 'available'; that is to say, the children need a great deal of help in turning it into words and so releasing it in communicable form. One concrete instance may be valuable. Children are often asked to write about a visit to the circus or a pantomime. This is really a formidable undertaking that might tax the powers of mother and father. The material is there, it is true, and its interest and vividness are undeniable. But there is an enormous mass of experience to choose from; until some salient items have been disengaged from the mass, and until their outlines are defined and their details (imaginative as well as factual) are brought into sharp focus, the task of composition cannot begin. The chosen concepts have then to be beaten out into words while they are still hot, and the words have to be assorted, grouped and spelt. This is not a cold or calculating process on the children's part, but its final stages, at least, are subject to considerable discipline of thought; the teacher for her part must share the children's excitement, while keeping her demands keen, clear and compelling, throughout the operation. With 40 or 45 children to deal with, this is a difficult task. But without this active help on the teacher's part very many children are not capable of learning to express themselves adequately and with interest.

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The Later Stages of Composition

At nine or ten years of age the more intelligent children are ready for learning the rudiments of form in written composition. They know now that conventional spelling is a necessary civilized convenience, and they have probably gained some skill in breaking up their writing into sentences with full stops. They are now ready for some judicious but systematic help in such matters as vocabulary, sentence construction and general plan. By the later stages of the junior school many children will have fairly wide vocabularies, and the teacher's help may be more necessary in pruning, or at least selecting their range of words, than in extending it - actually both will be necessary. At this age children's language is open to infection from the feeble-forcible phraseology and dialogue of comics and thrillers, from the portentousness of much modern printed matter and from the very size of the national vocabulary which, unlike French, tends to pile words up rather than select them with precise connotations. The last danger is perhaps not serious at this stage; the other two ought to be watched. But in no case is the heavy use of the blue pencil the right way. The cure comes, not at the marking stage, but in the fastidiousness with which the teacher herself uses and encourages the use of words on all occasions, and especially those when the subject matter of written composition is being discussed and prepared.

When the child is nine or ten years of age the teacher's help with sentence structure needs to be incidental and to be based on the pupil's own work. An analytical approach is not very likely to be fruitful, though some teachers, for some children, would not be afraid, at this age, of a little formal grammar, based on usage. In any case, this would not replace practical help based on written work already done. In the planning of paragraphs and of items of composition as a whole, it is very easy to be too ambitious. In 1932 Mr. J. H. Fowler (1) praised the French practice of insisting that, even in the first stages of writing, every child must be able to produce essays written to a plan, and he recommended, accordingly, that English children, from the age of eight onwards, should be provided with the outline of a topic or that a suitable plan should be developed in oral discussion between teacher and class. The usefulness of this second suggestion is emphasized and developed, in the next chapter, for secondary school pupils. Its usefulness in primary schools is more than doubtful and it will be seen from Chapter 9 that the French have abandoned it in the primary schools. This does not mean that arrangement and proportion cannot be achieved in the written

(1) J. H. Fowler: The Art of Teaching English. Macmillan. London, 1932.

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composition of children of nine and ten; there would, however, be a wide and legitimate difference between one child and another as to what the right proportions were, in any particular case, if the results were to express adequately the imaginative conception which each had formed of a particular story or subject. But the teacher will be kept busy enough ensuring that, however differently various pieces of composition are presented, each is well formed in its own way, and each is successful in conveying clearly its author's intention. It is only perhaps in a piece of narrative based on a well known story that something approaching a common version could usefully be looked for. At this point, the primary teacher may be interested to look at the suggestions made in Chapter 6 for the treatment of narrative and descriptive composition in secondary schools. The intelligent child of ten is not so very different, after all, from the slightly less advanced child of eleven or twelve.

A generous measure of tolerance has been recommended towards spelling, and even towards punctuation, in the written composition of very young children, as well as the avoidance of standardized or stereotyped methods of presentation. But even children of eight or nine ought not to be left unaware that writing is a craft, and that something more is expected from their writing, even at this age, than a shapeless transcription of memories and impressions not perfectly formulated, even in the imagination. Writing, even the writing of young children, is not identical with speech. Jespersen distinguished clearly between the two: 'Anyone who will listen carefully to ordinary conversation,' he wrote, 'will come across abundant evidence of the way in which sentences are built up gradually by the speaker who will often, in the course of the same sentence or period, modify his original plan of presenting his ideas, hesitate, break off, or shunt off on to a different track.' (1) In written language this suspension of decision is not possible. Both the individual sentence and the plan must be surely and comprehensively formed to state and convey their intended meaning in one decisive stroke. This applies to children's writing as it does to our own, and the skill required does not ordinarily come by the light of nature; it offers the primary school teacher as stiff and practical a challenge as comes to most teachers at any stage of education.

Concluding Note

In Appendix A will be found 'Some Notes on Reading'. These deal with the reconciliation of phonic and other methods of reading. But, even with these additional notes, the pamphlet is too short

(1) Jespersen: Language, Its Nature, Development and Origin. Allen and Unwin. London, 1922.

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and general to do full justice to this very important problem. Several recent books by experienced teachers explore the matter in considerable detail, and teachers are advised to read some of these books as a means of systematizing their own practice. Advice on the choice of further reading can usually be had from the various institutes of education.

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English in Secondary Schools:
The Teaching of Composition


THE framework of secondary education has changed since the days of the Departmental Committee which, under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Newbolt, issued a report on The Teaching of English in England in 1921. Since then the reorganization of secondary education under the Education Act, 1944 has largely provided the opportunity that Sir Henry and his colleagues regretted they lacked: i.e. a national system of secondary education:

'We have been struck by the fact that, although much labour and thought have been expended and many changes made, almost all in the right direction, it is still true that in this country we have no general or national scheme of education. It is understood to be the duty of the State to see that every child shall, during a certain number of years, receive an education, but the meaning of this is not generally understood. Neither by tradition nor by effective instruction has the general body of citizens any clear idea of the benefit to be conferred. To some the word education means reading, writing and arithmetic; to others, almost any kind of information. Of those who understand it to imply instruction by skilled teachers, the great majority still identify it with the imparting of information, though some consider this largely useless, while others value it as a possible means to obtaining increased wages or some other vocational advantage. In general, it may not unfairly be said that education is regarded as a suitable occupation for the years of childhood, with the further object of equipping the young in some vague and little understood way for the struggle of adult existence in a world of material interests.'

*        *        *

'A second fact which has impressed us is this. Though there has been a common failure in this country to realize the true nature and effect of education, there has been at the same time a common instinctive perception of one aspect of our ill success. The English are a nation with a genius for practical life, and the chief criticism directed, whether by parents or pupils, against our present system, is a practical one; it amounts, when coherently stated, to a charge that our education has for a long time past been too remote from life.' (1)

These extracts from The Teaching of English in England show how things have changed in the intervening 30 years. However far the secondary modern schools have still to go, it is now possible to think more hopefully about the further problem proposed by the Committee, a problem closely connected with the subject of the present pamphlet.

(1) The Teaching of English in England, Introduction.

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'If there were any common fundamental idea of education, any great common divisions of the curriculum, which would stand out in such a way as to obliterate, or even to soften, the lines of separation between the young of different classes, we might hope to find more easily the way to bridge the social chasms which divide us.'

*        *        *

'It remains for us to consider the actual and the possible position of English in the highest sense, that is as the channel of formative culture for all English people, and the medium of the creative art by which all English writers of distinction, whether poets, historians, philosophers or men of science, have secured for us the power of realizing some part of their own experience of life.'

*        *        *

'To every child in this country, there is one language with which he must necessarily be familiar and by that, and by that alone, he has the power of drawing directly from one of the great literatures of the world. Moreover, if we explore the course of English literature, if we consider from what sources its stream has sprung, by what tributaries it has been fed, and with how rich and full a current it has come down to us, we shall see that it has other advantages not to be found elsewhere. There are mingled in it, as only in the greatest of rivers there could be mingled, the fertilizing influences flowing down from many countries and from many ages of history. Yet all these have been subdued to form a stream native to our own soil. The flood of diverse human experience which it brings down to our own life and time is in no sense or degree foreign to us, but has become the native experience of men of our own race and culture.' (1)

Problems Common to Secondary Schools

In this chapter the main stress is laid on needs and opportunities common to the large majority of pupils in any kind of secondary school. This excludes the sixth forms of grammar schools, which are dealt with separately towards the end. It excludes also some very special problems peculiar to the needs of those who cannot read or write or do so only with the greatest difficulty; such pupils are by no means wholly forgotten in this chapter; some of their needs are similar to those of other pupils, but others are too specialized to be considered in a general pamphlet.

The inseparability of reading and writing and of reading and 'literature' (in its full accepted sense of great works of prose and poetry) was emphasized in Chapter 4. This is a principle which has been not only accepted but practised for many years in the great majority of grammar schools, and it is re-emphasized in the latest version of The Teaching of English recently published by the Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters. In other kinds of secondary schools, as formerly in senior elementary schools, this principle is

(1) The Teaching of English in England, Introduction.

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not always accepted. Even where it is, the formidable difficulties of a vast range of abilities and attainments and the frequent lack of support in the home and in the general environment, often defeat the teachers' best intentions. Literature, and poetry especially, are sometimes reluctantly abandoned for at least a third of the pupils and the time that has been set aside for 'English' is given over wholly to wrestling with the elements of composition and comprehension. This is understandable, but it cannot be right, for it is excluding larger numbers of children not only from a glimpse of civilized experience but from the possibilities of becoming literate in any real sense of the term. Happily there are many teachers who in spite of all possible difficulties resolutely continue to offer to the 'dullest' of their pupils, even to some who cannot themselves read, selections from the great and simple stories of literature in the original language of their authors. That such teachers have succeeded in arousing a grateful response is beyond doubt. Some of them maintain that suitable poetry of good quality appeals as nothing else can to their 'backward' pupils. Incidentally, these are the teachers who have often gone furthest in reducing 'illiteracy' in their classes; but this is a marginal though an important success: their real triumph is something greater.


Reading, then, is a necessary fellow to speech and composition, and it ought to include reading of many different kinds for many different purposes, not excluding the magazines, adventure stories, school stories, and the dated slabs of sentiment that boys and girls read in their own time: a proper tolerance will exclude - or attempt to exclude - only the vicious. In school time or in such private time as is influenced by school, the ideal reading list includes a wide variety of books chosen for different qualities of content and character and selected with different purposes in view. All, however, should share one characteristic: they are the work of authors who use words with their full force and refinement of meaning and at any temperature from the frigor of a scientific proposition to the heat of lyric, rhetoric and drama. The Teaching of English says of reading:

' ... language is more than the means of conveying thoughts and feelings from one person to another; it is also an instrument of thought, the means whereby we understand not only what others have written, but also what we ourselves are thinking and feeling, within ourselves. As a result, our powers of thinking consciously and feeling consciously are, to a great extent, limited by our ability to understand and use language, limited by our ability to clarify and put into words our own thoughts and feelings. Looked at from this angle, a person's ability to read and

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comprehend is not merely skill in a particular direction, but it is, in fact, a reflection of the general level of the development of his intellect and his emotions.' (1)
The abler and older children, including all those in grammar schools, need to read closely as well as widely, to trace an argument as well as to follow a narrative, a description or a piece of practical exposition. Some will interest themselves in the subtleties of 'emotive' language. Many will come to distinguish between genuine and bastard English and to identify and value at its true worth the plausible, the shallow, the shoddy and the disingenuous. In a short space it is impossible to classify the various kinds and purposes of reading. The good teacher blends the ingredients by experience according to circumstances, not confusing separate issues in his own mind, nor keeping them rigidly apart in his pupils' practice. For further advice readers may turn to Chapter 10 and to many useful books, including the I.A.A.M. publication already mentioned. The simple point to make here is that, without reading and without listening, written composition is impossible and good speech improbable.

It is 'silent' reading, rather than reading aloud or reading for close understanding, that has the greatest influence on the greatest number of pupils in the secondary schools. A plea has already been made for quality in books, as well as for variety and catholicity of choice. These are not incompatible if the choice is not confined to a narrow canon of novels and belles-lettres such as were fashionable with well educated adult readers in the days when universal school attendance first began. Recent years have been rich in good books of travel, biography and autobiography, natural history, popular science and the literature of art and craftsmanship. Here and in modern poetry, as well as in some older poetry, is something for any secondary school pupil who can read at all and something even for those who can only listen. From among such books can be made a choice to suit all ages, interests and grades of intelligence and, what is equally important, to suit all the purposes that reading, silent or aloud, is required to serve in schools. In The School Library (Pamphlet No. 21: Ministry of Education) it is asked:

'At what level should a pupil be allowed to read? There seems only one answer, that of Doctor Johnson: "I would let him at first read any English book which happens to engage his attention".'
A little later the pamphlet continues:
'It is probably true that in reading we discover more plainly than in any other sphere of school activity the uniqueness of the individual person. Boys and girls can be packed in masses of thirty, forty or fifty
(1) The Teaching of English, p. 26. Issued by the Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary Schools. Cambridge University Press, 1952.

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and rendered reasonably competent to perform certain kinds of skill, but it is impossible by mass instruction to implant a genuine taste for literature. Teachers can, however, do two things: they can by skilful classwork in their English lessons offer their pupils certain examples and explain the reasons why they are generally appreciated, and they can, as the counterpart to that instruction, offer them in the school library a range of choice and a word of advice suited to their individual needs. By no means all children will reach the level of taste aimed at, however rich the variety of books offered, however gradual the ascent, however tactful the librarian; perhaps disappointingly few will do so. What then? What right have we to say they should? The question we have a right to ask is: has this boy or girl reached the level of which he or she is capable?' (1)
Written Composition

The problems of written composition will be less difficult, if those of reading have been solved or are being solved. But composition has its own special difficulties in even the most favourable conditions.

It was suggested in Chapter 4 that composition ought to be the central written exercise in the English programme of all secondary schools. It is odd that this should need to be stated, but, in fact, a good many other exercises often thrust composition aside, or masquerade as the only acceptable form of composition. In grammar schools, for instance, the excessive use of 'essays' in the full old-fashioned sense of the word, has done a great deal of harm, and it is only now coming to be recognized generally that this is a form of composition to be used very sparingly with the younger pupils. In many secondary modern and some secondary technical schools the situation is no better, since unsuitable 'essays' appear there also; in schools free from essays the time has often been surrendered to manuals of composition consisting of little more than rather trivial verbal puzzles. Again, grammatical exercises are often overdone or badly done and in either case consume more time than they should; conversely, time is wasted because no grammatical terms are known at all. Finally, some of the topics treated, in modern, technical and grammar schools alike, are remote from the pupils' lives and interests and arouse little urge to improve or to excel. In these circumstances the teaching of written composition makes little headway in spite of the brave efforts of the growing numbers of graduate teachers who have themselves been through a university school of English.

In Chapter 4 an 'outline of method' was suggested containing as its key a plea for 'practice, frequent, careful, suitably chosen, suitably graded, well supervised and done in such a fashion as to

(1) The School Library. H.M.S.O., 1952.

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give it some reality and, if possible, some interest'. The separate terms of this plea may now be examined.

Practice. This presupposes some rules, some regularity of pattern and some recapitulation. The traditional examination 'essay', in spite of its external formality, encouraged little systematic growth of skill over the years of secondary school life. It appeared from time to time, at all ages, 'out of the blue' with formidably wide and vague reference under a formidably compressed title: 'Sea Power'; 'Pets'; 'Museums'; 'National Characteristics'. In this kind of work there was often little oral preparation of material, little systematic collection of facts and views, well assimilated and digested, or much discussion of balance and proportion. There was seldom any graded relationship between one essay and the next, except perhaps in difficulty of title. Above all, as Sir Philip Hartog reiterated, the 'formal' essay as a school exercise has seldom any aim or any specified reader or group of readers. In short, it fails to give the young writer an incentive, a real as distinct from a formal framework of effort or a sense of limited but growing confidence in his own powers.

As a form of practice the imaginative or narrative-fantastic type of composition (or 'story') is little better, unless it is based on a book read in common, imitating an idea, developing a parallel structure. The pupil needs something to write about, preferably something from his own experience at school or at home, or, if that is too jejune, from the better books he has read or the better films or television programmes he has seen or from his observation in the open air and the countryside, or in a workshop, a railway station, or a garage. Next, he needs an opportunity to turn over his material in discussion with his teacher and with the rest of the class. He is then ready to try to set it out for someone else to read. If he is given a limit of length (but not of time) so much the better; if the limit is reasonably short, better still. Before the age of fourteen or fifteen he will deal almost wholly with narrative and descriptive matter and with the exposition of simple facts and perhaps of simple opinions. He will usually not be ready before that age to marshal a sustained argument, much less to confront two arguments and to draw conclusions. But he will have learned before he leaves school, or enters the sixth form, to master facts and to look at facts in some systematic order until he sees their meaning and significance. He will have learned to select salient points, to set them out as briefly as possible in sentences and paragraphs and, with a great deal of practice, to present them in something like a balanced perspective. In doing this he will have mastered, or begun to master, the only serious linguistic discipline necessary to most people for most of

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their lives: attention to facts and to words, selective judgment of facts and of words and the power of ordered sequence in speech and writing. Even this is asking a great deal, but it is often made impossible by asking for more, in particular by asking very ordinary pupils below the age of fifteen for verbal inventiveness, sensibility and style. A few exceptional pupils have these at thirteen years of age; to some they come later; to many they never come at all.

Frequency. Little can be expected from most boys and girls without very frequent practice in prepared composition throughout their school lives. This work is additional to minor exercises and to written work done in other subjects, for, in practice, the English teacher alone can afford to spend two or three periods, if necessary, on a single short piece of composition, perhaps even a single paragraph. From eleven to fourteen years of age every pupil ought, ideally, to write something for his English teacher every week, some of the correction being done in school, preferably with each pupil sitting in turn by the teacher's side while the rest get on with something else (one of the advantages of English is that there is always something else to get on with). The apprentice learns to use words, as he learns to use other tools and materials, by working side by side with the craftsman.

Care. This must come from both sides and it ought to relate to matters even more important than spelling and punctuation. The writer must respect his facts. The teacher must see that the writer has facts to respect and he himself must respect them when he comes to correct and assess the work. Appraisal based on grammatical detail alone is insufficient. Certainly the handwriting and spelling matter; the punctuation matters even more. The selection and sequence of facts, the vocabulary and the phrasing matter more still. The good sense, good faith and balance of the whole, even if it is only twenty lines, matter most of all.

Suitability of Choice. It is accepted by many experienced teachers of English that short 'reproductive' exercises in narrative and description are likely to form the staple 'composition' of younger pupils in secondary schools and of the majority of pupils in secondary modern schools so long as the leaving age is fifteen. If the subject matter is drawn from experiences, stories, broadcasts and films that have interested the children, there will usually be little complaint that reproductive exercises are dull. Previous discussion in class will help and so will the opportunity to illustrate the scripts with drawings and models. A limit of length is often a stimulating challenge. Many interesting twists can be given to the exercise by allowing, from time to time, the use of dramatic or radio forms, by interchanging first and third person narratives, by changing the

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ending of a story or the viewpoint of a scene, by varying the supposed reader or by introducing invented elements. Further problems of suitability are dealt with in the next paragraph. As was suggested earlier, unsuitable practice includes not only stilted essays too early but also fanciful inventive narrative too often. This latter produces for the most part nothing more than the clichés and the stock situations of boys' magazines; in any case the 'story' is too unmanageable to give much training in selection or form except to the naturally gifted story teller, who is rare among pupils of school age. It does everybody good from time to time to let himself go, but the educational results of this occasional release ought not to be over-rated.

Grading. Effective practice depends on continuity and growth of skill and these, in written composition, as in the performance of music, come from a planned course of writing, each stage of which consolidates and augments the skill and knowledge developed by its predecessors. Exercises in composition will naturally be graded in length. They will be graded also in complexity of detail and of presentation. Finally they will be graded in type, the reflective or logical essay being reached only through a long and patient series of narrative and descriptive 'compositions'. The sustained critical exercise probably comes last, though some teachers would defend its use earlier, in grammar schools at least. However this may be, most would agree not to attempt formal literary criticism before the age of fifteen or sixteen and then only with pupils of good intelligence and a proved interest in ideas.

Reality and Interest. The preceding paragraphs assume themes congenial to young writers. It remains only to add that if the teacher can convince the members of his class that he is genuinely anxious to read what they have to tell him, this alone will make a good subject better still. The teacher must therefore interest himself in the books and films and juvenile activities that are used for composition and he must recognize that there are many matters under the sun that the twelve-year-olds and the fourteen-year-olds know more about than he does. Here is the opportunity for a piece of live communication.

Supervision and Correction. There can be no golden rule about when and how composition ought to be done or how and where it ought to be marked. In grammar schools much of it - perhaps too much - is done at home. Home, if it has any privacy for the writer, is probably the best place for finishing a piece of composition, but not necessarily for starting it; some preparation is often needed where the teacher's help is available. Too often the whole process is turned over to homework.

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Similarly too much correction is done out of the pupils' sight and is then ignored except in reference to a numerical mark or for mechanical 'corrections' of spelling ('write the wrong words out ten times'). It is good that usually a substantial part, at least, of every composition should be thoroughly corrected in detail by the teacher; the exceptional cases where this is not done, of set purpose, ought to be well known by previous arrangement. But it is equally important to look at the subject matter, as well as the spelling, and most important to appraise the order and coherence of the whole as well as its fidelity to its subject and its interest to the reader. This can be done best by a short discussion in private with the writer. Somehow or other the teacher ought to make time, at least occasionally, to run over written work with pupils individually. If this means that some composition is done in class and some marking is done in school, so much the better. The sequel is scrupulous revision by the pupil afterwards. When all is said about 'killing interest' it is difficult to see how practice can do much or correction be worth much if bad or inadequate work is not done again and done better.

English Composition and other Subjects

The teaching of composition in secondary schools has been treated in this chapter as a skilled and systematic task that ought, to some extent at least, to be entrusted to specialist teachers of English who have enough time to do it thoroughly and who are able to plan the different stages and to co-ordinate them effectively. These specialists are, however, dependent on support from their colleagues in other subjects. If bad speech, bad reading and bad written composition are accepted in, for instance, history, geography or science, the efforts of the English staff will not bear full fruit. The obligation is mutual. If teachers of English do not furnish the pupils with the tools of communication, the teaching of other subjects will suffer; if teachers of English treat composition as an esoteric craft with its own separate subject matter and its own peculiar rules, the written work done for other members of the staff may be jejune or careless. A certain amount of common subject matter will help all, though it cannot wholly take the place of consultation, mutual understanding and breadth of interests among the staff generally. There is, naturally, a limit to most specialist English teachers' knowledge of scientific, mathematical, historical, geographical and scriptural knowledge; equally there is a limit to the time and the linguistic skill that most teachers of other subjects can bring to bear on the written work that is done for them in school or in private preparation. These limits are, however,

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wide enough to permit some useful combined exercises in which the powers of observation, memory, reason, judgment and written composition are trained simultaneously through common material; this can be employed by the teacher of English and by his colleagues with different but compatible and complementary aims in view.

In modern schools where a big proportion of the staff are class or form teachers, the opportunities for combined work are numerous. This should afford the modern school some compensation for its many handicaps in the teaching of English. In all secondary schools practice in writing letters (emphasizing the content and tone rather than the form) and in making reports is invaluable.

Précis. As the preceding paragraphs have dealt only with 'free' composition, mention should be made also of précis. This, in the middle and upper parts of grammar and technical schools, can be a valuable exercise and possibly ought to appear more often than it does, though not below the age of thirteen: young children, even the ablest, have little interest in compression or summary, though the essence of précis, taken orally, is useful and congenial to them. Even with pupils of fifteen there is a tendency in introducing précis to pay too much regard to exact mechanical reduction of length. It is probably only in the sixth form that brevity to this exact degree can reasonably be expected. Furthermore, in the early stages of précis there is such a shortage of suitable material that it is easy to use passages that are too difficult for children of fourteen or fifteen. For this reason, it is sometimes possible to supplement verbal material with pictures, maps, charts and simple sets of statistics such as are used, for instance, in some public advertising campaigns. It would be a misuse of terms to call these exercises précis in the strict sense, but their usefulness is comparable with that of précis, and they form a helpful introduction to it.

In the sixth form précis-writing is an ideal form of exercise if it is intelligently used and if it is suitably alternated with long prepared essays. More is said about this in the penultimate section of this chapter. The greatest advantage of précis is that it combines a searching linguistic discipline with an imaginative and intellectual challenge, provided that the subject matter is carefully chosen from a wide range of genuine literature and is not taken from mere 'précis books'.

Speaking and Listening

Speaking appears prominently in the preceding chapter, which deals with language in primary schools. During the early years of childhood speech is not only the most natural and frequent form of communication - as it is throughout the rest of most people's

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lives - but it is virtually the only form, except for the gestures and inarticulate noises of infancy. Only in the last three or four years of the junior school does reading come to play a considerable part, and writing a significant part, alongside speaking and listening. In secondary schools reading and writing occupy between them a major part of the school's formal English programme. In these schools speaking and listening have traditionally been left mostly to informal practice, and in grammar schools they were, at one time, hardly regarded as part of the schools' business at all. To this there were always some exceptions, and there are very many exceptions to-day. Nevertheless it is true that after the age of twelve the secondary school rightly gives its main attention to those forms of linguistic skill that are still in their early stages, that need close guidance and correction by experienced teachers, and that depend almost wholly on what can be done for them during the hours of school attendance. This inevitably means writing.

The secondary school cannot escape an over-riding concern with the teaching of reading and writing. Speaking and listening, therefore, however important in their own right, must be judged also to some extent by their contribution to standards of written composition. This is not to belittle the importance of speech or the possibility of improving and developing the powers of speech during school life. But such improvement cannot be divorced from the general standards of work, play and life in the schools, and from the incessant and extremely subtle interplay of speech habits between the staff and the pupils, and between the pupils themselves. So far as speech forms a part of the special responsibilities of teachers of English, and so far as its improvement and development need to be planned, and are capable of being planned, something more systematic is needed than random debates and discussions. The word 'rhetoric' is out of fashion, but it is perhaps not impossible to claim that much of what the word used to mean is still wanted in schools and ought to be possible: namely the power to put an ordered statement clearly and convincingly to someone else, to listen carefully to the reply, if there is one, and to follow the exchange firmly but courteously to a reasonable resting point. Oral work of this kind could be very exacting and very valuable, especially for older boys and girls. Its written counterpart is referred to later in the section on sixth form work; the oral form could start earlier.

Oral Composition

Something may now be said about the various forms of oral practice in secondary schools. These range from drama, through oral composition and reading aloud, to speech training and the

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ordinary controlled give and take of lessons and of social life in the school community. Drama is considered separately in Chapter 10 and is, therefore, omitted from the present section.

Oral composition is now widely practised. This is something more deliberate than the spontaneous conversation encouraged in primary schools. None the less, if its aims are not clear, its methods can be random and extravagant of time. Its first aim is, or ought to be, to encourage a confident and agreeable habit of speech and to train the power of orderly expression: terse, eloquent, persuasive or vehement, as the occasion demands, and modest and sincere always. Such habits are clearly matters of personality as well as of education, and it may be that formal training can make only a small contribution to them. That contribution may, however, be decisive for some pupils at an impressionable age. As a means of preparing material for written exercises oral composition has even stronger claims on the school's time. The two objectives are not, however, distinct. They overlap and, taken together, they certainly establish a case for occupying some of the English teacher's time and attention; but not too much. A good deal of what passes for 'lecturettes' and classroom debates and mock trials is a waste of precious time unless it is exceptionally well done, and this means forethought, a clear aim and a great deal of preparation. Oral composition needs both a light touch and strong control; while many young teachers of English have one or the other, not so many have both until their experience ripens.

Reading aloud is a difficult exercise for young teachers and also, - for quite different reasons - for seasoned teachers. The former find it tedious and tend to omit it; the latter find it so easy and mechanical that their standards may unconsciously relax. Nevertheless many skilful teachers of English make it both a pleasure and a valuable linguistic exercise. Much depends on their own powers of reading aloud and the skill with which they blend their own reading with that of pupils of differing abilities. The choice of books is also important. For reading aloud a book needs more than a plot; it needs many incidental beauties of form and language, as well as humour and warmth, and it needs to be readily broken up into portions that are nearly self-contained.

The repetition of English poetry is a useful form of oral practice, but it ought seldom to be imposed as a task. Choral speaking of verse is popular nowadays, but not all poetry gains from choral reading and it is fatally easy to mangle both the meaning and the cadence of verse if the wrong poems are chosen, or if the right poems are not said with understanding and discrimination. Choral speaking ought never to obliterate the individual interpretation. For the

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speaking of verse, and also for the reading of prose, the classroom is not always the ideal place. A bigger room with a platform is a great help. At all times it is important to make the reader hold up his book and his head and it is usually an advantage if he is made to stand. Much reading aloud fails for lack of these elementary precautions of posture and voice production. Much fails, also, through too much 'nagging', which is probably a worse fault in the teacher than complacency.

There is probably even less place forformal speech training in secondary schools than in primary. A knowledge of phonetics is certainly useful to the teacher of English, though not for direct application. It may be useful also to older pupils as a piece of scientific background knowledge. But, as with written composition, good speech comes mainly from practice, from the unconscious imitation of good models, especially the teachers' own speech and reading, and from the natural unobtrusive correction of faults during the give and take of lessons. In schools where a majority or even a substantial minority of pupils speak well, and where the whole staff is alive to the problem of speech, the poor speakers will improve markedly during their progress through the school. In many grammar schools the improvement in boys' speech between the ages of eleven and eighteen is remarkable. In girls' schools of all kinds the improvement is often more remarkable still and happens even more rapidly. These improvements usually occur without phonetic training, but not without a great deal of care and effort on the part of all concerned.

The problem of dialect or regional speech is perhaps not as difficult as is sometimes supposed. If the same social tolerance were extended to good examples of regional English as to good examples of educated Scots and Irish, no great harm would come to the English language and many people's lives would be easier. The reverse requirement of such a tolerance is that English, of whatever regional flavour, should be as free from mumbling and from mangled vowels and missing consonants as is educated Scots or Irish and that its cadence should be as agreeable as that of the English spoken in, say, Cardiganshire. If the language is audibly uttered, if the consonants are given full force, if uncouth provincialisms of vocabulary are eliminated and if the intonation is pleasantly modulated, there are few regions of England (though there are some) that have not their own agreeable and acceptable varieties of English.

A cautious and exacting tolerance of this kind might be a sounder policy than the 'bilingualism' which is often advocated as the only possible compromise between dialect and 'standard' English. Gladstone retained the northern vowels and Tennyson spoke broad

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Lincolnshire to the end of his days. Some scholars, artists and men of affairs of the present day retain a noticeable regional flavour in their speech, and this is often held to be an important part of their attractiveness to listeners.

English in the Sixth Form

Whilst a separate pamphlet would be necessary to deal adequately with English in the sixth form, a few salient points may be made here.

In the first place, this is a different problem from most of those discussed in the preceding sections. For older boys and girls of proved intellectual ability the treatment of both literature and composition is different in kind and aim as well as, naturally, in degree, from that for the generality of pupils below the age of fifteen or sixteen. It is true that in literature enjoyment is, or ought to be, common to all and that some degree of close and comprehensive understanding of books should be common also. But in the sixth form the range of literature, even for non-specialists, is immensely wider than in other parts of the school and it includes books read (with however much enjoyment) primarily for their accepted place in English literature or, if they are contemporary or recent, for their contribution to current thought. At this stage also the pupil begins to form a synoptic view of the literature of his own country and a comparative view of the literatures of several countries including his own. His critical faculties develop and so does his interest in criticism as a genre. He has, too, by the age of sixteen or seventeen a growing knowledge of human nature by which to interpret the interplay of character and motive, the emotional stresses and the imaginative power to be found in the poetry and prose of the great writers. In composition his vocabulary is often wide though he still needs practice in form and presentation. Except for the discipline of experience his powers may be equal, by the age of eighteen, to creative work of good quality in at least one of the established forms of literature; if his interests are not primarily literary, he is at least equipped, or should be, to handle his chosen subjects of study without groping hopelessly for words. He has outgrown, in short, the simple notion of 'a book to read' but he still needs to refine his thinking and his writing, and he still needs a great deal of what used to be known as 'rhetoric', the art of persuasion, the rules of eloquence, the power of arranging material effectively for the purpose in view. The discipline of précis and summary, as well as that of critical evaluation, can profitably go on to the end of school life and beyond. These changes of aim and method are not usually cataclysmic for the sixth former. They

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start for many able pupils well before the sixth form and for a few exceptionally clever or sensitive children they begin to happen very early in life. The experienced teacher makes the change as soon as he sees his pupils are ready for it and the first few terms in the sixth form are usually happier and easier if the break is not too sudden.

There is no doubt that sixth form work in English has developed noticeably during the last twenty years and here, at any rate, is clear evidence of change and progress in the teaching of English. To specialize in English is no longer to embrace a rather dubious alternative to history, modern languages or classics. The choice is no longer made mainly by girls and it is no longer an impossible or a freak choice in the great public schools. English is, moreover, now a subject in which there is a reasonable provision (though not yet a large one) of open scholarships and exhibitions at the universities. Finally, the advantages to the teacher of a good honours degree in English, especially for sixth form work, are at last coming to be generally accepted; the talented amateur no longer carries the main burden, even in many of those schools which continued to resist specialist teachers of English up to ten years ago.

It would be out of place in a general pamphlet to make suggestions for the teaching of English specialist pupils in the sixth form. In any case, the specialist advanced work done in this country probably compares well with any similar work in other national languages anywhere else in the world. The main need is a fertile co-operation between sixth form masters and university teachers and a continuing exchange of experience amongst the schools themselves, and between them and the examining bodies.

For other types of sixth form work in English a few suggestions may be valuable. There is no long tradition to guide those who are teaching English to sixth form pupils whose main pre-occupation is either advanced work in other subjects or a course of general education ending at seventeen or eighteen preparatory to business or professional articles or nursing or further education in teachers' training colleges or technical colleges. Such pupils do not need, and usually do not want, a literary course framed in the spirit of a university school of English. They do require a course that widens their range of ideas and gives them a command of spoken and written English matching their abilities and needs. They should read widely, in modern literature certainly, but not exclusively, and not in fiction and drama alone, but also in poetry, biography, history and travel. They need to know something of politics, the arts and social affairs, and something authentic but not too specialized about the spirit and achievements of modern science

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and technology. Good books of a suitable kind exist in all these fields of reading; it should not be difficult to compile from such books a reading programme to be left largely to individual effort, the teacher restricting himself to private guidance, to an occasional lecture-survey and to initiating discussion. The language work of such a course is important and ought to occupy at least one of the two or three weekly periods allotted to English together with some private preparation out of school. The English essay - even for non-specialists - is a suitable and indispensable exercise at this age, though it need not be of a 'literary' type and might often, with profit, deal with general aspects of the pupils' other studies, e.g. in science or foreign languages. Equally, précis-writing, summarizing and the verbal explanation of statistical tables and charts constitute a valuable training in composition, as does translation from a foreign language, provided that they are done against a background of wide reading and are not the only 'English' being done by sixth formers. A point worth adding is that programmes of this kind, with this sort of time-allowance, or more, exist nowadays in many grammar schools and public schools and that these are, almost invariably, the schools where the standard of specialized work in other subjects is highest. In schools where English is squeezed out of the sixth form all the other subjects are likely to suffer.


The preceding sections have dealt more fully with written composition than with any other feature of the English syllabus. This is deliberate, not because composition is more important than reading - it is less so - or because it figures more frequently in life than speaking or listening - the reverse is obviously true. But writing is an indispensable art in the modern world and written composition is the branch of English most susceptible to systematic training in school; it is also the only branch of English that is not likely to be practised seriously by children anywhere but in school. Neglected or badly done in school, written composition will not flourish elsewhere. Neglected in the English lesson, it will not receive, in most schools, systematic attention through other subjects, however wise and skilful the incidental guidance of other teachers may be.

It is also true that the suggestions made in preceding paragraphs are unavoidably over-simplified. The progress from concrete to analytical subject matter does not correspond exactly with any principle of children's growth. Undoubtedly there are children of high intelligence who begin to generalize at a very early age, perhaps before they start school at all. At the other extreme those are who,

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even at the age of fifteen, will be incapable of consecutive argument; these will be fortunate if, before they leave school, they can write a short narrative or descriptive paragraph reproduced from a book. The reasoning powers of most other children develop by fits and starts, and not with any regularity of pace or direction. Interest will often bring out unsuspected powers or bring them out early, or unexpectedly quickly. It follows that the grading of material suggested in this chapter can be only an approximate guide. In any individual pupil's progress a particular theme may induce critical or logical composition much in advance of that pupil's normal powers. Where this happens to a whole class, because of some common experience or some special piece of local knowledge, there occurs a startling spurt in the performance of the whole form. Most teachers of English are familiar, from time to time, with this pleasing phenomenon, and equally with the disappointment of finding that, the next week, the class is back where it was before the spurt. In general, however, it remains true that simple and familiar matter is necessary to most young writers up to something like fourteen or fifteen years of age. Up to this age their powers of selection and arrangement can be exercised and trained, in the main, only through description, narration and simple exposition. There is, however, reasonable evidence that powers so trained can, and will, be employed later in life to deal with problems of reflection, generalization and deduction. The truth is that such occasions are not numerous in the experience of the great majority of adults. For most people's personal use a careful linguistic training of the simplest kind will prove sufficient, provided it is thorough and regular. Moreover, for coping with subtler linguistic situations, if and when they arise, such training ought to be a better preparation than a premature and ineffective exposure to logical abstractions in the early years. Even for those to whom abstractions and generalizations will later be habitual, an unpretentious early training in composition should prove a suitable foundation. In any case, the exceptional powers of such children will crack the mould even at an early age. The skilful teacher will not try to paper the cracks. He will be grateful for the opportunity of helping clever children to develop at their own pace and will eventually reap the supreme reward of learning from their work as much as he contributes to it.

Moreover, the discipline of written composition is only one side of the picture. 'Reading,' said Bacon, 'maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.' The other side of the linguistic picture is the creative power of reading and listening and, to some extent, of speaking, especially speaking in dramatic form. Language trains and disciplines the mind. Through literature it also

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kindles the imagination, enlarges and enriches the personality, and matures the judgment. In these complementary ways language is the central instrument of a liberal education. Of such an education it is, indeed, not only the medium, but part of the material, and a large part of the inspiration. (1)

(1) The complementary contribution of literature is further examined in Chapter 10.

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English in Further Education:
Problems of Communication

English in Industry and Commerce

REFERENCE was made in Chapter 4 to the need in commerce and industry of good standards of oral and written English. There seems to be little doubt that present standards do not satisfy employers. It is, indeed, a healthy sign that better English should be looked for by the business community and that the English to be used in business and practical affairs should be increasingly recognized as a part of the general national stock of language and not a special jargon. These two assumptions are far from universal, but at least they are gaining currency and each is worth examining briefly.

It was stated in Chapter 4 that 'for business purposes of all kinds, from the performance of humble routine tasks in industry and commerce to the most responsible executive and administrative work, efficiency is liable to turn from time to time, and for most of the time, on communication in speech and writing'. This statement would not go unchallenged everywhere and some of the objections or reservations that might be made are worth examining. There is, first, the belief in some quarters - mentioned already in Chapter 1 - that the large majority of people, especially those of limited intelligence, rely for their information more on pictures, still and moving, than on printed language and, for their means of communication, more on speaking and listening than on writing. This is very doubtful. It is certainly true that persons of limited intelligence find pictures easier to understand than printed words and that people whose daily work is of a humble and limited kind have few occasions for written communication in their occupations or, perhaps, in their private lives. It is accordingly important to develop and improve the visual means of education and to afford everybody the best possible opportunities of speaking well and listening with attention. When that has been said, enough has been conceded. The very causes that multiply the occasions of listening and speaking multiply also the occasions for writing and reading, since these are necessary for supporting the social structure that supplies the oral and visual modes of communication - travel, radio, television, cinema, mass-produced entertainment, community pleasures. It is not conceivable that the vast and accelerating

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apparatus of modern life can go on without more and more written and printed communication. Nor is it conceivable that illiterate individuals can hope to live in the contemporary world more easily or comfortably than they could in the world of our grandparents when universal literacy was first considered necessary. We may or may not like the world we now find ourselves in, but it is certainly a world that is unsafe and uncomfortable for everyone so long as the understanding of many is limited to crude pictures (for other pictures need supplementary printed matter), casual speech (for other speech is indelibly influenced by written language) and random listening (for better listening needs to be reinforced by repetition and reflection and this cannot be done, in the modern world anyhow, without print).

The other challenge comes from the opposite end of the mental scale. It is often said nowadays - Paul Valéry (1) is quoted to this effect in Chapter 1 - that ordinary language is incapable of conveying the full and precise meaning of much modern scientific thought and that recourse must be had increasingly to some kind of symbolic notation. If this is true, it is a maxim of despair, for it means that not only will laymen cease to share the results of the best scientific thinking but that specialists will become increasingly incapable of communicating with one another. It may be conceded that this is already happening, but that is not to say that it must necessarily go on happening to an increasing degree. It may even be conceded that when specialists of a particular kind write for one another only they are entitled to use an esoteric shorthand which saves time and ensures technical precision. But the best scientists themselves deplore the tendency to ignore common language, and some of them insist (and demonstrate by their own practice) that there are few general ideas of importance that cannot be conveyed in plain terms, and without serious debasement or inaccuracy, to the ordinary intelligent and well educated reader. Certainly, side by side with much technical jargon, there is published to-day some scientific writing of a very high order for the general reader.

Examination of these two extreme attacks on the importance and the possibility of good writing in the spheres of industry, commerce and technology shows some of the difficulties. They are: first, the employment in these occupations of large numbers of manual workers and lower grade technicians whose educational standards are rudimentary, at least in reading and writing; the competition of other non-verbal types of learning and entertainment; the inherent difficulty of subject matter in scientific and technological writing

(1) See Chapter 1, p. 8.

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and its apparent intractability to plain and vivid language. If these difficulties are examined further it will be seen that none of them is peculiar to technology or to students in technical colleges, though the first and the third affect technological students to a greater degree than others. But all these difficulties are now operating in every section and at every stage of our society - the whole of which is dominated by mechanical power, by large-scale organization and by ideas of equality. The remedies for illiteracy must, therefore, be general as well as particular, and anything special that is done for technological students will not be very effective unless it is based on sound principles drawn from general practice. There is, and can be, no isolated craft of 'English for industry'.

Some General Problems

The first need, therefore, is for higher standards of reading and writing in the schools, and especially for methods that can be shown to produce a modest but reliable degree of practical skill indelibly fixed before the boy or girl leaves school. Much of the present pamphlet is devoted to this end and Chapters 5 and 6 are almost wholly concerned with the teaching of reading and writing in the schools. The next need is a fresh approach generally to the use of language and the use of books, and especially the realization that both are as important to the technologist as they are to others. If this is accepted, it is possible to turn, with profit, to the special needs of students in technical colleges.

Some Special Problems in the Training of Technologists

The greatest special need of all these students, whatever their mental calibre and their potentialities, is practice in making a technical report. This is much more than what usually passes for a 'lab. report' - the staple written exercise of many thousands of young scientists, engineers and technicians during their training. A genuine report, if it is to fulfil the conditions of real life and if it is to constitute a training in communication, must be more than a private record based on notes (even though these be compiled from observation and not from dictation). The report must have a purpose: that is to say it must convey certain information to a particular reader to achieve some specified end, even though that end, in a college exercise, may be simulated or fabricated. Mr. B. C. Brookes who, himself a mathematician, lectures to engineering students at University College, London, on the presentation of technical information, said recently at a conference (1) of teachers of engineering subjects:

(1) Ministry of Education Short Course, July, 1953.

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'I expect a man to be versatile in his technical writing. He should be able to write a letter of application for a job, or to explain his scientific work to a layman, or to give technical instructions to a technician, to write the minutes of a meeting, to draft a memorandum summarizing the issues to be solved in tackling some technical problem, or perhaps to write a thesis. Some can, but many can't - in spite of all the writing a student engineer is asked to do. The reasons are that "lab. reports" are narrowly stereotyped in form, language and vocabulary and that they provide the author with no problem of selecting or arranging his material. The student does not feel that he is telling anybody anything because his reports are addressed to the man who designed the exercise and supervized the work and who, therefore, knows all about it anyhow. Such criticisms as the student gets (other than the technological) are often vague, contradictory, confusing and pedantic. For the student therefore the conventional "lab. report" often becomes a disagreeable, pointless, time-consuming waste of energy.'
A suitable variety of written exercises for technological students involves a wide range of literary skills even though the matter is limited to the situations provided by a single industry or a single branch of an industry. The problems of purpose, definition, selection and arrangement have been already mentioned: all these demand a form of skill that comes fully, even to the natural writer, only with training and experience. Arrangement in particular is a matter of literary craftsmanship, even in a technological report. Is the order of the composition logical, i.e. natural and sequential? Are there gaps and jumps? Does the author sprint in one section and crawl in another? Does he move smoothly along the promised highway or does he trail you round the back streets and lanes? Then comes what might be called the texture of the report, i.e. the structure of the paragraphs, sentences and clauses, the range and suitability of vocabulary, the pitch and tone of the author's style and, above all, the evidence of conviction, authority and personality.

These different qualities of craftsmanship, for so they are (just like the technological matters they describe), cover a wide range of communications that stretch from simple excerpts, summaries and messages at the lower end, through reports and instructions of varying complexity, to memoranda, minutes, annual reports, special surveys and 'top-level' correspondence at the upper end. The mere range of such communications makes the term 'business English' quite ludicrously inept. There is no such thing. There is only English, the medium of scientific and industrial exchanges just as much as of professional, personal and literary communications, and needing to be practised as sedulously and as scrupulously for one purpose as for the other. It is true that for business and scientific purposes the emotional undertones and overtones of language are under restraint (they can never be entirely eliminated) but this is true also, to a less

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degree, of some historical and much legal writing and even of some branches of literary criticism and of travel writing and biography. Very much of the general advice given throughout this pamphlet about English composition applies without reservation and with especial emphasis to the writing of students in technical colleges. Mr. Brookes, in the concluding passage of the lecture quoted above, said:

'If you want to improve your students' technical writing find a way of providing them with exercises (not too many) in writing messages rather than records. Encourage them to criticise and help each other. If you are worried about their English, their grammar, their punctuation, concentrate on the purpose and the total effect of the writing and you will find that the English will then largely begin to look after itself.'
English in Day Continuation Schools

The methods used for teaching English in full-time schools can have little relevance in the day continuation school. Those for whom these methods have been successful to the extent of having taught them to speak, read and write with ease and accuracy, will not welcome a further course of exactly the same kind. Those for whom they have been unsuccessful are unlikely to benefit from more exercises of the kind they wrestled with at school, and their distaste for a subject in which they have not shone will quickly develop into hatred or unwilling toleration.

English must start with these pupils as they are, whatever stage or state of mind they have reached. If their speech is bad they must discover this for themselves, perhaps with the aid of a mechanical device. They must have something to talk about and the topics that engage their interest in private life must not be thought unsuitable for school. One illustration may serve to make this clearer. It is to be supposed that the Coronation has been occupying the attention of the English class. The voices and manner of the participants and of the commentators, the language of the service, the correspondence in the Press, the interest shown in other countries, the suitability of the local celebrations, have all provided material for discussion, for writing and for study. Somewhere in this there will be moments when a reading by the teacher of an account of some older Coronation, Elizabeth I's or Mary II's or Victoria's, will be appropriate and acceptable and there may even be some moments when some classes would listen to and enjoy such a poem as No. 60 in the Oxford Book, 'Yet if His Majesty, our Sovereign Lord', and be really moved by the last stanza:

'But at the coming of the King of Heaven
All's set at six and seven;
We wallow in our sin,

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Christ cannot find a chamber in the inn.
We entertain Him always like a stranger,
And, as at first, still lodge Him in the manger.'
The problem of English in the day continuation school is to avoid the dangers of dullness and utilitarianism, and of their opposite - 'literariness'. Great judgment and imagination are needed as well as knowledge and understanding of the young people concerned.

English in Evening Institutes

If drama classes are excepted, it is rare to find in evening institutes a class in English to which the majority of students have come primarily because of a personal interest in language or literature. Most of the students have been sent by their employers to improve their vocational skill or they are attending to improve their prospects in some examination closely connected with their business or professional advancement. These are not unworthy aims, but, if no more disinterested motives are also at work, they narrow the scope of what the teacher is able or encouraged to do and they result in syllabuses and lessons of a stereotyped and rather dull kind. If, in addition, those students - usually girls - whose main object is to improve their skill in commercial subjects, concentrate narrowly on shorthand and typewriting and take no interest in reading and in English usage, the results are even less inspiring.

The first requirement is, as always, a good teacher. A feeling for language, the power to speak it and write it well, sensitiveness and percipience and a knowledge and love of literature are indispensable qualifications whatever the age or the type of student. The teacher must not only have these qualifications but must assert their claims. Such a claim will get a short hearing if it is not well-founded and it is the duty of every teacher of English to do all in his power to see that he has a right to make it.

Secondly, the teacher must have a clear picture in his mind of what he is going to do. A scheme which is no more than the contents of an English text-book deserves to fail, and such schemes are all too common. The starting point is the students themselves. What education have they had? In what respects has it succeeded? In what failed? What do they read, left to themselves? How do they speak? - readily? hesitatingly? coherently? confusedly? How often do they write anything in the course of their daily lives? What sort of things do they write? Without such a preliminary investigation as this, no scheme, however excellent, can be brought to bear. The details and, to a large extent, the shaping and emphasis must depend on the needs of the particular students as they appear to the teacher. With this proviso, some generalizations may be attempted.

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In teaching English to young people who have left school, even more than to those still at school, a merely remedial approach to English is not enough. Something more stimulating, more flattering to self-esteem and more clearly related to the needs of everyday life, is needed. For example, most evening institute students could read without difficulty the correspondence columns of some of the daily and weekly papers. These provide admirable material, at almost every level of intellect and integrity, for English study. To consider what a writer is trying to prove, the validity of his arguments and, more subtly, his attitude towards his subject matter and his readers, is an admirable exercise in English. To write a reply, in which an attempt is made to demolish or to qualify or reinforce his arguments, is another. To study the counter-reply is a third. Such exercises may lead to others. A letter in which mere resentment, in terms of vulgar abuse, is expressed may be compared with another in which the anger is restrained and probably much more devastating. Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield would be read quite naturally at this point, not as 'literature', but as a contribution to a discussion in which interest was already lively. The transition from argument to expression, from thought to feeling is almost imperceptible. A controversy in the correspondence column on, say, war and Christianity, could be shared by the class, after discussion or debate, but it could also lead, without artificiality, to Wilfrid Owen and Rupert Brooke, to Hotspur's dying speech, to Brother John Bates, to David's lament over Absolom, to the epitaph at Thermopylae. Some classes, some students could go further along such a road than others, but to all the road ought to be open and to all some hint be given of the country through which it passes. The essence of the matter seems to be that the English class should pass from reading to writing, from writing to discussion, from discussion to exercise, from exercise to lyric and back again continually and uninterruptedly. None of these in isolation can achieve much but in combination each comes alive, ceases to be a mere formality and helps to form a logical and living whole. It so happens that the examples just given are all in poetry, and poetry does not appeal to everyone. Some recent prose is likely to suit a great many students, and prose has the additional advantage of being more closely akin to what the students are asked to write for themselves. Books of travel and discovery, biography and well-written popular science are often attractive to young people of this age, more so, in many cases, than fiction.

Oral English in Evening Institutes

From time to time classes in oral English are to be found in evening institutes. Since being able to speak well is for many people even

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more important than being able to write well, it might be expected that such classes would be much commoner than they are.

Those who are aware of possessing speech habits which, rightly or wrongly, they believe to be to their disadvantage, often speak well and are guilty of no more than the vestiges of dialect, that is, local but not faulty speech. A more serious problem is the correction of slovenly speech, more serious because those who use it are generally unaware of their faults and because correction is difficult. A generally acceptable definition of slovenliness is hard to find. Over-insistence on aspirates, final consonants and pure vowels is as disagreeable to many ears as dropped aitches, glottal stops and Cockney vowels. All are faults of speech, and, if to them are added ugly intonation, uncontrolled volume and speed, bad timing and bad rhythm, there results, if not a definition, some indication of the meaning that is attached to the term. Some of the faults can be tackled by a direct method, with emphasis either upon the ear or upon the vocal organs, but others seem to be reflections of character and personality. Any attempt at correction must, in any case, constitute an interference with a long-established habit, very intimately bound up with the student's origins, social background, fears and ambitions, and touching his feelings at every point. The teacher who embarks on a course of speech training for adults must not only be technically qualified but must realize all the implications of the situation with which he is dealing and be prepared to face them. There is room, however, for more speech training in the evening institute, and a recent invention has the power of making it more effective. The tape-recording machine makes it possible to record the human voice, and, immediately afterwards, to hear the result. There is no reason why, in time, these instruments, which cost no more than a television set, should not be more widely available in evening institutes, and, if this were to happen, there might easily be an enormously increased demand for classes in oral English. In the meantime, one or two general points can be made.

Any speech training scheme must secure a proper balance between the technique of voice production and the practice of speaking. The ear must be trained to listen to sounds and distinguish between them, the student must be made conscious of what he is doing with his lips, his tongue, his jaw. Yet too much insistence on this, to the exclusion of a less formal approach, can easily lead to excessive self-consciousness and to stilted and affected speech or to even graver inhibitions. Speech ought to be natural, easy and expressive and there are at least three ways in which these qualities may be encouraged. The first and simplest is example. The ear is usually a quick learner and the mere fact of listening regularly to a teacher

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who speaks well in every sense, will achieve something for most students, and for some a great deal. Secondly, there are the interpretative arts, in which the voice is used to interpret the language of others. No one engages in dramatic art solely in order to improve his speech, but that is likely to be an incidental consequence of doing so. The reading aloud of poetry and prose, or speaking them by heart, compel the student to study their meaning closely and to use the voice appropriately. Thirdly, the voice must be used in conversation. There must be opportunities to ask for information, to state opinions, to describe experiences, to argue, to disagree, to praise, to persuade and to summarize. There are forms, the debate and the brains trust, for instance, which provide for these, but they must also be learned in the informal conversation that has always distinguished civilized people from barbarians and the inspired class in school and college from the merely pedestrian.

English in Adult Classes

The evening institute in the past has been primarily a vocational establishment with clear and limited aims. Since 1945 it has been changing into a place where the more recreational kinds of education can be followed. It is thus beginning to bridge the wide gap that used to lie between it and the classes provided by 'responsible bodies', that is, in effect, by university extra-mural departments and by the Workers' Educational Association. The regulations under which these classes are held restrict them to liberal studies in which the vocational and practical elements must be subordinated. English in these classes means English literature, which may be taken at a really advanced level, requiring prolonged study and written work from the students, in a tutorial course lasting for three years, or at a more popular though serious level in a terminal class where the demands may be somewhat less rigorous.

These classes have been for very many an unlocking of the door. When the classes began, many of the students were people of high intellectual ability to whom the misfortune of poverty had denied a good education. They had left school early and had had, perhaps, no contact with cultivated and informed minds. It was natural that their interests should lie mainly in the historical, economic and political fields. They wanted to understand the causes and cures of a system which had debarred them from what others seemed to possess so easily. Even in the early days, however, there were some classes in literature, representing a realization on somebody's part, that it is not only economic circumstances and political power but the quality of thought and feeling that keep one man free and another bound. Many of the early classes in literature were, however,

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more concerned with the light thrown by the novel on social conditions than with literature studied for its own sake.

After the first world war the number of tutorial classes in literature increased and since 1945 there has been a tendency for the interest in literature to grow still more. Many of the students in modern classes have had a good education and attend in order to carry further an interest begun at school or to develop an appreciation that has grown later in life. Some, at least, are less interested in the social background of Oliver Twist and Felix Holt and are more ready to study poetry and the novel for their own sakes. Moreover, what was originally an urban growth has been transplanted to rural areas and this has brought about a further change in the social composition of the classes and so in their interests.

The besetting danger of all courses in literature, under whatever auspices they have been held, has been dilettantism. A sketch of an author's life, a few readings from his works and some concluding critical comments - this has been the model on too many occasions. Its weakness, in practice if not in theory, lies in a failure to bring the students to grips with the words on the page and in the encouragement of vagueness and generalization. A more rigorous practice, involving the close, critical, yet essentially loving scrutiny of texts has grown up in the universities in the last thirty years and it seems likely that this provides a good model for the adult class tutor to adapt to his special circumstances. Pleasure and delight in poetry and prose are heightened and enriched if a discipline of thought and of application is learned at the same time. There is the kind of analysis which kills, but there is also the kind which reveals and it is this which ought to be found, and increasingly is found, in literature classes for adults.

A lecture, followed by a discussion, is the traditional form in an adult class and for many purposes it remains the best, but for some, and particularly perhaps for those of literary study, the seminar is a valuable practice. In this everybody is expected to contribute questions, opinions and accounts of personal enquiries while the tutor plays a crucial, if sometimes unobtrusive, part. Books are not merely background reading but essential materials of study constantly referred to and used. Written work is an important and frequent practice for all, and here there is great room for experiment. The essay is a time-honoured institution in the university and it would be wrong to say that it has no place in extra-mural work. But it is capable of encouraging wordiness and diffuseness, and for many purposes shorter and more focused exercises may be preferable. There will certainly be a place for critical examination and comparison of chosen passages, for interpretation and commentary

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on difficult poems, for creative writing and perhaps for pastiche. Passive membership of a class is not, of course, entirely unrewarding, but active participation is undoubtedly desirable and written work is one of the best ways of encouraging this.

Apart from dramatic classes, which are separately considered in another chapter, the evening institute and the 'responsible body' class provide the bulk of the part-time study of English that goes on in this country. Both have honourable histories, both are changing in response to circumstances, and each has a challenge to meet. If the secondary schools do all that is hoped of them, or even half, there will be an ever-increasing demand for English in institutions of further education. The demand will be for something more than remedies and pleasant winter evenings, though both will have their place. It will be for a means of continuing something that has been begun at school but which can never be completed there, or anywhere else.

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Welsh and English in Wales

The Cultural Background

A COMPARISON between the culture of Wales and that of England, or that of any of the great European nations, shows the unique place the Welsh language occupies in the culture of Wales in comparison with English, French or German within the pattern of their respective cultures. The economic and historical factors peculiar to Wales have meant that the culture of Wales has found its main expression in the practice of those arts that did not depend upon material wealth or urban development - the arts of language and the rural crafts. This is not to deny that Wales possesses other riches; her institutions, for instance, and her music. But, important though these may be and secure as their place must be in the curriculum of the schools, it is seldom held that they enable the child to enter as freely into a fertile relationship with his heritage or his present environment as does a knowledge of the Welsh language. Welsh is the continuing medium of all that was and is finest in Welsh culture. The flower of the Welsh pattern of life, in a very special sense, is the work of its poets, prose writers and orators.

But for several centuries the cultural life of Wales has ceased to be related to one language or to derive from one source. The geographical configuration of the country largely explains this fact. No physical barrier separates Wales from England, and the pattern of life in modern Wales has been powerfully affected by what occurs in England. For many years before the Act of Union the leaders of the Welsh people looked outside their own country for much of the learning they desired. Thanks to the Church, Wales, during that time, had been one with the West. It was the Tudors, Welsh dynasty though they were, who, by insisting that 'no persons that use the Welsh speech or language shall have or enjoy any manner of office or fee within this realm', set in motion a policy for the complete assimilation of the Welsh people into the English system, and of discouraging and if possible suppressing the use of the Welsh language. From that time onwards two problems have been facing educationists in Wales with greater and greater urgency: first, the need to maintain the indigenous tradition by safeguarding the use of the Welsh language by the people generally, and by introducing the teaching of the language into the system of state education, when that was created; and secondly, the improvement within the same system of the teaching of English.

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The Historical Background since the Seventeenth Century

One of the most important factors in safeguarding the Welsh language in the seventeenth century was the work of an Englishman, Thomas Gouge, and a group of Welshmen including Stephen Hughes and Charles Edwards who, by translating and publishing works in Welsh, preserved the language as a means of education and learning. In addition to encouraging this necessary literary and publishing work the S.P.C.K. founded schools in the Principality, and, although these were almost entirely English in character, they had considerable influence in ensuring a high degree of literacy which reacted favourably upon the knowledge of both languages. More important from the standpoint of the Welsh language were the schools of Griffith Jones of Llanddowror, and the Sunday schools established by Thomas Charles of Bala and others. These developments made it certain that the language could remain a living force in the lives of the people - so much so that the Commissioners of 1846 remarked that the Sunday schools 'are very well attended and do great good in teaching the people to read the Welsh language'. (1) They were, in their opinion, 'the main instrument of civilization in Wales'.

There were those in Wales who were at least equally concerned with the position of the English language. Recognizing 'the inconvenience of a twofold language in the same country', they argued that 'it was useless to regret what is inevitable, and our best mode is to improve existing circumstances to our advantage. ... At the same time, while we feel we are Welshmen we forget not that we are members of the British Empire at large.' (2) It was this concern for the status of the English language in Wales that brought about the appointment of the Commission of 1846, the main part of whose work was to 'enquire into the means afforded to the labouring classes of acquiring a knowledge of the English language'. Their conclusions, which were highly controversial, raised a storm of indignation, but there can be little doubt that the Commission's analysis of the standard of the teaching of English in Wales at that time was correct. They found that 'the English language is in almost all the Welsh districts vilely ill taught'. (3) 'The schoolmasters', they state in another place, 'rarely understand it (English) perfectly themselves. ... Their system of teaching would not and does not suffice to instruct the children in their own language where they speak English, and it is infinitely insufficient for teaching them a

(1) Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, Vol. II, p. 53.

(2) John Hughes: Essay on the Ancient and Present State of the Welsh Language, pp.51-2. 1822.

(3) Reports of the Commissioners , Vol. II, pp. 33--4.

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foreign one. The non-comprehension of what they read is by no means confined to the children who speak Welsh and read English; it prevails also amongst those of whom English is the mother tongue.' (1) The causes of this unfortunate state of affairs the Commissioners gave as the poor quality and unsuitability of the English books used by Welsh boys and girls, and the equally poor quality of the teachers and the inadequacy of their training, where they had received any at all. In this situation the only solution the Commissioners could advocate, and that an impossible and psychologically reprehensible solution, was to 'convey the principles of knowledge through the only medium in which the child can apprehend them (Welsh), yet to leave them impressed upon his mind in other terms and under other forms; how to employ the old tongue as a scaffolding and yet to leave, if possible, no trace of it on the finished building, but to have it, if not lost, at least stowed away'. (2)

In spite of many factors that continued to operate against the use of the Welsh language, there can be no doubt that from a strictly educational, as opposed to an administrative standpoint, the argument for using the Welsh language in the schools was proved. From this point onwards the case for using Welsh and for improving the teaching of English appear to go hand in hand. The advocates of the Welsh language, and particularly those leaders of the movement who gave evidence before the Cross Commission, maintained that one of their main reasons for supporting the introduction of Welsh was to facilitate the learning of English. 'Wherever any scheme is proposed (for the introduction of Welsh) it should be so arranged as to make Welsh a help to the acquisition of English; to give help where it is most needed, that is in the lower classes ... and to be when applied to the higher classes a material aid to acquiring a practical and intelligent knowledge of English, and when necessary of other languages.' (3) As a result of the advocacy of Dr. Isambard Owen and Professor Henry Jones, and of the deliberations of the Cross Commission, a recommendation was made that schools in Wales should be allowed, at the discretion of the managers, to teach the reading and writing of the vernacular concurrently with that of English. They should be allowed to take up Welsh as a specific subject recognized in the Code; to adopt an optional scheme for English as a class subject suitable to the special needs of the Welsh districts, such a scheme being founded on the system of translation from Welsh to English graduated for the

(1) Ibid., p. 34.

(2) Ibid., Vol. I, p, 31.

(3) Address to the Cymmrodorian Society by B. G. Evans, Cymmrodorian Transactions, p. 74, 1885.

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existing requirements in English grammar. They should be allowed to teach Welsh along with English as a class subject and to include Welsh among the languages in which the Queen's scholarships and certificates of merit might be examined.

The first mention of Welsh in the Codes referred to by the Commission occurs in the Consolidation of Minutes and Regulations now in force of the Committee of the Privy Council published in 1858 and refers to the Minutes of l846-7 - 'A paper on Welsh and a paper on Gaelic are presented to such teachers as desire to work them with a view to service in Welsh or Highland schools'. In 1861, however, the Revised Code introduced Robert Lowe's system of 'payment by results', and every mention of Welsh was removed. Nor was the teaching of English in the same schools improved by the change. Matthew Arnold explained to the Cross Commission that, while he thought that great pressure should be brought upon the children of Wales to learn English, the new system 'tells hardly in Wales', and that the teachers were probably justified in complaining that 'having to pass in reading at the same standard and by the same method of examination as the English schools, they are compelled to make their teaching mechanical in order to get the pass on which the grant depends'.

In 1875 the Code was further revised to state that: 'In districts where Welsh is spoken the intelligence of the children may be tested by requiring them to explain in Welsh the meaning of passages read'. Some concessions were also made in the Instruction to H.M. Inspectors for 1882, especially those governing dictation exercises in English. In 1890 a further advance is noted, for in addition to the concessions that had been made already it is stated that 'bilingual books may be used for the purpose of instructing the scholars'. With this a great step was taken in the introduction of Welsh as a subject to be taught in the schools, and in recognizing officially the need for a modified approach in the teaching of English in Wales.

In 1891 Welsh was introduced into the curriculum of the schools as an 'optional subject taken by individual children in the upper classes'. In 1892 a graduated scheme for teaching Welsh as a 'specific subject' was included in the Codes. It provided for three stages, at each of which there were three types of work - formal grammar according to the most rigid formulation, translation from English to Welsh and from Welsh to English, and a piece of dictation from a prepared book in Welsh. In addition, the learning of Welsh verse was introduced at the second stage, and at the third stage 'a short theme or letter in Welsh on a familiar subject'. In 1893 Welsh, in addition to remaining a possible 'specific' subject, was placed in the group of 'class subjects' - optional this time, however, not

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for individual pupils in the top classes only, but for whole classes throughout the school. At the same time a modification was introduced into the Code in respect of English as a 'class subject' - namely 'English taught bilingually'. According to this scheme Standard I was required 'to give English names for Welsh names of common objects'. A list of 40 names and ten common adjectives was prepared by H.M. Inspector, who asked for a translation. The list was increased each year. In Standards V, VI and VII a modified scheme of parsing and analysis was set. There were three additional concessions. Instruction 'might be generally bilingual', and for composition in English might be substituted translation into English. The second concession had reference to the work in English expected of pupil teachers, and the third emphasized the need to 'encourage the practice of bilingual teaching by the Inspectors themselves making use of Welsh in testing children's intelligence'.

General Influences

Meanwhile, opinion outside the field of education was becoming more enlightened, especially after the setting up of a separate Welsh Department of the Board of Education and the consequent increased independence of Wales in formulating its own language policy. However, the position of the Welsh language in the country generally did not improve. It was the realization of this, among other considerations, that brought into being in 1925 the Departmental Committee on Welsh in the Educational System of Wales. The publicity given to its public sessions and its subsequent report (1) exercised a considerable influence upon local education authorities, the schools, and upon public opinion generally.

Following this publication, the Welsh Department in various ways, and particularly through its series of pamphlets upon the teaching of English and Welsh, endeavoured to guide progress in this field. The need to relate the teaching of Welsh and English to the rest of the curriculum of the school, and in turn the curriculum to the wider community which the school serves, impelled the Welsh Department to publish in 1952 The Curriculum and the Community in Wales (2). This publication has served to crystallize opinion where it was amorphous and to arouse an interest in the possibility of a fresh approach where there may have been an over-ready and unquestioning acceptance of a traditional standpoint. Moreover, the Welsh Department, following the publication

(1) Welsh in Education and Life. Report of the Departmental Committee on Welsh in the Educational System of Wales. 1927.

(2) Ministry of Education, Welsh Department. Pamphlet No. 6. H.M.S.O.

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of the third Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (Wales), issued Circular 15 to local education authorities and educational institutions in Wales, drawing their attention to the Report and asking them to consider its implications in the fullest possible way, as well as to draw up a policy programme for the teaching of the two languages for the next ten years.

This Report of the Central Advisory Council (1) - The Place of Welsh and English in the Schools of Wales - is the latest publication of note. One of its most important features is the light cast upon some psychological considerations raised by the problem of teaching two languages simultaneously to young children, and the effort to resolve difficulties in the minds of parents and to dispel ignorance and prejudice. Moreover, by presenting a picture of the actual position of the two languages in the schools, the report has served to bring into the forefront of attention the unequal struggle at present being waged in the schools between Welsh and English.

The inequality of this struggle is very largely due to the operation of several factors which have made still more precarious the place of the Welsh language in the schools and in the life of Wales generally. Apart from the general movement towards uniformity within the English-speaking world as a whole, on account of the popularity of the cinema, the radio, and the enormous spate of periodical literature for all ages of men and women, several events more or less peculiar to Wales have served to accelerate the change. A considerable proportion of the population of those parts of Wales where Welsh is still the living language of the majority of the inhabitants have migrated to the towns or into England. At the same time, increased transport, as well as the dispersal of light industries and the afforestation of rural areas, have brought into these same Welsh-speaking districts an increasing number of monoglot English visitors and inhabitants. In addition to these factors the evacuation of school children and others from England during the last war had the effect of upsetting permanently the balance of the two languages in those areas where the equilibrium was already threatened. Nor is it possible to ignore the influence of those secondary schools where the use of Welsh as a medium of instruction has been largely if not almost entirely ignored, and where the teaching of the language has not been accorded the attention that might reasonably have been expected. However, these influences are probably less serious than they might have been, and it is possible to record more favourable developments such as broadcasts to schools in Welsh, and about Wales, in both languages.

(1) H.M.S.O. Full Report 12s. 6d. Summary Report 3s. 0d.

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The Position Now

In view of the chequered history of the relations of the two languages, and because of the many influences of a social and economic character that have affected the status of the two languages, especially outside the schools, it is not surprising that the linguistic pattern is exceedingly complex, not only in Wales as a whole but very often in limited areas, especially on the outskirts of large or growing towns. It is estimated that the percentage of pupils between the ages of five and fifteen who are Welsh-speaking varies from 83 per cent in Merioneth, 79 per cent in Anglesey and 76 per cent in Cardiganshire to seven per cent in Glamorgan and four per cent in Swansea; in Monmouthshire and Radnorshire the Welsh language has virtually ceased to be spoken. Even in the characteristically Welsh-speaking areas of Carmarthenshire a considerable drop in the number of Welsh-speaking pupils can be noted in some of the schools. In one such school the proportion of Welsh-speaking pupils was 68 per cent in 1935, whereas in 1950 it was no more than 32 per cent.

This is reflected, of course, not only in the schools but in the homes, and in the difficulty children have in maintaining Welsh as their first language as they grow older. Thus in homes where both parents speak Welsh, Welsh is the first language for 75 per cent of the children at the age of six, while at the age of fifteen it is so for only 67 per cent. The same drift away from the Welsh language as the mother tongue is found in homes where only one of the parents speaks the language. Moreover, it is found in areas where the supporting environment is predominantly English that pupils whose first language is Welsh learn English far more easily than English-speaking children learn Welsh. It is estimated that 21 per cent of the children whose first language is Welsh also know English at the age of six, but at the age of twelve 82 per cent of them are thoroughly bilingual. Of the children from English-speaking homes, only one per cent are able to speak Welsh at an early age and very little more than four per cent at the age of twelve. While the proportion of monoglot children may vary considerably in various parts of Wales, Welsh-speaking children, wherever they are, find little difficulty in becoming proficient in both languages before they enter a secondary school. The learning of the second language does not come so easily to the English-speaking child where the linguistic background does not favour his attempt. Consequently, by far the most difficult problem facing the schools is to teach Welsh as a second language and to overcome the prejudice which has attended this problem in the past.

In view of the great complexity of the linguistic pattern and the

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varying attitudes of parents to the problem, local education authorities, with whom lies the main responsibility for formulating an appropriate language policy, vary considerably in their attitude. Authorities in areas where very little, if any, Welsh is spoken make provision for teaching only English at the primary stage. Some authorities allow those children who express a desire for it to be taught Welsh, and others provide Welsh for every pupil except those who ask explicitly to be allowed to withdraw from the Welsh lessons. A fourth policy aims at making the learning of Welsh and English, as first or second languages, parallel and equally important features of the school programme of every child. Sometimes the subjects that must be taught in the mother tongue, whether English or Welsh, at the early stages, are listed; in both English and Welsh a minimum standard of attainment, as first or second languages in each case, may be required of all pupils who enter a grammar school. Sometimes a minimum amount of time each week is stipulated during which every child must be taught Welsh, and an authority may make it obligatory for each school to have upon its staff a named proportion of Welsh-speaking teachers. (1)

Generally speaking, therefore, the tendency has been for some time to provide a thorough grounding for each pupil in his mother tongue, whether Welsh or English, and to use that as the medium of instruction in the early stages. As things stand it is far easier to do this where English is the mother tongue, and far easier, too, to teach English as a second language when the time comes for it to be introduced into the programme of the school. Apart from forces outside the school that support the use of English there is a lack of suitably trained teachers of Welsh, and of teachers who can teach in Welsh, as well as a deficiency of books in Welsh suitable for pupils of post-primary age. In the main the second language is introduced into the time-table somewhere about the time when pupils move into the junior school. In some cases, however, an introduction is made in the infant school, although, where this occurs, it is generally English that is introduced.

On account of the linguistic complexity in even very small areas, schools have sometimes to make separate provision for their English-speaking and their Welsh-speaking groups. Where the schools are small the problem is almost insurmountable, but the results, when the difficulties have been resolved, more than compensate for the effort and the ingenuity necessary to enable the two groups to be taught in their mother tongue. Sometimes, especially

(1) Reference should be made to the good work which has been and is being accomplished by the language organizers who have been appointed by some of the local education authorities.

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in those areas where Welsh-speaking children of primary school age constitute only a very small minority and where, in consequence, it is impossible to meet their needs in the several schools among which they may be distributed, 'Welsh schools' have been set up to which all the Welsh-speaking children who wish to may be transferred. In these 'Welsh schools' the pupils are taught English as a second language, while the other work is conducted in Welsh. Thus, not only do these schools provide a more satisfactory education for the Welsh-speaking child in the thoroughly anglicized areas, but they simplify the linguistic problem of the other schools.

If anything, the picture is still more varied in the secondary schools, although, to the extent that almost every Welsh-speaking child is bilingual at this stage, the situation is simplified. Where Welsh is taught to any significant proportion of the pupils of the junior schools in any area, it is generally taught in the secondary modern schools to all but the slower pupils for the full extent of the period eleven to fifteen years. In the grammar schools, however, the situation is different. A fair number of the grammar schools teach Welsh to all pupils, but for periods varying from one year to five. When the language ceases to be a compulsory subject it is usually offered as a possible choice, either as a simple alternative to another language - usually French or Latin - or, with another language, from a group of three or four languages. Where it is not an alternative to another language it may be taken in preference to one branch of science or craft. In a number of schools, usually those serving the almost completely anglicized areas, Welsh is not in the curriculum at all. No secondary school teaches entirely through the medium of Welsh, although some schools do so in varying degrees and more especially in the early forms. The subjects most commonly taught in Welsh are religious instruction, Welsh history, geography and music. There are no schools, junior or secondary, where English is not taught to all pupils at all stages, and in the vast majority, English is the main and, more often than not, the exclusive medium.


Much that is said about the teaching of English in other chapters is relevant to the teaching of English in Wales and need not be repeated here. Nevertheless, because of the linguistic differences that occur between various parts of Wales, and because of the special problem of teaching English as a second language, some considerations have to be emphasized. There are parts of Wales where no language but English has been spoken for many years and where

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the mother tongue of the children is quite obviously English. Other parts have only recently changed their allegiance and there are still many vestiges of the Welsh language to be observed in the speech of the inhabitants. Some areas are even now undergoing a process of anglicization which, for reasons already indicated, may have begun only a few years ago. Finally, there are areas where the approaching tide of English is only faintly discerned and where the Welsh language survives in much of its ancient glory. In the two intermediate types of area many of the parents of children still at school were at one time, even if they are not now, Welsh-speaking, and much of the speech the children hear is Welsh in its syntactical framework and intonation, if not in vocabulary. The approach to the teaching of English varies considerably from one type of area to another. Where the language is well established the approach may be only very slightly different from what is common practice in similar schools in England. There is, however, one matter which requires attention even in these areas. Some of the language material upon which the teacher draws to develop the child's experience derives from English sources, but more should be drawn from Welsh sources. The folk stories and fairy tales of Wales, the stories of Welsh history and travel, provide a rich and exciting store. Collections of these are easily available to the teacher and their contents can be adapted to the requirements of children of varying ages.

Where the process of anglicization is now going on, other problems arise. Accent and intonation, and indeed the whole framework of the language and its grammar, need close and constant attention if the worst type of provincialism is to be avoided. In a very real sense Wales is part of the English-speaking world, or so near to the main source as to make any attempt at a distinction futile. Consequently, Wales cannot be satisfied with any standard of spoken or written English which is not acceptable in England. At the same time Welsh is a language as proud of its lineage as any other. It is not a dialect of the English tongue, and the Welshman who speaks English will almost of necessity speak the English of a Welshman unless he is false to his origins. Nevertheless, his respect for the English language will guarantee as close an approximation as possible to the very broad belt of acceptable English. If the Welsh child is to speak the language well, and write it correctly and with a certain grace, he must accustom himself to hear good English spoken well, by a great variety of people, on the radio and elsewhere, and not least by his teachers.

The teaching of English as a second language in the Welsh areas, like the teaching of the mother tongue, whether English or Welsh, should be regarded as a continuous process from its introduction

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in the junior school to the day the child leaves school at fifteen years or later. Of course, the function of the primary school is not simply to prepare for the work of the secondary school, and work in the second language at the primary stage must have its own right of existence and carry its own delight and significance. But, at the same time, it should be realized that the aims at the primary stage are severely limited and much that might be of value will fail unless the course looks forward to its consummation in the secondary school. The function of the primary school is to provide that secure oral foundation on which the reading and writing of English must rest. Without attempting to legislate rigidly, it is probably true to say that the most appropriate work of the primary school is to develop lively and correctly spoken English. The skills of reading and writing will be acquired with great facility once the child is able to speak English clearly and fairly idiomatically.

Teachers should make themselves acquainted with the specialist requirements of teaching a second language in Wales, and with such aspects of the problem as vocabulary selection and the preparation of suitable language material within such vocabularies. They are, indeed, often aware of material prepared for teaching English abroad, material which, admirable though it may be for its specific purpose, cannot be recommended without reserve for use in the junior schools of Wales. Speech training, too, calls for attention. It offers much that is useful and attractive when introduced and handled with caution. Unfortunately the material which has been prepared for such work in English very often aims to correct weaknesses to which the Welsh-speaking child is not prone, and it does not touch upon others to which he requires to pay particular attention.

If it is true that the work of the junior school is justifiably and inevitably limited in scope and intention, it is equally important that the secondary schools should be aware of these limitations and of the nature and extent of what remains to be done. For example, while nearly every Welsh-speaking child has a good grasp of the English language when he enters the secondary school, it is wrong to assume that his command of it is such that other subjects, many of them new and strange, may be taught in his second language. Moreover, the scheme of work in English, as well as the material used, need very careful consideration. Not everything that should find its place in the teaching of English in England will be found equally suitable, at the same stage of general development, for Welsh-speaking pupils. While many of the arguments against the use of specially prepared texts may be incontrovertible from the standpoint of English schools they are not so unanswerable when

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applied to the teaching of English as a second language, at the early stages.

The aim is to provide the Welsh-speaking child with a key to open all the doors of the treasure house of English literature and to enable him to enjoy what is best in English culture. Books, films and film strips dealing with the civilization of the English-speaking world, and of England especially, should find a place in the libraries of the secondary schools and help to make even easier the learning of the English language. For this, too, English broadcasts of the schools service of the B.B.C. will be found to lend themselves delightfully to oral work at the secondary stage and to provide suitable occasions for written work.

To ensure the utmost reward from learning and using English, whether as a first or second language, the child should meet with a great variety of situations where his experience is enriched and his curiosity aroused. These experiences can be provided, among other ways, in story, poetry and drama. To his reaction to these forms of language he can be encouraged to give a lively and individual expression. Nor does this imply that there is no room for the well arranged 'lesson' aimed at specific points of language. These will be found necessary and the teacher is well advised to plan his work and to formulate very carefully his lines of approach. The art and skill of preparation conceals very effectively the necessarily formal sub-structure of the work in class.


As the Mother Tongue

If the relation between the culture of Wales and the Welsh language is as close as it is generally said to be, it is part of the function of the schools to give to each child the opportunity to learn the language and to use it. Naturally, in view of the varying linguistic pattern throughout the country, methods and approach, as well as the degree of mastery attained by the pupils, will vary considerably. But the end of enabling each child to attain as high a degree of mastery as possible should be the same everywhere. Moreover, the education of every child whose mother tongue is Welsh should be conducted, at all stages, to the greatest extent possible in Welsh.

Where Welsh is the mother tongue of the pupils, the Welsh teacher's task will be similar to that of the teacher of the mother tongue everywhere, for the importance of the mother tongue, in the primary schools particularly, 'is absolute and unchangeable. It is not so much a subject as the body and vital principle of all

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school activity.' This being so, it follows that the teacher's task, through the agency of Welsh, is to stimulate interest, to guide the enquiring mind and to provide suitable means of satisfying curiosity. The world around him will be his field of exploration; his development into an articulate person will be in terms of his knowledge of that environment. Contact with the people of his neighbourhood and knowledge of their day-to-day occupations will enrich his own life, and not only add to his store of language but sharpen and refine his use of it. The rich treasure of Welsh song, legend, folk tale and poetry are there at his bidding.

If the pupil's life in school is regarded 'in terms of activity and experience rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored', or if the dead bones of inert knowledge are vitalized by being related to what is closest and most essential to his development - his own environment - there should be little difficulty in encouraging the child to speak naturally, vividly and in idiomatic Welsh. If his speech is kept closely related to good standards of spoken Welsh by the teacher, over the radio, and outside school in the various activities of the Welsh locality, there is no doubt that the child's 'inner ear' will provide him with a linguistic conscience sufficiently strong to ensure clarity of utterance and correctness of speech. This is even more important in the unstable linguistic areas where the tendency to a debased and enervated Welsh is a constant menace. Careful choice of material will store the child's memory with what is most precious and useful in the Welsh language, and will familiarize him with good speech. But it will also justify his maintaining his hold upon the language by handing down to him his living heritage.

For this purpose much more reading material suitable for children of various ages, and especially for those in secondary schools, is required. Nevertheless, it may be that better use could be made of what exists already. Too frequently the Welsh-speaking child in the secondary school is kept to one text, the reading of which becomes an arid exercise in dissection rather than the wide-ranging pleasurable activity it should be. Far too often the reading of Welsh literature is made to subserve the demands of a formal linguistic study. Nor is this something that affects the secondary school alone. The primary school, too, can provide even from the present store of Welsh publications a sufficient variety of reading material to enable the child to read variously and extensively. Book corners, a display of the good material that is already available, and an imaginative approach to the development of the Welsh section of class and school libraries will create the demand for more, and the demand will, in turn, encourage the supply of suitable books.

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Because of the tradition of vivid and lively speaking in Wales it is sometimes assumed that children who come from Welsh homes do not require careful training in speech at school. On the contrary, clear and graceful speech should be encouraged and demanded at every stage, and nowhere more than in the secondary school. The practice of oral repetition of verse, in the free and in the traditional strict metres, dramatic work, and the reading of prose, as well as the more varied and informal types of oral activity, have a great deal to offer the enterprising teacher. In the secondary modern school, especially those in the linguistically mixed areas, this form of approach should receive every encouragement, since it provides the only possibility of fresh and interesting work in the classroom, and a secure foundation for the reading and writing of Welsh. Furthermore, if the secondary school is to derive the utmost advantage from the work of the primary school, there should be the closest understanding between them. On account of the infinite variety of linguistic patterns within an area, the contributary schools of any one secondary school may vary considerably, and the attainment of the children may vary from a secure control of Welsh as the mother tongue to a very uncertain acquaintance with its rudiments as a second language.

If the language has been used as the basis of the education of the Welsh-speaking child, and if the general linguistic environment of the child in school has been selected with care and imagination, the writing of Welsh should be rich and idiomatic. There is the further need that it should be accurate, and for this purpose, as well as for its own sake, a firm grasp of the structure of the language, and its grammar, will be of immense importance, especially in the secondary grammar school. But the study of grammar can do only a little to encourage good writing. The most it can do with children of school age is to enable the best of them to be aware of what the language is capable, to refine their appreciation of delicate nuances and shades of expression, and to avoid the grossest errors. Correctness should subserve the demands of individual expression, and individual expression should not be incompatible with the highest discipline of letters and scholarship in the upper forms of the grammar schools.

As a Second Language

If Welsh is to take its rightful place in the life of the English-speaking child in Wales it should be brought as fully as possible into the pattern of school studies. In this way alone can the teaching of the second language be safeguarded from becoming the spiritless exercise it sometimes is. A living language is an activity and it is the

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wealth of experience connected with this activity, and the world of knowledge and life to which it provides an entry, that give significance to the language as it is learned. Because Welsh has to be learned by the English-speaking boy or girl in the classroom, with very little support (in the most densely populated areas) from the home and its related social activities, an air of the academic and the artificial sometimes hangs above it, unless the teacher is able to inspire the pupils with his own enthusiasm for the language, with his love of its poetry and legend, and with his knowledge of the institutions of Wales and its ways of life.

The teaching of Welsh as a second language can be related to the normal experience of the child and to his immediate social requirements. It should derive its significance and importance from the opportunity it provides for an expansion and extension of the child's interest within the whole community of Wales.

But however successful the teacher may be in this, he may find that circumstances compel him to be cautious in his arrangement and selection of the material he is prepared to place before his English-speaking pupils. The elements of the language, its syntax and vocabulary, have to be graded carefully and systematically. It is only in this way that rivalry and resulting confusion with the pattern and sounds of English can be avoided, as well as confusion between the syntactic forms of Welsh itself. Moreover, another difficulty lies in the fact that the pupils who are learning Welsh are certain to be more mature in their range of general interest than they are in their knowledge and command of Welsh, and this disparity may be anything up to five or six years. It is clear, therefore, that much care has to be exercised in relating the language content to the range of interest embodied in the material used.

The main aim should be to enable the pupil to understand Welsh, written or spoken, and to speak it himself, and, as far as possible, to write it. If these purposes are achieved he will be able to take part in the great variety of Welsh cultural activity, and enjoy the literature of the past and present. On this basis free oral expression can be encouraged with every hope of success. It is here that the example of the teacher is so important. 'All language be gotten and gotten onlie by imitation. For as ye use to hear, so ye learne to speake and whom ye onlie heare, of them ye onlie learne.' And in very many areas the teacher is one of the few whom the children hear speaking Welsh. Upon him, therefore, lies a great responsibility to maintain good standards of spoken Welsh. He has, it is true, various aids; the gramophone and the radio can help to acquaint the children with a variety of voices speaking Welsh well, and they can enlarge his store of material, in song, and story, in description

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of travel in various parts of Wales, and in familiarizing the children of one part of Wales with the pattern of life in another, as diverse, perhaps, from their own as the docks of Cardiff and Swansea from the small market towns of the Welsh countryside. Nor does the teacher at any stage under-estimate the æsthetic appeal of speech and song: the folk music and penillion telyn, the traditional jingles, and the lullabies and hymns.

As much care is required in selecting and grading the reading material of the English-speaking child as in any other aspect of learning Welsh. Sound reading practice, especially in the early stages, depends upon sound oral preparation: it is a waste of time, and indeed it may lay obstacles in the way of acquiring the language at all, to be faced in print with forms of Welsh the existence of which the child had never suspected from his experience of listening to the language. The good teacher ensures that the language content of the child's reading is closely related to his acquaintance with spoken Welsh. Reading is not a mechanical skill but an attempt at understanding and an extension of experience. This implies that reading must be accompanied from the beginning by comprehension. For this reason the reading material should be lively and interesting, appropriate to the level of the child's experience, and suitably graded from the standpoint of language.

At all times, whether in speech, reading or writing, opportunity will come of making use of all the Welsh material met with in the remainder of the school's activities, and this is true of every stage of school life. As the child's grasp of the language becomes firmer, material based on traditional story may be exploited. Use can be made of words and phrases learned in other lessons, in the singing lesson, in the morning assembly, in history, and in geography, where the romance of place names can be an unexampled delight. Group recitation and drama offer a great deal, and not least in the creation of an appropriate atmosphere. It is true that in some schools the teacher of Welsh will be able to create in one special room a repository of much that is evocative of the best traditions and most exciting activities. Outside the classroom, too, there are means of making the learning of Welsh by the English-speaking child an interesting activity. The Eisteddfod, the dancing of Welsh folk dances, the meetings of the Welsh League of Youth, and the Sunday school are still rich in promise.

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French in France


IT is commonly believed - by English people - that in the teaching of the mother tongue 'they order these things better in France'. It would be difficult to substantiate this belief by more than random and subjective evidence. Nevertheless, the belief persists. It is not that English people think there are no illiterates in France, or that illiteracy, strictly defined, is less frequent there than here. It is not that English visitors to France do not meet and recognize local variations and debased forms of French spoken by French people. It is not that, with mock modesty, we affect to prefer French culture to English culture, or believe that the best educated French people speak or write any better than the best educated English people. But the belief persists that among the French generally the national language is spoken and written with greater ease, clarity and elegance than it is in England and that the French are less divided socially than are the English by linguistic differences due, not to geography, but to other causes. What the French themselves think of this flattering comparison is not to be revealed. They do not, however, disguise, from time to time, their far from flattering, and possibly just, view of the indifferent use of English by very many English people. They are certainly not complacent about the powers of their own children and young people, or the skill of their own teachers. They would, no doubt, find much to envy and admire in other aspects of English education, in our literature and even in our teaching of literature. But, comparisons apart, they have evident grounds for pride and pleasure in the national use of the French language and we are bound to look with interest and respect on the methods by which their standards have been achieved and maintained. In making comparisons the English reader will remember that the vocabulary of the French language is smaller than that of English, and French prose more regular and uniform than ours.

In 1921 the Newbolt Committee added to their report on The Teaching of English in England a 'Note on the Teaching of the Mother Tongue in France'. In this (Appendix II) they speak of 'the successful struggle made by the national language and literature of France for recognition in the French system of education'. They continue:

'It is too often assumed that the French boy starts with an initial advantage of a natural gift of expression impossible to the English boy with his more reserved temperament. That there do exist tem-

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peramental differences cannot be disputed, but it is not always realized that the present conception in France of the rightful position of the native language is a development of comparatively recent growth. If complaint has been made of the lack of recognition given to English in our own educational system, we must remember that a precisely similar complaint was made in France prior to 1870. The period of unrest in secondary education, due to the clash between the old tradition and the new, was felt in France as in England. In France, it is true, the political and social events of the last century precipitated the break between the old Classical tradition of the education of a cultured elite, and the new conception of a democratic education as a preparation for life. But in all essentials the contending forces have been the same. The impulse to the new spirit in France was given by the Revolution, but it was not until 1880, under the direction of Jules Ferry, that the mother tongue actually became the basis of the Secondary School scheme. Even after this, the struggle between the modern side and the classical side continued, until the modern side emerged in 1902 on equal terms with the classical.'
'To-day,' says the Note, 'the break is fairly complete' and the author goes on to illustrate the practical effect of this break on the school curriculum. He continues: 'France can show us how in a generation she has built her educational structure on the recognition of the mother tongue as an indispensable instrument of national culture, and the only possible basis of a national democratic system. For this reason there is everything to gain from a close examination of the methods adopted by France in her application of this principle.'

The French System of Centralized Control

The Newbolt Committee's examination of French methods, being based on evidence that is now over thirty years old, need not be pursued. In its place it may be useful to examine the system of control, the teaching methods, the aims and the temper by which the teaching of French is guided at the present time. These matters are examined separately for elementary and secondary schools respectively. But certain elements of policy are common to both and these will be mentioned first.

The three main written instruments of central policy in French curriculum control are the horaires, the programmes and the instructions (time allotment, schemes of work and 'suggestions', as we should call them), and all are laid down by the Ministry of Education for all schools within the state system of education. So far as the teaching of French is concerned, the horaires are set out in an appendix to this pamphlet. It will be seen that the time given to various aspects of language and literature, from the infant

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stage to the last year (1) in the lycée or collège (where it is linked with philosophy) is extremely generous by comparison with that allotted to English in England.

It is the instructions relating to primary schools (in the French sense of the term) which form the basis of the next part of this chapter. Instructions, which contain statements of aim and suggestions about methods, are issued from time to time with major revisions of horaires and programmes. The last instructions bearing on primary schools were issued in December 1945, together with new horaires and programmes. The aim of the changes, as stated in the instructions, was two-fold. First, to bring French teaching back to its former simplicity and to its former efficiency in giving children command of the basic skills. Second, to base the teaching more firmly on facts and on personal observation.

The effect of the new horaires was to reduce the amount of time spent on history, geography and object-lessons (leçons de choses) in favour of reading, writing, French language and arithmetic. The detailed subjects dealt with in the new instructions were object-lessons, geography, history and arithmetic. For all other subjects the instructions of 1938 are still in force, together with the earlier instructions of 1923 where these have not been explicitly superseded. For the teaching of French, therefore (including reading and handwriting) the instructions of 1938 and, to a less extent, those of 1923 are still valid, and it is on these that the following paragraphs are based.



In France the term 'primary schools' is still synonymous, as it was here before 1945, with 'elementary schools'. These schools retain their pupils to the end of compulsory school attendance, and the term is therefore translated in the present context as 'elementary schools', which gives English readers a more accurate connotation than would be gained from using the word 'primary'. The elementary school course of eight years, starting at the age of six, is broken up into four stages, each with its special professional name. To save confusion, however, the use of these names is avoided in the

(1) That is, the last year except for those who, having completed the course for the baccalauréat, stay on either in order to prepare for the competitive examinations of entry to the so-called grandes écoles (specialized collèges of university rank) or because they elect to spend at school the preparatory year (année propédeutique) which all students must spend, in school or at the university, before they embark on a full university course.

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passages which follow, each stage being represented instead by an indication of the ages of the children concerned.

The French do not, in their suggestions to teachers, make the broad differentiation between 'language' and 'literature' made by ourselves; nor are the various sub-divisions used in French to classify the different aspects of language or literature identical with ours. The categories used in the instructions correspond to reading, handwriting, and language study (learning by heart and repetition, vocabulary, grammar and spelling, and composition, oral and written). These categories are followed without change in the following extracts and comments.


The instructions of 1923 stressed the importance of reading. A child could learn nothing if he was unable to read, and he would have no enjoyment in learning if he could not read easily. Pending the outcome of experiments being made, no particular method was laid down for teaching the child to read: the essential was that he should enjoy the difficult task of associating sounds and symbols that had no apparent connection with each other. After three years a pupil should have mastered the mechanics of reading: he could then be expected to show, by reading with expression, that he understood what he was reading.

The instructions of 1938 admit sadly that those of 1923 had been over-optimistic in some respects. Experience had shown that in many schools the average pupil was unable to read fluently even at the age of ten. Until children are able to read without stumbling over words and syllables, reading cannot be used effectively for the study of language. Practice in reading, therefore, will have to be continued, if necessary throughout the pupils' school life. Nevertheless, from the age of nine, and especially from the age of eleven, reading provides the best material for the study of language, especially the written language. Such study cannot, in the elementary school, take the form of explication de texte. (1) Such comment as it is necessary to make will be confined to the actual reading. The teacher will read the text first, perhaps drawing the attention of the children to inflexions of the voice, to pauses and stresses which serve to bring out the shades of meaning and feeling. But, as a rule, comment of this sort will be restricted to one or two sentences, at the most to a short paragraph. Then the children will read distinctly, correctly, simply, naturally. Expressive reading of this kind will be an excellent lesson in the French language, sufficient for pupils from the age of

(1) The explication de texte, as a method of language study. is dealt with in the section of this chapter referring to lycées and collèges.

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eleven. But it will be sufficient only if the text is well chosen, marked by the union of form with thought or feeling which characterizes good writing: Sometimes a few remarks on grammar and vocabulary may be essential: they will come best after the reading. Often a text that has been read will serve admirably for a lesson on grammar or vocabulary. But such a lesson should stand apart: never should exercises in vocabulary or grammar be grafted unseasonably on a reading lesson (jamais un exercice de vocabulaire ou un exercice de grammaire ne doit se greffer intempestivement sur la lecture).

In 1938 the programme for the first year of the course envisaged the reproduction of texts read aloud or silently. According to the instructions, most pupils reproduce narrative texts with more enjoyment and facility than descriptive texts. But, here again, what matters is that they should be asked to reproduce only texts of the first quality, in which the sequence of words and phrases is related to the movement of the thought and feeling. If this condition is fulfilled, the reproduction will not be merely, or even primarily, a test of memory.

The value of silent reading (1) is stressed as an indispensable preliminary to good reading aloud.

As regards the choice of material, it is true that the main concern of teachers must be with the French language as spoken and written at the present time. It is not necessary, however, say the instructions, for that reason to avoid well-known passages merely because they are over-familiar to the teacher: they are still new and fresh to the pupils. Nor is it necessary or desirable to exclude passages from nineteenth- or even eighteenth-century books. The first criterion is quality and the capacity to form both the mind and the taste. Within this definition, it should be possible to find some place for works of professional or vocational interest and for books dealing with the realities of life, both urban and rural.

The section closes with a warning against 'literary history'. Comments on authors, whether historical, biographical or critical, should never precede the reading and understanding of the text. They should follow it and they should be limited to matters directly raised during the reading or as a consequence of it. 'C'est ici surtout qu'il faut éviter le psittacisme' (parrot-work). ... 'Bref, le texte lu et le commentaire sur I'auteur ne doivent faire qu'un.'


The instructions of 1938 add little to the detailed advice given on styles of handwriting in 1923. Emphasis is still laid on the importance

(1) The 1945 programmes prescribed silent reading (to be followed by oral summaries) for pupils aged nine years and upwards.

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of clear and comely handwriting and on the need to develop this, incidentally, in all written composition, but, if need be, through specific exercises. No particular form of handwriting is prescribed.

Language Study (General)

Both the 1923 and the 1938 instructions offer certain general reflections, only too familiar to teachers of English in England. A multiplicity of methods, say the 1923 suggestions, has not yet solved the difficult problems raised by this central subject of the curriculum; there is still need for improvement, and this improvement can come only from a parallel or prior improvement in ability to read. But the other aspects of French also need a livelier approach. Too often the teacher starts, not only from nothing, but from worse than nothing, in the pupils' native attainments. 'Leur vocabulaire est pauvre et if appartient plus souvent à l'argot du quartier, au patois du village, au dialecte de la province qu'à la langue de Racine ou de Voltaire.' From these meagre natural attainments, it is the teacher's duty to encourage the expression of thoughts and feelings in correct language, both oral and written, to enrich the vocabulary so that the exact word is chosen and distinctly uttered, and so, step by step, to achieve the just and logical expression of thought. This, the teachers are told, is not only to struggle for the care and improvement of a fine language - 'c'est fortifier l'unité nationale'.

The 1938 instructions distinguish between the practical and the cultural aims of the study of French and unhesitatingly attach to the former the greater importance in the elementary schools. First comes correct practice, to be accomplished, if necessary, by repetition and drill. Only after correct practice is assured, with almost mechanical accuracy, is it possible to reflect with profit on the analytical or historical aspects of language. 'Elles (la réflexion et l'éruditions peuvent gêner l'application des habitudes et des réflexes.'

It is important for English readers to realize that, though the French insist, with almost brutal emphasis, on the accomplishment of useful and practical ends by what they themselves term the means of 'mécanisme', the exercises are based on the finest passages of French prose, and are pursued with a thorough and discriminating regard for literary values. If the training is limited in aim and scope, it is of very high quality in execution. And it is afforded the highest priority - 'L'enseignment pratique de la langue française est necessaire tout au long de la scolarité'.

Language: Memorization and Repetition (Récitation)

The suggestions of 1923 lay great emphasis on the learning by heart of passages of verse and prose of good quality; the spirit and

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wording of this advice is, indeed, reminiscent of many passages in Matthew Arnold's reports. 'L'exercice de récitation est ... l'un des meilleurs moyens d'enseigner aux enfants l'usage correct des mots et des tours de notre langue. Il a, en outre, l' avantage de leur être agreable, si les morceaux sont, par leur nature et leur taille, adaptés à leur âge.' In the first year the passages are to be short and simple pieces of poetry; from seven to nine longer pieces of poetry; from nine to eleven prose as well as poetry. 'A tous les cours, if est recommandé de ne choisir, pour les confier à la memoire des enfants, que les morceaux d'une indiscutable valeur.' The difficulty of selecting passages from classical authors sufficiently within the comprehension of young children is ruefully acknowledged: 'La Fontaine lui-même n'a pas toujours pour leur esprit l' attrait et la portée que nous lui attribuons'.

The 1938 instructions, which accept the doctrine laid down in 1923, deal mainly with the later stages of the elementary school. It is clear that for the French the memorizing and repetition of poetry has a use equal and supplementary to the reading of prose: récitation is indeed their main method of dealing with poetry in the elementary school. Nevertheless, it is recognized that 'un texte en vers doit être préparé avant d'être appris'. This preparation is to consist primarily of a good reading by the teacher followed by the careful coaching of every pupil in the 'correct' rendering of the passage. Difficult words are to be explained, when necessary, after a preliminary reading. It does not matter, say the instructions, if the passage contains words whose exact meaning eludes the pupils, and for that reason teachers who choose passages for the simplicity of their content are mistaken. The right kind of simplicity (and this is why La Fontaine is commended) is simplicity and harmony of style. 'Les fables de La Fontaine ... ne sont pas celles qu'on dit "faciles" par Ie sujet mais celles dont les vers présentent, dans leur succession, un rythme facile à saisir.' The 1938 document goes on to hope that, if the children perceive and assimilate the verbal beauties of a poem and the harmony of its sentiments, no formal commentary will be necessary. Those who wish to search more closely will do so later through the accepted method, la lecture expliquée. This weapon, so skilfully used in the French secondary schools, will play its usual part. 'Elle viendra plus tard mettre au clair les éléments inconscients de leur émotion.'

Language: Vocabulary

In 1923 the teachers were reminded of the usefulness throughout the elementary school of specific exercises in vocabulary: i.e. in the acquisition and understanding of new words, in discriminating between the meanings of similar words and between the different

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shades of meaning of the same word in different contexts. Two general warnings are given. First, it is necessary to exclude uncommon or eccentric words and to concentrate on words and expressions in common currency; etymology should be neither mentioned nor practised in the elementary school. Second, every means should be employed of engaging the children's interest by turning these exercises into a sort of game.

The 1938 instructions recall the distinction, made earlier in this document, between the useful and the cultural aims of the teaching of French. It is once more the useful or practical aim that is stressed in respect of vocabulary. The children ought not to be confused by historical explanations of words that have changed their meanings (e.g. bureau) or of figures of speech that have lost their literal connotations (à la tombée de la nuit). It is current usage that matters most and correct practice that is the first aim of the teaching. 'Le but pratique de l'étude du vocabulaire est d'abord d'enseigner aux élèves Ie sens des mots nouveaux qu'ils Iisent ou en tendent, et de déterminer l'emploi exact de ces mots.' It is through conversation and reading that pupils acquire new words. It is right, therefore, that new words should be studied in a context: indeed, outside a context a precise meaning can rarely be given to abstract words (and most words are abstract to some extent). Nevertheless, the instructions warn the teacher once more not to confuse the reading lesson with the vocabulary exercise. The former must be completed first, if the pupils are to acquire a taste for reading. There is then no harm in selecting certain words and, having examined their meaning in the context, using them to lead to other related words in a separate vocabulary exercise. 'Cette étude de quelques mots dans un texte, et par ce texte, est primordiale, difficile et indispensable.'

The converse exercise is to use words newly studied in fresh sentences. This is represented as a task in which the pupils will need considerable help. They are not to be expected to invent all the elements of the new sentence, but only to place the word in a sentence of which some of the other parts are given. Sometimes, as in practising the use of synonyms, they will do no more than select words to fit into gaps. The salutary condition is made, however, that these exercises should be planned and graded by the teacher in relation to the texts recently read and should not be arbitrarily borrowed or invented as isolated tests. In this way they serve and follow the natural process of reading and thinking, which proceeds not from word to phrase, but vice versa. 'Dans la realité vivante de la parole, une phrase n'est pas une addition de termes indépendants qu'on a assemblés, c'est "une synthèse psychologique", où chaque partie est dèterminèe par la conscience de l'ensemble.' The real utility of vocabulary exercises is thus,

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not merely to increase the child's stock of available words, but to enlarge the range of colloquial patterns which he has readily at command.

The section closes with advice about the very restricted place in the elementary schools of exercises of a quasi-etymological type and, in particular, of exercises dealing with the Latin roots of French words. This is not only because neither teacher nor pupils have learnt Latin, but because genealogical relationships among words have no interest and no value at this stage of education. In the first place, French has many words the origin of which is unknown or doubtful. Secondly, some words come from Greek or German. Thirdly, some others can be traced to Latin only through the mediation of Provençal, Italian and Spanish. Last and most important, most French people, when they use a word, know nothing about its origin, and those who do know never think about it. For all of them the meaning and form of the word alone are present in their minds during the actual use of language, oral or written, in daily life. ... Who notices the Latin root lus in illusion, allusion, collusion?

Language: Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation (Grammaire et Orthographe)

These aspects of language study, which in England tend to be separated, are kept closely associated in France, as, naturally, in an inflected language they are bound to be. The instructions of 1938 give long and detailed guidance which it would not be practicable to summarize here in any detail. It may be sufficient to refer to certain principles and to describe in broad outline the steps by which these aspects of French are pursued throughout the elementary schools.

There is not, on the one hand, in the instructions (either of 1923 or of 1938) any claim for grammar other than its usefulness, indeed its necessity for correct usage. In the elementary schools it is not assigned any value as a mental discipline or as an aid to learning Latin or Greek or foreign languages. It is a tool for accelerating and confirming the progressive mastery of spoken and written French. Nor is it credited at this stage of education with any validity as a body of law; on the contrary, it is represented merely as the simplest possible systematization of correct usage which has changed and will continue to change from time to time. Grammar is, however, emphasized as necessary to offset the debasing influence of ordinary usage and to supplement the occasional and sporadic nature of what is learned from reading and composition (it will be remembered that severe cautions were uttered against using the reading lesson as an 'unseasonable' opportunity for making grammatical points). That grammar in elementary schools should be exalted into a science

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was certainly not the intention of the authors of the instructions, nor, on the other hand, would they have understood, much less condoned, its deliberate neglect as being irrelevant to learning how to read and write. Their prescription for the teaching of grammar is simple, comprehensive and firm. Grammar should be based first on the spoken use of language and second on written use. It should be as simple as possible; provided it is thorough and correct, it need not at any particular stage attempt to be complete. Each rule to be taught, though based on usage and drawn from texts, should be formulated strictly as a rule, and it should be accompanied by an example, from which it should never be separated; other examples may be devised by the pupils only when the model example can be reproduced from memory.

Spelling (which in an inflected language is intimately connected with grammar) is to be treated similarly. Rules and exceptions are to be learned by heart and are to be practised frequently through carefully graded exercises. The usefulness of dictation (dictée) is emphasized. This should usually be prepared, except in the final stages of school life. The passages selected, as with those employed for the teaching of grammar, should be of good quality and ought not to be invented for the purpose of the exercise. Following the dictation a series of questions on the text is useful, but only if the questions are related solely to matters of spelling, grammar and punctuation; they should not in any circumstances concern themselves with other matters, such as meaning, vocabulary and style.

The instructions state categorically, in italic type, that the average pupil ought to be able 'définitivement' to spell by the age of thirteen. If he is still having trouble, at that age, there is something wrong with the teaching.

Language: Composition, Oral and Written (Élocution et Rédaction)

Under this heading it is necessary to quote fairly fully from the instructions of 1923, since the policy then enunciated is questioned in the 1938 version and it is impossible to understand or assess the later policy, which is still current, without substantial reference to what went before.

In 1923 it was suggested that French composition should start at the age of seven, but in a very elementary form. 'Nous ne leur demanderons pas même un paragraphe.' It was necessary to go by easy stages and to wait until the child had assembled a substantial stock, both of ideas and words, before requiring him to engage in continuous composition. From the age of seven to the age of nine it would be sufficient to express one idea at a time, to assemble the material for a single sentence and then to write it. From nine to ten

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the child would be taught to combine sentences into logical paragraphs of twelve to fifteen lines in length. Composition proper would begin at eleven; this was a considerably less ambitious programme than was attempted before 1923.

The instructions (1923) then proceeded to question the usefulness of much of the formal work attempted up to that time. Too much had been made of exact description and not enough was done to kindle the child's imagination, to release him from the material of his immediate sense impressions and to allow for his interest in movement and narrative. Teachers had too often imprisoned their pupils' work in formal frameworks of their own devising. They were urged to apply in their French teaching the method which, after 1909, had produced such excellent results in art teaching: free art ought to have its counterpart in 'free' composition (rédaction libre), which would give scope for the exercise of humour, of fresh and spontaneous feeling, of literary taste, of intellectual subtlety and of a gift for the picturesque. But, whether the composition was 'free' or not, the teacher would avoid class preparation of a kind which would deprive the pupils of their freedom when they came to deal with their subject. Whatever advice he might see fit to offer to individual members of his class, he would not draw up in advance a detailed plan that would prevent the pupils from revealing their full powers and from expressing their own feelings. Above all, the instructions emphasized the importance of interest. 'Si l'on sait, en histoire, faire vivre sous les yeux Charlemagne ou Bayard, [l'élève] éprouvera le besoin de raconter à sa manière leur vie et d' exprimer ses sentiments à leur égard. Si, en promenade scolaire, if s'enthousiasme pour la beaute d'une fleur, il éprouvera le besoin soil de la dessiner, soit de la décrire, soit de la dessiner et de la décrire. Si, en lisant des vers, if est amené à admirer la qualité des images et I'harmonie des sons, il ne pourra plus s'abstenir d'imiter le poète, et il cherchera tout au moins à éviter les banalités et les cacophonies.'

The instructions of 1938 express disappointment with the results of the teaching of French composition; there has not been much apparent progress, they say, since the reforms of 1923. It is all very well, they continue, to expect fine writing, fresh feeling and originality in children's composition. A few children have these qualities and they ought to be encouraged. But how many? Probably not more than two or three in a class of thirty or forty. If you get from any fifty French compositions three or four of first-rate quality, you ought to be pleased; but it is the average standard of the fifty that matters. What our pupils will need most in their day-to-day lives is the habit of exact and systematic observation. They will need commonsense, the power to think clearly and to come to fair and reasonable

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conclusions. Their language will not need to be subtle or capable of fine shades of meaning and feeling; it will, however, need to be exact and capable of expressing faithfully a variety of concrete facts and experiences. They should therefore be taught to express their ideas in simple language, free from meretricious padding. They should learn how to write correctly and how to choose simple and suitable forms of expression. This seems a modest aim, say the instructions, but in fact it is a difficult one to fulfil. For the reasons just given the programmes recommend as subjects for composition, first, simple exercises based on the children's own experience, both in and out of school; then narratives and letters; and finally accounts of happenings in everyday life. The programmes also specify subjects which will give rein to the pupils' imagination or make demands upon their powers of observation. But the imagination must, in its very exercise, be trained and disciplined. Much play is often made with the force and fertility of children's imaginations. It is true that their feelings and imagination are often strong and lively, but they consist of simple elements usually attached closely to physiological experiences. Experienced teachers know well that most children have only random powers of observation and that their imagination often consists merely of vague fantasies. It is only by widening their experience that it is possible to train their imagination and so prevent them losing their way in a maze of idle dreams. It is only through knowledge and reflection that their sensibility will be refined and enriched. In teaching composition, therefore, it is wise to acknowledge realities and direct the children's efforts into such practical channels as will enable their powers to develop with success.

The instructions proceed to indicate two misunderstandings that had arisen from the suggestions made in 1923. First, it was recommended in 1923 that pupils should learn the art of composition by assembling the elements of a clause, thereafter writing single sentences, and so proceeding to the construction of paragraphs. This had led to the method of building up a piece of composition by adding brick to brick; first the verb and its subject, then its complement or object and then various subordinate clauses, then fresh sentences and so to the arrangement of paragraphs into an essay. This, say the instructions of 1938, is not the way in which the mind works or in which writing, any more than drawing, ought to be taught. In writing, as in drawing and painting, the mind moves from the whole to the part, that is from the general idea to the paragraph, from paragraph to sentence, from sentence to clauses and from clauses to words. A line or a flat shape are merely abstractions; similarly a word has meaning only in a clause, a clause in a sentence, a sentence in a paragraph. In composition we begin with a whole

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idea and then in thinking it out we divide it into clearly formulated details.

The second misunderstanding encouraged by the earlier instructions was the use of imitated verbal ornament. It is true that children enjoy dressing out their work with this borrowed finery, but their purple passages are usually clichés, and unnatural ones at that. 'Ces élégances de clinquant n'ont rien à voir avec l'art d'écrire; l'élégance qu'il faut, s'il se peut, leur faire acquérir, c'est celle qui résulte de I' exacte propriété des mots et du relief des expressions; une phrase est l'élégante quand l'ordre des propositions et des mots reproduit le mouvement de la pensée.' To learn to write, to learn to speak, is to learn to think, and the only way to learn all these things is through intelligently planned practice and the acquisition of good habits. For this reason, composition and reading ought to be kept as close as possible. By reading, children learn to understand the written word. By writing, in its turn, they practise it.


French lycées and collèges normally recruit their pupils at the age of about ten or eleven. The collèges are of two varieties, collèges classiques and collèges modernes. As a rule, the collèges modernes retain their pupils for only four years. The collèges classiques and the lycées, on the other hand, offer courses of seven years leading to the examination for the baccalauréat, and they often retain pupils for one or two years beyond this stage; they are usually divided into classical and modern 'sides' throughout, even though the curriculum is the same for both sides, except in foreign languages. The collèges modernes do not make provision for Latin or Greek. Differences between lycées and collèges classiques are mainly historical and administrative.

Two points in the horaires for French lycées and collèges are of particular interest. The first is that, irrespective of their 'side', pupils in IIe and Ie (i.e. in the fifth and sixth years of their secondary course) have four periods of French each week. The second is that, in the parallel forms of the seventh year, French disappears from the curriculum as a subject of class study, except for one hour a week, which is compulsory for pupils specializing in arts subjects and optional for those doing advanced science; but it should be noted that philosophy, which is in many ways to be regarded as the culmination of pupils' French studies, is a compulsory subject for all at this level.

The most recent general instructions for lycées and collèges date from 1938, but for teachers of lettres et grammaire (i.e. French, Latin and Greek) further suggestions have been issued in the last

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few years in the form of a mémento. The 1938 instructions for French dealt only with the work of the first four forms (le premier cycle), but their preamble made it clear not only that the aim of the course as a whole was the aim of each of the two cycles (in short, to develop the mind of the pupil and to give him a sound general culture) but also that the spirit informing the teaching and the general principles of methods were the same in each cycle. The suggestions of the mémento embrace the deuxième cycle as well as the premier cycle.

The programmes for French that are at present in force for the different forms up to and including Ie are divided into three parts, as follows:

1. The study of language (which from the fourth year on - i.e. in IIIe and upwards - becomes the study of language and literature);

2. Practical exercises (for which no indications are given for the sixth year (Ie)); and

3. Authors (auteurs).

But both the instructions and the mémento stress that this division is made only for convenience in the presentation of the programme. The parts are in fact closely interrelated, and evidence of this interrelation is provided in the detail of the parts of the programme. Chief among the connecting links is the explication de textes, to which specific reference is made in each part.

Explications de textes

The explication de textes (also known as explication française or lecture expliquée occupies the central position in a subject which itself has pride of place in French lycées and collèges. This 'exercice caractéristique de la pédagogie française', as the instructions describe it, consists essentially in the detailed examination of short extracts (1) of good French writing. The extracts may be pieces of prose, poems or parts of poems, scenes of plays or parts of scenes. The essentials are that the extract selected for study should be worthy of close attention and that it should form a unity. The extract is read to the pupils by the teacher and is then 'prepared' by them, with help from the teacher provided in the form of a few questions. The results of such preparation are often given in writing, but they need not be written. The teacher, in conversation with the pupils, then 'explains' the text, examining it from every point of view that appears profitable, for its plan, its vocabulary, and so on.

(1) The mémento suggests that, as a rule, some twenty lines of prose or verse will be enough for an hour's lesson.

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The object of the explication is to enable the pupils to understand the text more fully, to appreciate the author's aim and the means by which the aim is achieved. As to method, the instructions emphasize that there is none that can be applied indiscriminately to all texts. All texts have their own character and offer some special interest, which the teacher must first perceive and then bring out. The method, accordingly, will vary from author to author and, indeed, from one extract to another written by the same author.

But if there is no single method, there is nevertheless a general principle that must be observed in all explications: this principle is to explain the text. It follows that teachers and pupils must start from the text and stick to the text, following it in its development. Superfluous is everything which does not serve to explain the text, which does not help towards an understanding of the author's thought, an appreciation of his intentions and a sharing of his feelings. It also follows that the form of the text must not be considered in isolation from its content. For the author words and thought were one: teachers and pupils have no right to split this unity. There will, of course, be difficulties of vocabulary and syntax which must first be resolved if direct contact is to be established with the author and his thought. But we resolve them only in order to arrive at the thought. Never must a text be made a pretext for something else. A text may offer a convenient starting point for profitable grammar study; if so, such study should be made - but afterwards, when the explication is finished and the pupils have fully appreciated the text.

The instructions stress one other point: a text to form the subject of an explication must always be prepared by the pupils, except where it has been kept in reserve to form the tail-piece of a lesson on some other aspect of French; but, whether the text is prepared by the pupils or not, the explication must always be most carefully prepared by the teacher.

The texts principally used for explications appear in the programmes of all forms up to Ie as the first item of the part devoted to authors, which item reads: 'morceaux choisis de prose et de vers des écrivains français du XVIIe siecle à nos jours'. The teacher is thus left completely free to choose his texts provided that he does not go outside authors of the last 350 years or so. The advice given him in the instructions is to choose texts which will interest the pupils and be not too difficult. For pupils in the early years such texts are likely to have concrete, picturesque subjects, and to be narrative or descriptive in character; they will be found most often, it is suggested, in the works of authors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and in La Fontaine.

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Connected Reading

The explication is one of the two main methods envisaged for the treatment of authors. The other is connected reading (lecture suivie), which may be of two kinds: either done in class under the close supervision of the teacher (lecture suivie et dirigée), or done by the pupils outside class time but summarized orally and discussed in class (compte rendu de lecture). The lectures suivies et dirigées differ from the explications in that the material selected may be a whole work, (1) extracts of a work which can be studied in groups (for instance, selected fables of La Fontaine), or extensive fragments (for example, scenes from the plays of Molière). The readings are directed in the sense that the pupils are not left to make their way unguided through them, but commentary by the teacher is not detailed, like the commentary of the explications; it aims at ensuring that the pupils fully understand the general meaning and character of what they read, and its historical and literary background. However, as the mémento points out, pupils need even more time for reading than can be found in class. Accordingly, the teacher will set further reading to be done by the pupils either at home or in the periods which, on the time-tables of all boys and girls in lycées and collèges, are assigned to supervised study (étude). He will test the pupils in class on this wider reading by questions so devised that they serve not merely to check that the reading has been done but also to add to the benefit the pupils derive from their reading. Afterwards pupils will be called upon to give oral summaries on their reading. Good pupils, it is suggested, may be expected to speak for five or ten minutes, referring to - but not merely reading - notes that they have made. Such accounts may be followed by general discussions directed by the teacher. The teacher is naturally free to choose for an explication a passage from a work selected for connected reading; indeed, there will usually be every advantage if he does so choose, since the pupils will be familiar with the general context in which the selected passage stands.

It will be seen that the explication and the lecture suivie are in a sense complementary: the one accustoms pupils to study carefully what they read, not to be content with first impressions or approximations that may be vague; the other enables them to grasp the whole into which the detail must be placed to have its full significance. The explication is an excellent training in exact scholarship; the lecture suivie will give a taste for reading. To ensure that the different goals of these exercises are attained, teachers are advised to reserve special periods for each in the time-table of each form.

(1) The study of complete works, other than plays and poems, is in fact rather rare in French lycées and collèges.

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From the beginning of their course in lycées and collèges, French pupils amass a considerable store of literary information through their study of authors in explications and connected reading, but in the lower forms no attempt is made to use the authors for the purpose of giving the pupils an orderly knowledge of the development of French literature. From IVe on, however, grouping of authors to this end is possible and is strongly recommended: it represents, indeed, the principal means of teaching literature in French secondary schools. According to the instructions the histories of literature that pupils will have in their hands from form IIIe upwards should be for them no more than the repositories of certain factual information, such as dates; they are not meant to provide the pupils with ready-made judgments of authors and texts. It is for reasons such as this that teachers are urged not to set written work on lectures suivies which will tempt pupils to go to histories of literature or school text-books and take the opinions of others.

In the list of works suggested for lectures suivies the classical period is represented by more works than all the other periods. (1) The present tendency is to give the teachers of classes up to IVe much freedom to choose their own material. Each year, however, the teachers of French in the higher forms draw up a three-year plan of reading for pupils entering IIIe, which, once fixed, is binding on the teachers concerned and forms the basis for their work in explications, lectures dirigées, and in other connected reading leading to comptes rendus. Provision is made for the study, in each of these three forms, of a tragedy by Corneille, a tragedy by Racine, and a comedy by Molière. For the rest the scheme for IIIe is based on the Middle Ages, from the Chanson de Roland to Villon (read as far as possible in old French), and on the poets of the romantic period, Chateaubriand, Vigny, Hugo (especially their epic, rather than their lyrical, works). IIe devotes itself to the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though more difficult writers such as Montaigne and Pascal are reserved for Ie, which otherwise studies authors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Teachers of the classe de philosophie and the classe de sciences expérimentales, who have at their disposal only one hour of French each week, are also encouraged to prepare a plan of work for a three-year

(1) The list contains, for the premier cycle, thirteen works of the seventeenth century, five of the nineteenth, and two of the twentieth, but none of the sixteenth or eighteenth centuries; for the deuxième cycle it gives - again by way of suggestion - the titles of thirteen works of the seventeenth century, five of the eighteenth, five of the nineteenth, and one of the sixteenth, but none of the twentieth.

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period, in which each year is devoted to a single theme, such as the novel from Balzac to the present day, poetry from Baudelaire to surrealism, the theatre and the cinema in the twentieth century. In these advanced courses much use is made of the method of the compte rendu de lecture, with pupils speaking for up to a quarter of an hour.

Translations of the Classics

Reference to the horaires for French teaching, given in Appendix B, will show that throughout the premier cycle (that is, in the first four years of the course) the modern sections of lycées and collèges have two more hours of French teaching than the classical sections. During some of these additional hours it is expected that pupils will be able to make contact with the authors of classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, at first mainly through stories, then through translations or adaptations. Among the translations suggested for IIIe (i.e., the fourth year of the course) are Homer's Odyssey, Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis and Alcestes, Plutarch's Lives, selections from Plautus, Livy's First Decade, and Virgil's Bucolics and episodes from the Georgics. The translations from the Greek are recommended for study, not only by pupils in the modern sections, but also by those in the classical sections who do not take Greek. The instructions recommend that these texts should be read according to the method of the lecture suivie et dirigée. The pupils' attention will be focused on the ideas and sentiments which the works contain, the pictures they present of life in former ages, and the art of their author as story-teller or playwright; the teacher will endeavour to bring out their eternal truths and the particular aspects of civilization which they reflect - but the emphasis will be humanistic rather than historical. Of inestimable value in itself, the knowledge which boys and girls - even though they have no Latin or Greek - will thereby gain of the common heritage of modern civilization will enable them in due course to appreciate more fully certain French masterpieces of later date, whose authors drew their inspiration from classical antiquity.

Other Language Study

It is unnecessary to dwell long on the other sections of the programmes and instructions which deal with the study of language, but certain points must be made. The syllabus makes provision for a thorough revision in VIe and Ve of the grammatical work of the primary classes in elementary schools, and it embraces further study of grammar, syntax, spelling, vocabulary and versification. It is expected that, from IIIe on, all language study will be based on texts studied in explications or on the pupils' written compositions:

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here, in particular, it is necessary to pay attention to the development and sequence of ideas, in compositions as a whole and in their separate paragraphs. Throughout the course all pupils must have in their possession a French grammar and a French dictionary. Grammar, the nomenclature of which was fixed for French schools by decrees and other official pronouncements in 1910, 1911 and 1947, is important because it enables pupils to express themselves correctly; but in lycées and collèges mere formal knowledge is not sufficient. Grammar there must be regarded as a science involving exact observation, comparison, deduction and understanding. Really there are no 'exceptions' in grammar - none, that is, in the sense that apparent anomalies of form or construction cannot be explained by reference either to contemporary phenomena or to history. Sentence analysis has its part to play in enabling a pupil to penetrate more deeply into an author's thought. But here caution is needed: analysis must not be pushed to the point at which it means the paralysis of the pupils' powers of spontaneous expression; moreover, merely formal analysis, leading to the mechanical splitting-up of language, would offend against an important principle which has already been enunciated: namely, that thought and language are not to be separated, being connected as intimately as the two sides of a sheet of paper. For teaching pupils to spell, dictation is as valuable in the early years of the secondary school course as in the elementary schools; but pupils must never be allowed to think that spelling matters only in dictations. It is important in all written work, and teachers of all subjects must insist upon correct spelling. Here the instructions of 1938 draw attention to the deterioration in spelling in schools, which had been noted in the 1923 instructions for lycées and collèges: if, as seems likely, the root of the trouble is that pupils are being required to write too much and too quickly, the remedy is to place more emphasis on oral work. The importance of vocabulary study is stressed: only by having at their command a rich store of words and turns of phrase can pupils be capable of detecting fine shades of meaning in others and of expressing themselves exactly. One way of increasing vocabulary is to study word-groups, but the groups should be formed of words having semantic and not purely etymological relationships. The best way to increase vocabularies is to study words in their contexts. Versification is always taught on the basis of poems that have been studied in explications.

Written Work

The instructions emphasize the importance of providing pupils in all classes with sufficient opportunities for written work. The

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essential aim of all teaching of French is to give boys and girls the ability to express themselves accurately, correctly and clearly. These qualities of accuracy, correctness and clarity are essential in writing, as in speech. But good writing, like good speech, demands more than mere virtuosity of expression; it requires a real store of memories, of feelings, of ideas. Pupils can build up such a store only by observation - direct observation of phenomena for themselves and indirect observation of phenomena through the eyes of others, particularly good authors.

From start to finish the pupils must in their writing be themselves: they must speak for themselves, and they must express honestly what they think and feel. Only the teacher, who alone knows the tastes and aptitudes of his pupils, can choose subjects for written work. In the early years of the secondary course, however, the subjects will usually be those taken from everyday life. They should exercise the pupil's personal observation or, at any rate, be based upon realities known to him. Throughout, subjects other than French (history, geography, science) can be held to tribute for themes. In IVe particularly pupils can be asked to write straightforward narratives taken from the history programmes of that year or earlier years. Themes suggested by texts studied as explication, as lectures suivies or as dictées can be most profitable: stories can be retold by one of the persons concerned in the action, they can be continued to a probable conclusion (probable, that is, bearing in mind the circumstances mentioned in the text); fables can be given a different (but plausible) ending; a word-picture of one age can be transposed to another. But some of these exercises can hardly be done below IIIe. Even in IIIe pupils are unlikely to write moral and literary dissertations with success. Themes based on proverbs are particularly difficult. Difficult, too, is the development of maxims, whose only merit is all too often their conciseness. In general, it is much better to get boys and girls to summarize than to expand.

But, whatever the subject, it is important that it should be clearly understood by pupils and prepared by them. Up to IIIe pupils can scarcely be expected to find ideas appropriate to a subject. The most that one can hope for is that they should set out clearly, correctly and accurately ideas and ordinary feelings of which they have been made aware. Pupils would perhaps write better than they do to-day if they could concentrate their attention on style.

Collective compositions can be useful, provided that the right subjects are chosen - that is, subjects which do not depend on personal memories and personal tastes. Descriptions of well-known objects, reproductions of stories, summaries of texts, discussions of simple moral problems within the pupils' range of experience will be

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perfectly suitable. The teacher can get the pupils to put forward the elements of the composition, whether these be facts or illustrative examples. The elements can then be sorted. Sometimes several different arrangements will be found possible, leading not to one plan but to several: this will be all to the good, since pupils should understand that for many subjects there are different methods of treatment.

What is written must be corrected. All the papers should be seen by the teacher, though not necessarily corrected by him in detail: here the instructions remind teachers that detailed correction may have an effect very different from the one desired. But written correction will be followed by oral correction. Here the teacher will draw attention, as a matter of course, to the commonest mistakes of language and to defects of style which he has come across. But his oral correction will not stop there. He will deal especially with the general ideas, the general effect, the central point of the exercise. Perhaps the main interest in correction is that the teacher should re-compose the composition, not following merely his own conception nor accepting merely the elements supplied by the pupils, but combining his own ideas and those of the class.


No glib comparison of the French and English systems of language study in the mother tongue would be fair or useful. The two systems have each their respective sources of strength and weakness and, to some extent, they are bound up with history and with national characteristics. If an impartial judge were to decide, as some have, that the French system is more effective in promoting good standards of spoken and written expression, he would perhaps find that its successes, like all successes, were bought at a price. English teachers, for the most part, are only too conscious of the price we pay for the unplanned spontaneity of our own practice.

Nevertheless, as was stated early in the present chapter, a comparative national balance sheet is not the purpose of this full description of French practice. The French system is so clearly and so elegantly formulated and it is executed, in the opinion of many good judges, with such a sense of common purpose throughout the French educational system, that it must raise in English teachers the wish to know more about its principles and to see how far these principles, with suitable adjustments, might be applicable outside France. English readers will perhaps read, or re-read, the chapter in that spirit.

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The Language of Imagination

'Tain't in poetry, is it?' interposed his father.
'No, no,' replied Sam.
'Wery glad to hear it,' said Mr. Weller.
'Poetry's unnat'ral; no man ever talked poetry 'cept a beadle on boxin'-day, or Warren's blackin', or Rowland's oil, or some of them low fellos; never you let yourself down to talk poetry, my boy. Begin again, Sammy.'

(Sam Weller composes a Valentine)

James Stephens once said: 'I never sit down and say to myself, "Now I am going to write a poem". No: what happens is this: a poem takes me by the scruff of the neck and says, "sit down and write me. And see that you write me well, or else I'll knock your block off."'

(Quoted by W. R. Rodgers in a broadcast: General Overseas Service of the B.B.C., May, 1954)

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The preceding parts of this pamphlet have been occupied mainly, though not wholly, with language as a means of communication. But it is not possible or desirable to confine the functions of language within these limits. Even in the earlier chapters recognition had to be given to the imaginative and creative aspects of speech and writing. It is now time to deal more systematically with these aspects, with the texts that result from them (i.e. with literature) and with the dissemination of speech and 'oratory' by radio. In the last analysis, imagination is the means of all communication, as it is the substance of all æsthetic creation. In this sense, therefore, literature, which is the imaginative mode of language, is the only linguistic form that possesses an indestructible life of its own, and, to that extent, Part III is the most important section of the present pamphlet.

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Language and Literature


IT has been stated more than once in this pamphlet that any attempt to separate language from literature, either in the human mind or in the practice of teaching, is fraught with danger, not only to our national culture, but also to standards of linguistic achievement in the schools. There is no need to recapitulate the good effects of literature on the practice of speaking and writing, and as an incentive to the skill of reading. It is desirable now to turn to the study of literature for its own sake, and in virtue of its rich contribution to those aspects of personality and character that are of deeper significance than our mere powers of communication. It is necessary, however, to remain within the limits set by the title of the pamphlet and not to stray into larger issues of sesthetics, as distinct from matters of language and the use of language.

The most important general problem posed for teachers by the study of literature is that of the emotive and figurative use of language and of the related question of literary forms. Three of these forms - prose, poetry and drama - are examined separately in the sections which follow. But first something may be said which applies to them all; they all involve the use of certain literary conventions and to these the imagination furnishes the key. All the uses of language, it is true, involve elements of thought, feeling and imagination, and imagination is not only preponderant in literature but is also the cohesive element in all other forms of utterance, spoken or written. Without imagination the use of even the plainest literal symbols as a coherent means of communication would be impossible. But in literature, which is the extreme case, the imagination is supreme. Not only does it supply much of the material - a secondary function distinguished by Coleridge as 'fancy' - but it welds together the manifold and sometimes contradictory elements of experience and memory and interprets them according to a single coherent and inspired view or vision. The result of this vision is literature. This does not mean that a reader can say conclusively of some particular piece of spoken or written language 'this is literature' or 'this is not literature'. Almost invariably there will be literary and non-literary elements in any passage of words; only in the greatest works - and not continuously in all of them - does the domination of the writer's imagination extend to every detail of the material, be it fiction, drama, poetry, biography, history or philosophy. The

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distinctive characteristic of literature is, thus, not its truth or untruth to observed or historical fact, but the extent to which its material is ordered by a powerful and elevated vision and is expressed through some linguistic form that gives it coherence and artistic unity.

The study of literature is impossible without an intelligent understanding of these forms and conventions, and teachers cannot justifiably ignore them if they are interested in the imaginative use of language - as they should be, whatever the age of their pupils. The language of imagination is not just the special study of the university scholarship candidate in the sixth form. It is also, in its humbler manifestations, the common speech of all children and especially of very young children. Hence the importance of poetry and drama in schools - they are in some measure the natural language of the very young - and hence the fairly lengthy treatment of these two literary forms which follows in the sections after the next. Prose is treated rather more briefly in the next section.


Molière's character who was told he had been speaking prose all his life was entitled to feel surprised. In fact, the language of conversation is not prose in any exact sense of the word, or, if it is, some new term should be found to describe what can now only be clumsily termed 'literary prose'. It is the prose of literature and not the language of conversation, or even that of the magazine or the technical journal, that is the subject of the present section: i.e. prose governed, as poetry and drama are governed (though not according to the same technical rules) by the sovereign power of the imagination, and cast in a certain formal mould that is at least partly traditional. Such prose includes fiction, essays, biography and autobiography, history, philosophy, prose plays, the literature of travel and the literature and history of science. It is not exclusively in written form for it includes also oratory and broadcast speech, if these conform to the tests of imaginative power and permanent worth.

The reading and study of established prose literature should find a place in the English of every secondary school pupil and of the older children in primary schools also, for Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, Tanglewood Tales and The Heroes are all indisputably within the English prose tradition and so are many of the best known animal stories and fairy stories written specially for very young children. Indeed, the place of prose literature in schools is so wide, and the variety of types and methods of treatment so great, that it would be useless to attempt in a general pamphlet any systematic or full-scale treatment of the problems involved. What follows in

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the next two sections is no more than notes on a few selected problems of prose literature in schools: problems chosen because many teachers find them difficult and because they are fraught with important consequences for English as a school subject and as an element in our own and other cultures.

Choice of Prose Literature for Study

It was suggested in Chapter 5 that for various reasons, some of which are historical or accidental, teachers have tended to identify prose literature too closely or exclusively with novels and 'belles-lettres'. The reasons are not worth further analysis here, though they are interesting. (Our national over-emphasis on fiction in schools has been copied in some other countries by those who frame programmes of set books in English literature for their own older pupils.) As a result, the broad stream of English prose outside the novel is nowadays treated as a backwater, instead of the strong central expression - which it really is - of our national life in politics, in social and practical affairs and in philosophy and the arts. The general reader (as distinct from the history or science specialist) continues to find little time for such authors as Johnson, Burke, Cobbett, Mill, Ruskin, Bagehot, Maitland, Acton, Trevelyan, Eddington, Whitehead, by comparison with the time given to novels and essays. Yet it is probable that these authors have more to offer as literary masters than any but one or two of the greatest English novelists and more than any English essayist, except Bacon. Without disputing that fiction has a place in education, there certainly seems to be some need to review the range of prose authors traditionally read as set books in the upper forms of grammar schools.

The same oddity, with different books, occurs in the lower forms of grammar schools and in modern schools, perhaps with greater superficial justification, since it may reasonably be held that a narrative helps to carry the younger or duller reader along. But what is true of the mature and difficult prose authors mentioned in the last paragraph is true also of easier authors who are now virtually unknown to those children who would enjoy them most and would get most out of them. For instance, there is a large number of books of travel and discovery that are well within the comprehension of most children of average ability above the age of ten. There are the easier naturalists: Jefferies, Hudson, Fabre; and some very good simple accounts of physical phenomena in such books as Fournier's Wonders of Physical Science. There are simple but good books on craftsmanship and costume and the history of the arts, and there are at least a few biographies and autobiographies that would not be beyond the understanding of children of thirteen and fourteen.

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There are also the children's classics that are more than stories, though cast in story form: Pilgrim's Progress, Gulliver's Travels, Theras, The Wind in the Willows. These classics are well used in grammar schools and preparatory schools but they are not as familiar in modern schools as they ought to be. It is a pity to neglect them in favour of books of extracts, or the rather third-rate modern children's stories that are written and sold for the 'secondary modern market'.

These suggestions for widening the range of choice in prose books for use in schools are made primarily to open up new treasures not yet much known or used. But there would be other incidental benefits. Many of these books, both the easier and the harder ones, would link up more directly than do novels with the children's own composition. They would also establish a plainer connection between the real world and the world of literature and the imagination, and so help to dissipate the lingering view of literature as a form of escape. Some of them, for school use, await cheap editions and there is here a challenge for publishers willing to take a reasonable risk.

Treatment of Prose Texts: Extensive and Intensive Reading

The emphasis placed, in the preceding section, on prose books other than fiction does not arise from any wish to exclude novels from use in schools. They have a place, and a considerable one, though not all of them deserve the exaggerated prominence they often receive as school texts. Moreover, they are not easy to deal with, except by the time-honoured and time-wasting process of reading round the class. Some experienced teachers of English, however, have found other ways of dealing with novels. Such teachers would probably hesitate to prescribe a method for any particular age or book, for the essence of their work is variety and flexibility to suit the circumstances. Some works of fiction or fantasy, they would probably say, can be left entirely to private reading; some, at the other extreme (The Wind in the Willows is a good example) are so intricately organized in different layers of meaning and are so full of incidental beauties of language and fancy that they suffer scarcely at all by being read through in class from beginning to end. The teacher enjoys such a book at his own level and at the child's simultaneously; he is able through class treatment to elicit many hidden or half-hidden beauties and humours. As a result, the collective experience is more than the sum of any number of individual readings, and if the fast reader wants to go ahead, or to return on his tracks, or to have a second or third look, there is always more to be had from the book than was gained at first acquaintance. Between these extremes are many intermediate kinds of story where only the teacher's experience

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enables him to blend satisfactorily the elements of class reading, private reading, commentary and discussion. Many teachers now order their reading books, both fiction and non-fiction, in sets of six at a time. In any one term, in any one class, there are thus five or six different books being read simultaneously, and the sets are changed round at fixed intervals. There is much to be said for this practice (though not perhaps before the age of twelve or thirteen). The teacher's task in these conditions is a formidable one. He must have all his horses under control, albeit with a light rein, or the exercise is of very limited value.

It is a pity to draw too hard a line, at any age, between extensive and intensive reading, or between silent reading and reading aloud, or between comprehension and appreciation, in so far as these fashionable terms have any exact meaning. Many books, perhaps most books, need to be treated in part at close range and in part, as it were, with distance spectacles. It may be useful to say more about the former; about the latter there is little to add to what has been already stated in the last paragraph and in Chapters 5 and 6 - variety, catholicity of choice, abundance and a watchful and sympathetic teacher are the essentials.

It cannot be said that close study, or 'reading for comprehension', is, on the whole, neglected in schools. A great deal of it goes on, from 'potted exercises' at a very early age to the careful analysis of difficult texts in the sixth form. There is, indeed, more work of this kind than there used to be, and, if its good results are not always manifest, this is not because teachers generally have ignored 'comprehension' or done too little of it. The aim and quality of what is done is not always as satisfactory as the bulk attempted. In the first place, too much of the material is drawn from manuals - and some of the manuals are bad. The purpose of close study is best served if the material is drawn from reading books and so has its own interest, a fuller context, and a certain elegance of expression. The survival value of unrelated exercises is probably very small. In the second place, even where good passages are taken from reading books or from the better anthologies of extracts, the passages are sometimes too short and the questions printed in the anthology are too fidgety and superficial; moreover, too many ready-made questions are often supplied. A third difficulty is subject matter. Quite apart from the quality of thought and language in the passages selected, the range of interest needs to be wide. The material can be too 'literary', or too narrow in range. If, while preserving a reasonable standard of expression, the passages can range over the subject matter of other parts of the curriculum and also, from time to time, over out-of-school interests, they are likely to be more useful than

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if they are taken only from 'belles-lettres'; this does not preclude their being taken from whole books if the school has good text-books and good readers in history, geography, science and other subjects.

Finally comes the question of age. In a certain sense no age is either too early or too late for learning to read what an author has written (as distinct from what the reader guesses he has written) and for understanding as fully as possible the thought behind the language. The teacher must use discrimination and judgment in knowing where to start, and even more where to stop. He must soak himself in the book before the lesson starts, and, at the higher levels, he must wrestle with the argument before he asks others to do the same. At any stage of the educational system, from the primary school to the sixth form or the university extension class, he ought usually to relate a passage for detailed study to its wider context in the book from which it is drawn. The internal logic of a passage is often modified by the context, and, not the logic only but, even more, the tone and feeling, both of which are important elements in the total meaning. Whilst a great deal of close study is needed in literature, it is possible for study that is too close, too narrow and too exclusively logical to defeat its own object.

One other matter may be briefly mentioned. It is not always appreciated that older pupils need guidance in reading different types of books at different speeds. Some books need to be tasted, some slowly digested, some savoured very carefully and others - to vary the metaphor - need to have the heart torn out of them as rapidly as possible. In setting the pace and temper of the reading the teacher has an experience which even the clever student lacks and without which he (or more likely she) may waste time and energy in plodding through books, or parts of books, that were not written for close and patient scrutiny.


The Pleasures and Pains of Poetry

In a broadcast early in 1953, Mr. Cecil Day Lewis, Professor of Poetry at Oxford, said:

'The layman tends to value a poem in terms of emotions, of thought, of meaning. There is no reason why he should not, provided he realizes that these can be got at only through the words of the poem, by an act of imaginative effort and surrender, comparable with that of the poet who wrote it. ... What all this comes down to is a problem of language. The basic themes of poetry are few - love, death, good and evil, the transient and the eternal: these have not changed in the past thirty years. What has changed is the language of poetry: and if you want to

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enjoy contemporary verse, you must accustom your ear to an unfamiliar language.' (1)
What Mr. Day Lewis said about the poetry of to-day was also true, as he went on to show, of most other poetry at the time it was first published. Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, Browning were all accounted, in turn, obscure or vulgar innovators. It is true that little of their work was found wholly unintelligible, as some modern poetry is, and that contemporary criticism found a soft target in certain aspects of the poetry of these authors. But, broadly speaking, the work of these poets and of many others was disliked, misunderstood and abused because it interested itself in fresh aspects of experience, reflected on these in new ways and, above all, dared to use language in a way in which it had not been used within living memory, if at all. It is possible to go further and suggest that, not only is new poetry bound to appear strange to eyes and ears accustomed to older poetry, but that, of its nature, all poetry involves a fiery struggle with language from which the shapes that emerge are bound to be unusual and sometimes contorted. Long familiarity has accustomed us, or so we think, to the strange shapes of Shakespeare's language, or Milton's, or Donne's or Hopkins's. Even the most crabbed and elliptical of Browning's obscurer passages have no more than a sort of gargoyle charm for to-day's readers. How much of our acceptance of 'classical' English poetry reflects a real, living understanding, and how much is mere surface familiarity - like the well-known appearance of our furniture, book-shelves and china cupboards - it would usually be very difficult to determine. There is, however, and there must be, always, a tension between the force of new ideas, passionately conceived, and the inert strength of linguistic patterns and conventions slowly formed from the deposits of time and usage. This tension alone would account for the difficulty which many people find in reading and understanding poetry and, a fortiori, for the difficulty of teaching or presenting it in schools. It accounts, also, for the rewarding pleasure which comes to those who are willing to make the act of 'imaginative effort and surrender', comparable with the poet's own; this effort constitutes one of the main claims that poetry makes as an object of study in schools.

The Situation of Poetry in Schools and its Causes

This abiding difficulty in the form of poetry has been complicated, it is fair to say, by one or more subsidiary difficulties which are peculiar to English education; it is these which have produced the paradox that Shakespeare's countrymen, with probably the richest

(1) Published in The Listener.

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and most varied poetic treasury in the history of civilization, have hitherto paid little more than lip-service to poetry either in their schools or in their adult culture. It is no longer true that music and painting have no place in English life, but it is still unhappily true that the place of poetry is negligible, and that few poets can hope to sell more than a few hundred copies of a new book of lyrical or meditative poems. It is not fair to blame the schools wholly for this state of affairs. There are clearly other historical and social reasons partially responsible, but there have been some educational reasons at work, and these are not difficult or far to seek.

The first is the long stranglehold of Latin on the grammar school curriculum in this country. It is not, indeed, a matter of complaint that throughout five-sixths or more of our 600 years of educational history the first attention of schoolmasters was given to Latin. It was bound to be so; and without Latin there would, perhaps, have been no schools of quality for at least the first half of those 600 years. The language of religion and law, of philosophy (at least before the Greek revival), of science and of international politics, was unavoidably the main concern and almost unavoidably, for a long time, the medium of a select education; and England was not alone in making it so. The various effects, for good and ill, of this linguistic monopoly, which was hardly impaired before the middle of the last century, and has still not entirely disappeared, are not relevant to the present pamphlet. But one effect must be noticed. Poetry in schools was, and has remained until recently, Latin poetry, the poetry of a bygone Mediterranean people, written in metres alien to our own and construed or composed by schoolboys as an exercise.

The Present Position

The position is now rather different. It is, indeed, in some schools with a strong classical side that English poetry is now read and discussed with more enjoyment and more understanding than anywhere else. In girls' grammar schools, even before the war, poetry was well established as the subject of fresh and eager study. This still appears to be true, generally, up and down the country, and it is now more commonly true, also, of boys' and 'mixed' grammar schools than it used to be. In other kinds of secondary schools it is not so common to find a genuine devotion to poetry or a fine understanding of it, but the exceptions, where they do occur, are striking. In primary schools it is reasonably common to find simple poetry well presented, and there is some excellent work done with younger children. But, generally speaking, outside the best of the grammar schools and a number of primary schools, there is

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much to be done before English poetry enjoys the esteem it should. Once English poetry has found its place in the schools, no one is readier than lovers of poetry to recognize what Latin and Greek can do for English. The classical languages have done much more than discipline our verse and train our ears. They have brought into English poetry, not only a whole mythology, but a whole civilization. They have flooded our island twilight with the warm sunshine of the Mediterranean, and extended our vision, in space and time, beyond the rather depressing Nordic mythologies and folk-lore in which our literature might have been imprisoned.

Some False Models

In view of the difficulties just mentioned, it is not surprising that there is a general uncertainty of touch about the presentation of poetry to children and that a great deal of what is attempted is, at best, aimless and fruitless. The long supremacy of Latin has left its mark in an anxious pre-occupation with the technicalities of structure, metre and figurative language. Important as these are to mature students of verse, they are not congenial, and are not always intelligible, to schoolboys; and they are certainly not the first introduction that the young should have to the pleasures of poetry. This kind of metrical analysis is useless and unrewarding at an early age, and it is responsible for turning away many from poetry for life. Then there is the historical or biographical approach which is often not without interest and profit, even with younger pupils. It is, however, not usually the way to approach a poem for the first time, nor the way in which to understand and enjoy it, though it will enlarge an understanding which already exists. Again, there is the way of paraphrase, by which some rough prose meaning is wrenched out of the poetry. These are all methods borrowed by mistaken analogy from other 'subjects'. They are ways of escape if used, not judiciously for special purposes, but as a substitute for the real thing. Equally unfortunate are the extreme reactions which have resulted from our recent and well justified distaste for analytical or historical methods. As Mr. Day Lewis said in the passage already quoted, poetry does not consist of raw feeling any more than of prose meaning, and its essence is not to be tasted by easy raptures any more than by technical assault. Nor will it always yield itself to 'appreciation' of the now fashionable kind, some of which certainly furnishes a key to some poetry, though not to all, but much of which is due to an almost total misunderstanding of the valuable pioneer work of Dr. I. A. Richards. (It is, however, in Dr. Richards's work, properly understood, that the best hope of finding the real answers may well be found.)

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What are the real answers? What is to be done with poetry in schools? The only honest answer is probably a different one for every poem, and very nearly a different one for every teacher and every class; certainly a different one for every combination of these three factors. In truth, there is no one way, and there ought to be no one text-book; there ought, perhaps, to be no text-books at all in poetry, but only the poems, and, for the more advanced pupils, the illuminating things that discerning critics have written about them, and about their authors, in responsible books of biography and criticism. What, then, is the teacher to do, and is there anything he can do at all? Is it not best to read the poem as well as possible, to indicate to older pupils where stimulating criticism is to be found, and to leave it at that? In point of fact a great deal of useful work for poetry could certainly be done, and some, indeed, is done, exactly like that. As a general measure such a 'method', if it is a method, would certainly do more good and less harm than many of the ways in which poetry has been traditionally taught in schools till recent times. But there are many teachers who do better than this, and in some important respects there is between them a consensus of opinion and practice which may be usefully set out for the guidance of others.

Some Suggestions

Teachers who love poetry seem to be agreed that, whatever methods or approaches are used with particular poems, these must be supported by a great deal of reading at all times. Bulk is important, because without it there is no easy familiarity, no habituation, no slow unconscious growth of standards. Every pupil at every age needs a good anthology to take out whenever he feels like it, to take home, to take to bed. The library or library corner or the travelling box of books needs poetry also, and the teacher can bring poems that cannot be found at school. It does not matter that most anthologies contain some poems that no child ever seems to want to read, and that every anthology contains some that a particular teacher or a particular pupil has no use for. It is bound to be so. The worst anthology is better than no poetry at all, and there are now so many good ones available that the worst in use need not be worse than moderate. This is the necessary background to the 'teaching' of poetry.

A good first reading, and second reading, are the necessary introduction to any study or discussion or appreciation of a poem. The teacher will usually wish to undertake this himself, unless he has exceptionally good readers among his pupils, or unless he has a good gramophone recording to do it for him. In any case, the first reading

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ought to be continuous and uninterrupted; it should be individual and not choral; sometimes it might be prefaced, and it might often be followed, by a silent reading. Not to give a poem these introductory marks of respect is to insult it and to make virtually certain that its full inward reality will fail to emerge.

What happens next? This is the real crisis of the 'lesson'. The next step may well be to pass on and leave the poem to further meditation. What more can indeed be done with 'Gather ye rosebuds' or 'Loveliest of trees the cherry now' or 'She dwelt among the untrodden ways'? though, indeed, the scholars have been busy with the last of these and the mature or precocious pupil may like to know what his ingenious elders have to say. What more can be done with 'Break, break, break'? A teacher with a light touch may like to date the poem, to link it with contemporary stanzas from 'In Memoriam' and to tell how Tennyson himself read it, with some very personal eccentricities of emphasis, as is known from an old phonograph record. But the poem hardly depends on such attentions and it can well fructify without them. Wordsworth's 'Daffodils' and 'On Westminster Bridge' speak for themselves, but it is interesting and illuminating to set each alongside the comparable passages in Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals. 'Cargoes' is a popular poem in schools and lends itself to a great deal of explanatory discussion and illustration that is often well done. Poems of this kind, in which a simple theme, embodied in contrasting stanzas, is adorned with picturesque detail, are not too difficult to deal with. Ballads and narrative poems can sometimes be treated dramatically, and dramatic poetry presents no difficulty. But there remain a large number of poems, mostly lyrical or meditative, that offer no simple clues to the teacher, at least until the age when 'appreciation' proper can be employed, that is, virtually until the sixth form and in grammar schools only. All the teacher can do is to make his act of 'imaginative surrender' until, with that mixture of humility and confidence that comes only after long and loving study, he can show his pupils what the poem means for him and lead them through some of the doors by which he himself has reached the poem's innermost significance. If 'teaching poetry' means this, there need be no fear or distaste for doing it, and poetry is not the only art that needs this delicate and discriminating touch. But without taste, imagination, discrimination and restraint, the poetry is best left to the reader, without any mediation, and certainly without the aid of either knife or trumpet.

Choice of Poems

It would be an ill service to poetry, or to teachers, to direct attention to particular poems or to types of poems. Claims are made

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at various times that ballads or narrative poems or 'poems of action' suit particular ages, or particular kinds of schools, or that they appeal specially to boys. It may be so, but there is no real certainty about such generalizations, and, in any case, the exceptions are as important as the rules. Similarly, claims are made for 'town poems' to suit town children, or sometimes for country poems to suit town children: no doubt someone, at some time, has asked for town poems to suit country children. It is doubtful whether these claims are valid, beyond the probability that some of them ensure a little less resistance; but, if this is the spirit in which poetry is presented, little reliable guidance can be placed on such a doubtful foundation. If it be left to the teacher to choose, out of his knowledge of both poetry and children, and if he is reminded that the glories of English poetry are its infinite variety, and in particular its richness of dramatic and lyrical poems, it is probable that the right subjects and the best poems will appear in a satisfactory sequence. There will be nature poetry and poems of human interest, modern and older. poems, narrative and lyrical poems, nonsense poems, poems about flowers and poems about steam engines and aeroplanes, poems you can act, poems you can chant, poems you can learn by heart, poems you can go away and puzzle over and say to yourself.

An interesting enquiry may be referred to. Several years before the war a large group of teachers from grammar schools were asked to make a list of twenty poems which each of them would like known, not necessarily by heart, by every pupil before leaving school. The twenty poems gaining most support contained few surprises except that 'The Ancient Mariner' easily topped the list and was virtually a unanimous choice. The same question was asked in 1952 of a smaller group of teachers, mostly from secondary modern schools. Once again, 'The Ancient Mariner' topped the list and was a unanimous choice. These were mostly younger teachers, the majority of whom would have been at school themselves when the earlier enquiry was made. Moreover, like the first group, they were selective: all were enthusiasts and all were skilled teachers. Of their remaining choices, most were represented in the earlier enquiry, though Mr. Eliot's 'Journey of the Magi' appeared for the first time (as a nearly unanimous choice) and there was more Bridges than formerly. Of recent poets, as in the first enquiry, there was reference to almost none but the two just mentioned, and to Masefield, de la Mare, Brooke, Flecker, Blunden and Edward Thomas. Most votes went to the familiar poetry of Shakespeare, Milton, Coleridge, Blake, Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson, Browning and Arnold, with occasional references to Goldsmith and Gray. Some ballads were mentioned and there was almost universal reference to Biblical

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passages. It was, on the whole, a striking demonstration of the strength of educational tradition among teachers who were reading a great deal of contemporary poetry for their own pleasure.


The valuable pioneer work of Dr. I. A. Richards has been already mentioned. There is no doubt that this work has been extremely influential in English schools during the last twenty-five years. It has been misunderstood at times, and misapplied frequently, but, more than any other single influence, it has helped to change the spirit and method of the study of poetry in grammar schools and therefore indirectly in all schools (through the personal 'conversion' of many teachers of younger children during their own schooldays).

The method at its best is to be seen in Dr. Richards's own book, Practical Criticism, in some of the work done in the sixth forms of grammar schools, in some of the question papers set at advanced level by the various university examining bodies and in a very few of the better text-books. Its necessary safeguards are length and completeness in the poems studied, care in the selection of compared and contrasted poems, discrimination and restraint in the questions asked and, above all, time, patience and composure (requirements not usually present in examination conditions). For lack of these safeguards much of the 'appreciation' done till very recently was little less than a form of literary murder. Matters are now improved, and there is little doubt that 'appreciation' under this or other names has come to stay, in the upper parts of grammar schools, and that it will also continue to affect indirectly the method of reading poetry with younger children, as the 'explication de texte' has done in France. It is, however, a method for the sixth form, and more harm than good may come if its direct use is extended to younger pupils.

Creative or Original Work

It is not so easy to arrange for original work in poetry as in art: any child will have a fling with a brush or a pencil, but not all are willing to 'have a go' at a poem. All that can be said is 'the more the better' at all ages, at all times, on all subjects and in all metres and manners but never as a compulsory task. Those readers of this pamphlet who remember Chapter V will not feel that the need for discipline in certain aspects of English has been neglected: perhaps the reverse. But poetry does not belong to the disciplinary side of the subject, and, in any case, its disciplines, which are real and exacting for the poet, lie for school pupils in the reading, study and discussion of the works of the masters, dead and living. Let the

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children's own poetry be free and spontaneous, at least until the age when they are ready to discipline themselves, and let their memorizing and recital of poetry be a pleasure also, encouraged but not required, guided but not arbitrarily chosen, and if tested at all, tested only by some occasional selective device which reduces the ordeal for any one individual to something very short and very rare. It is unfortunate to use the learning, speaking or copying of poems as a regular test of industry or, as often in the past, as a punishment.

Looking to the Future

Looking to the past is a discouraging exercise for lovers of English poetry in schools and looking to the present in adult life is scarcely less so. The present situation in schools is less discouraging and the future may well bring better things, both for the young and for the grown-up. The roots which English poetry is beginning to strike in schools are, in most places, not more than ten years deep and are hardly more than twenty-five or thirty years deep anywhere. Yet one other development, in no way connected with education, has stirred some life of its own. The plays of Mr. T. S. Eliot and Mr. Christopher Fry have certainly brought poetry into the experience of many who have not opened a book of poems for a long time. At the same time, there is a widespread interest shown by schools and clubs in choral verse speaking and a great increase in the number of successful festivals of spoken poetry. The available supply of poetry recorded acceptably for the gramophone is growing each year. There is poetry each week on the radio programmes and even oftener in school broadcasts. There is almost invariably a poetry section in any short course arranged for teachers of English; courses in poetry alone have been arranged during the last year or two and have made a considerable appeal - bigger than expected - to teachers in all kinds of schools. Whether or not these favourable signs will persist remains to be seen. Hopes may reasonably be stronger than fears at the present moment.


For the purpose of this pamphlet it is necessary to treat drama more selectively than poetry, for drama is only to a certain degree an aspect of language in literary form. It has also many constituents of a non-verbal kind - movement, mime, costume, decor, lighting, music and dance. Important as these are, in education as in the theatre, they lie outside the range of the present pamphlet. It will be safest therefore to begin with drama as a literary genre; this may possibly be its least important aspect as educational material

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throughout the years of childhood, but it is its most prominent aspect for present purposes.

Drama as a Literary Form

The importance of drama as a literary study, whether acted or read, aloud or silently, lies in its universality and its antiquity. It is that form of literature employed from time immemorial to convey the problems of conflict - of man with other men or with the gods or of man with society or of man within himself. Linguistically it is the literary form in which the author's material is reduced to the barest structure of speech - skeleton would be too lean a word, for the structure is often rich in evocative language serving many other purposes than that of communication between the characters. For the full fruition of his theme, however, the dramatic author depends on the actors, the producer, the stage-designer and a number of technical workers behind the scenes; if the play is being read only, and especially if it is read silently, the author must supply clues to enable the reader to replace some of these absent collaborators out of the resources of his own imagination, aided by his memory of past performances.

Drama in Schools: The Scripted Play

What ought the school to make out of all this? In an age that is very drama-conscious, especially in education, it is easy to belittle unduly the usefulness, indeed the necessity, of reading plays as literature. The traditional literature of conflict, whether tragic or comic, religious or secular, social or personal, ought to be a familiar study to older pupils, especially as it enshrines some of the world's greatest poetry, of which, indeed, it was the fountain and flood. It is especially true of English literature that its poetry sprang from the drama, flowered most abundantly in dramatic form and has returned to the drama in the last few years. A large part of this dramatic literature is never acted. This unacted dramatic material should not, for this reason, be ignored; nor should it be exchanged for inferior dramatic material that happens to be actable or accessible. Without returning to the excesses of the annotated examination text, there is a great deal that a good teacher can enable his pupils to get out of plays merely by reading them and reflecting on them. There need be little fear that the modern teacher will miss any opportunity of taking his boys and girls to see plays and of enabling them to take part in dramatic readings and to produce their own full-scale stage versions of plays that are worth acting.

In suitable conditions the 'school play' is a valuable educational

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achievement and it has done much to popularize the drama in schools, to encourage it among the adults of the present generation and to give more interest and reality to English literature, and especially to poetry, among people generally. The benefits to those who play a part in a reasonably successful production of a good play are obvious. The lines which are memorized for an important and exciting purpose at school are likely to remain for a long time. By the end of the performance many pupils know most of the play by heart. Further, the lines have acquired overtones from many different associations, emotional and imaginative, during rehearsal and performance. Fresh words have been added to the actors' vocabulary; old words have taken new wings; new rhythms of prose and poetry have been acquired. Language has come alive for many of the cast and stage hands who are not ordinarily interested in 'literature' either as a study or as a private interest.

To these benefits may be added the particular advantages earned by those with substantial speaking parts: the need to speak clearly and in character, and with such imaginative overtones as to convey the necessary emphasis and atmosphere; the need for rhythm and for split-second timing, especially in the delivery of verse. These advantages ought not to be reserved to a few chosen older pupils in an annual production. The school play will be most successful if it is supported by a reasonable amount of informal dramatic work in all parts of the school, most of it not designed for production in front. of an audience of visitors. But let it be repeated: every scripted play read or acted ought to be of literary worth. Where space is limited, and properties and amenities are missing, not a great deal of physical action is always necessary for classroom drama - indeed restricted action may be fidgety and confusing. An intelligent reading, in character, from sitting positions is often to be preferred.

Drama in Schools: The Unscripted Play

Before children are introduced to texts, there is, or should be, an important stage of experience which may begin in the early days with movement and mime to which words are added later, culminating at the end of the primary school or the beginning of the secondary school in what are often called 'improvization' and 'play-making', the latter being a development of the former. (It is interesting that there are often similar stages in the training of actors.) Improvization and play-making are rather more elaborate forms of charades. They mean making up a scene or play as you go along in accordance with a thought-out plot. They are forms of 'composition', and though hardly to be dignified by the term 'creative'

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they may contain germs of real originality, and at best may be sincere and genuinely moving. At first, at any rate, a subject is usually given, and perhaps some suggestions also; later, at the play-making stage, the whole thing may be left to the children, though some guidance and criticism may be necessary and, indeed, salutary. Properties and dressing-up may be helpful, perhaps inspiring, but all the equipment that is really needed is a certain amount of space; the imagination of actors and onlookers, if any, will supply the rest.

These early forms of dramatic work have many virtues: the stimulation of imagination; the employment of the whole person - body, voice, mind, imagination; identification with other people and their lives, real or imaginary, assisted by means of observation and sympathetic imagination. Dramatic work is well suited to the needs of primary school children, who can obtain immense satisfaction through an art form which combines action, make-believe and real life and which lends itself to intensive planning and can be forgotten for something else the moment it is finished. From the point of view of 'English' other benefits may be added. An imaginary dramatic situation is presented to a group of children by the teacher or by the children themselves. This situation in turn presents the participants with various problems of devising a plot or story; of making up characters who must move, behave and speak in appropriate ways, and who must take their part, and no more, in the action; of setting the plot and characters in a simple situation; and of 'putting the situation across' in spoken words. All this requires thought, the facing of problems, the interchange of ideas, the making of decisions, the interplay of wills. Memory, observation, imagination are freely brought into play. Fitting words will be used spontaneously, and, in the heat of action, they will often be heightened in intensity. Indeed, the language used by young children in their dramatic enterprises is often highly economical. 'Come.' 'Go, seek him.' 'Quick - my sword.' 'You shall die.' If the play is based on a good story which the children know so well that it has become part of themselves, the language in which they have heard or read the story will appear in their acting of it: they will have made this language their own.

Original Dramatic Writing

Towards the end of children's school lives the pupils may profitably engage in the highly difficult art of writing plays. By this time they should have had some experience in acting, in helping to produce, make and design, and in 'back-stage' work, and they will have read and played parts in a number of good plays. They are now more

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likely to write something which may be actable and worth acting; for the real test must be production. There is no reason why they should not try their hands earlier, but the result is likely to be an acted story rather than a play. However, this may be perfectly satisfying to all concerned. At any rate, at whatever age it may prove most successful, the writing of plays is a form of composition which has generally been neglected, and is well worth while - provided that it is put to the test of production.


Literature has been discussed in this chapter partly for its own sake, as enriching the mind and the imagination, and partly for its contribution to the understanding and use of the mother tongue - the two are not really distinct, though they can be separated for convenience. In so far as this convenient distinction has in fact been made, it is salutary to realize the limits within which the second process takes place.

Literature contributes relatively little directly to the practice of written composition. It assists the vocabulary and to a greater or less degree (opinions are divided) it assists spelling. If it is read aloud with understanding it assists a sense of form and consequently helps punctuation. After a long time, and by slow and imperceptible suffusion, the reading of good books improves the reader's own written style; but the results are not spectacular. On habits of speech the effect of literature may be more perceptible within a limited time, but quick returns ought not to be expected here either. To a greater extent the study of literature improves the pupil's standard of reading, both silent and aloud, if there is practice in both. To a greater extent still the effect of literature is to enlarge and refine the store of knowledge and experience that can be drawn on in spoken and written language. But the most important contribution of literature to the teaching of English is to display the variety, the subtlety and the imaginative force of the language and to encourage the scrupulous use of words, Even that is far from being the whole purpose of the study of literature in schools but it is enough to justify a generous expenditure of time on it. Adequate time, and with it, a certain composure in the teacher, is one of two desirable and perhaps essential conditions for good work in literature. The other is a respectful fidelity to the chosen texts. Without these, even enthusiasm, valuable as it is, can be relatively ineffective.

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Language and Broadcasting

The Educational Aim of Broadcasting

THE British Broadcasting Corporation, since its inception, has stressed the educational responsibilities of a national broadcasting service, and these responsibilities are in fact written into the charter of the B.B.C. That these responsibilities have been not only acknowledged, but consistently observed, was not due solely to the powerful idealism of the first Director-General. More recently Sir William Haley, while he was Director-General, wrote: 'Broadcasting, despite all its diversity, must be regarded primarily as an educational medium, with a cumulative effect and a progressive aim'. (1) These are strong words, and it is fair to say that there are few, if any, countries in the world where the chief executive of a national broadcasting service would have dared to speak in such terms, or would have wished to.

Some General Effects on Language

The 'spoken word' is a feature of all broadcasting, but it plays a bigger part, relative to music, plays and light entertainment, in British broadcasting than elsewhere and we are therefore especially well placed, in this country, to estimate its social effects and its effects on the use of language. These are examined in more detail in the next section. One effect of broadcasting has been to arrest the decline of speech as a medium of communication. Some would go further: they believe it has reversed the relative importance of speech and writing, and they foresee a future in which writing loses to speech, on the one hand, and to the visual image, on the other, a great deal of the importance with which Caxton endowed it and which the course of history has continuously increased up to the present time. This is, to say the least, a dubious forecast and its probability is examined critically later in this chapter. But there is no gainsaying that broadcasting has revived the human voice and given it a range, an immediacy and a power greater than it ever exercised through oratory and the other oral arts. In doing so, it has changed the methods and perhaps the standards of political controversy and of international intercourse; it has affected social conventions and standards of taste and it has changed beyond recognition the mental outlook, and indeed the lives, of millions. It has also changed, or is changing, the structure and use of English

(1) Haley: The Central Problem of Broadcasting. B.B.C.

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in ways which it is too soon to assess but which certainly afford interesting speculation.

Some Special Effects in Various Modes of Speech

The most noticeable of these effects is on political oratory. The political broadcast, perfected by President Roosevelt in the form of 'fireside chats', is a new phenomenon, altogether different from the platform speech. It is delivered in a normal speaking voice, and the speaker is, therefore, not compelled to design his argument and phrase his language in a style that a loud voice can carry to every member of a large audience, quite possibly in the open air. It is delivered without benefit of presence or gesture. Most important of all, it cannot draw on the electric tension of the public meeting, where speaker and audience react to one another in a kind of psychological magnetic field. It is tempting to guess how differently the great orators of the last century would have fared at the microphone.

The successful radio style is not necessarily plain or dry. Its structure may be subtler than that of the platform speech and its texture may be richer and warmer, though less nervously exciting and certainly less strident. It appears to depend, much more than oratory, on a mastery of the facts, on conviction and on sincerity of presentation. Hitler, it is true, with a hysterical mob as background, ranted into the microphone with deadly effect, but the circumstances were artificial in the extreme. So long as listeners listen freely and in the security of their own homes, so long as different points of view are fairly presented, and so long as most listeners are willing, if only very occasionally (for instance, at election times and at times of important public events), to give their full attention to serious talks, it seems that broadcasting has a good influence on political rhetoric. Indeed, it may well save the art of rhetoric from platform bombast and hysteria on the one hand and from the vulgarity of jargon and journalese on the other.

The effect of broadcasting on lectures is not necessarily so beneficial. The public lecture was already declining in this country when radio was invented, and radio has probably done little, except on the Third Programme, to arrest the decline. Except on the Third Programme, the time span of a 'talk' (the word is significant) very seldom exceeds twenty minutes. In twenty minutes, at the most, it is difficult to develop a substantial theme, nor does the radio usually offer suitable opportunities in the popular programmes of developing a theme in successive broadcasts, though the Reith lectures are an exception. A broadcast talk is therefore usually restricted to one or two aspects of a subject (and the subject must usually be one that

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is already in the public mind) or to the presentation of an episode, or to illustrating, by reading or dramatic interludes, the facets of a theme that can be sustained from week to week. The radio talk, in short, compares more closely with the printed essay or magazine article than with the full book. Even the Third Programme lecture is usually dressed in a form that distinguishes it from the university or university extension lecture, on the one hand, or the conference lecture (or address) on the other. So far as broadcasting encourages succinct and agreeable presentation, it must be accounted a good influence in 'talks'; so far as it multiplies their occasions, selects the most accomplished speakers and assists them (but not too much) with the services of experienced 'producers', broadcasting is helping to keep the spoken word alive. But, in the form of lectures at all events, it does not seem that broadcasting is likely to revive the art of oral instruction in any of its old strength or popularity.

Discussion is another matter. In any normal week this forms the bulk of the 'spoken word' on radio programmes, and radio has much encouraged public discussion on a popular basis. Radio discussion masquerades under many different forms and titles: 'open forum', 'town forum', 'brains trust', 'quiz', 'any questions', 'magazines' (e.g. country, music, women's), 'the critics', 'taking stock', and so on. Taken together, these programmes reveal and satisfy an enormous thirst for information in all sections of the population. Most of the information wanted is serious, and few points of view, however eccentric, seem to be missing or to be regarded as barred. It is difficult for people in cities to realize how much these programmes mean to those in lonely country places. It is not so difficult to realize that, for the large majority of people of all kinds and all standards of education, the best of these discussion programmes have demonstrated, perhaps for the first time, the range and temper of polite intellectual exchanges, as practised in private by a very small minority from the days of Socrates onwards. (The word 'polite' need not be taken as placing bounds on the range of the discussion or on plainness of speech, Its special connotation here is the civilized recognition that there is more than one point of view.) In presenting high standards of discussion, prepared, semi-prepared and unprepared, the B.B.C. has done the country a considerable service.

In the late Dean Iremonger's Life of William Temple there is a letter to the Archbishop's mother from George Wyndham which recalls the delight of listening to Robert Browning's rendering of his own poems. 'He always read,' wrote Wyndham, 'dramatically but quietly; with an exact observation of punctuation and grammar; no sing-song; and always with a restrained, but lambent,

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humour.' (1) Mr. S. K, Ratcliffe, commenting on this passage in the B.B.C. Quarterly, asks: 'Is not this the root of the matter in one sentence? The phrase seems to me exactly right, and very nearly inclusive: that is, applicable to broadcasting of almost every kind-to narrative and argument, to radio oratory no less than to reading of verse.' (2)

This 'restrained but lambent' quality is often apparent in broadcast reporting, an important feature of the B.B.C.'s work. The high quality of this reporting is frequently evident in the sports report. There is a refreshing absence of sensationalism, personalities and the vulgar misuse of Christian names. The other forms of radio reporting are usually of very high quality indeed, especially on occasions of national pageantry and at times of crisis, In much of this work the descriptive use of spoken language reaches a height that it would be difficult to surpass.

Literature and Drama

To go too deeply into radio's services to literature, except through school broadcasting, which is considered separately, would be to exceed the purpose of the present chapter. Broadly speaking, they are three: encouraging plays and stories specially written for broadcasting; bringing established plays and other works of literature, especially novels and poetry, to large numbers of listeners; and disseminating an interest in criticism. The third is an occasional service only, except on the Third Programme. The second is performed frequently at what are called 'peak-listening hours' and the programmes, especially the readings from fiction, are said to attract large audiences. To that extent they are fulfilling a need and reviving, in some sense, the public readings given by some nineteenth-century novelists, especially Dickens. It is salutary, however, to remember certain reservations recently expressed about these programmes by Mr. Sean O'Faolain:

'I believe that the citadels of literature can be taken only by a long, intensive, slow and painful siege, I take a gloomy view of education as a form of pleasure. As far as I am concerned, education is a prolonged course in gymnastics that, like compound interest, begins to pay real dividends only after many years of sweat, perhaps only in the last twenty years of a man's life - the really important part of his life (if he has managed to remain alive mentally) - when he is at last made ready to receive what is necessary for the consummation of his personality, and can thenceforward rejoice in the constant discovery of his unique world. This is something that is not going to be achieved by casual
(1) Iremonger: William Temple: His Life and Letters. London, 1948. Oxford University Press.

(2) B.B.C. Quarterly.

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listening to dramatized Dickens or sugared snippets from the old masters.' (1)
The broadcasting of poetry is rather different. The element of incantation in poetry often demands a voice, and a poem is seldom too long to be finished in a single reading. The main difficulty must be to find readers who do not unduly obtrude their personal interpretation of a poem, and these do not always include even the most distinguished actors and actresses. 'Time for Verse' has had a long and successful run on one of the popular wave-lengths, and this must mean there are considerable numbers of listeners who like to hear poetry on the air and who are willing to pay sufficient attention - and doubtless to do enough preliminary reading - to make the experience worth while.

One of the duties of broadcasting to literature is that of encouraging new plays, stories and poetry specially written for radio. Sir William Haley has said that broadcasting is not an art but a means of communication, but he would no doubt acknowledge that it had produced, in the radio play, a new art form - a minor one, perhaps, but a genuine discovery. The communication of literature must in the end depend on books, and this is almost certainly true even of poetry. But a medium of communication that has not only transmitted to new audiences most of the great plays of the past and of our own time, but also created an altogether new genre of drama, has made a substantial contribution to spoken language on this score alone.

Broadcasting and English Usage

Speaking at a conference on School Broadcasting in London in 1949, Mr. A. P. Rossiter said:

'We must have, sooner or later, a revolution in prose, comparable to the revolution which Eliot has effected in verse; and in criticism. What that revolution will result in, I cannot predict. But I think it will be a "speech-rhythm" style, in marked contrast with all those formal and "correct" types which are generically distinguished by the writers' assuming a manner above, and aloof from, the spoken word. It may appear, at first, very "incorrect" indeed.'
Mr. Rossiter then went on to quote a passage from the Gifford Lectures of 1937-38 by Sir Charles Sherrington.
'That turns us back for a moment. The motor act as conative would seem to have been the earliest nurse of infant mind, Not the germ of mind, nor the parent of it. As to its parent, who shall say? Had energy a parent? Then why must mind have one? Rather let us seek where we can first trace mind, or where we last lose it. Does it not begin with urge to live? Zest to live, which is part and parcel of life? Is it not that
(1) B.B.C. Quarterly, Spring, 1952.

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all through? Becoming gradually more sophisticated? The zest of the living thing to go on living, and renew itself as a new life. The zest which implements the whole conduct of life; the zest which the whole conduct of life implements. At once an urge, a motive and a drive. No species of life without it.'
Of this passage Mr. Rossiter said: 'In print it looks odd, but let it speak "in the mind's ear", and is it not eloquent? is it not "the true voice of feeling"? ... Sir Charles wrote his lectures (published as Man on his Nature) as he spoke them. The style is eloquent, forceful, moving: presents a great mind moving with a great subject. But would one teacher in a hundred fail to "correct" these non-sentences if given this paragraph as a "composition"?' (1)

Mr. Rossiter was clearly justified in finding qualities of eloquence and force in Sir Charles Sherrington's prose. Sir Charles has found, as Mr. Rossiter said, 'a prose idiom which is "alive and speaking to us"'. But it is, perhaps, one way only. Here is another passage of prose in a different and older idiom. Like the other passage, it is written as it was spoken and, to at least the same degree, it is 'eloquent, forceful, moving'. It was certainly 'alive and speaking to us' when it was first uttered, and it is so now, in print, after more than a decade.

'We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering, You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized: no survival for the British Empire; no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "Come, then, let us go forward together with our united strength".' (2)
The oral rhythms of Sir Winston Churchill's speech lose nothing by translation into print, for they harmonize with the unheard music to which 'the mind's ear' responds in printed language, and the effect is the greater for its availability in two media. If it is true that broadcasting has revived and is repopularizing the spoken word, it is bound thereby to multiply the written and printed

(1) Quoted in the B.B.C. Quarterly, July, 1949 and in Our Living Language. London, 1954. Longmans Green.

(2) The Prime Minister's speech in the House of Commons May 13, 1940. The passage printed above was quoted verbatim in the B.B.C. news bulletin.

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word also, and it will be odd and difficult if the two forms diverge too far. But this is very unlikely. It is not, however, improbable that just as the prose of Swift and Addison developed by usage from that of Donne, Burton and Browne, so an English prose, which suits both the air and the page, will emerge from the confused welter of styles left over from previous generations or thrown up by modern colloquial and technical needs. This style may combine the directness of speech with the structural permanence and the flexibility of the written word. If that is to be the spoken and written English of the future it is not likely that the two forms of language, oral and written, will become total strangers to one another. But no one can be sure.

Broadcasts to Schools

In School Broadcasts (Pamphlet No. 20) the Ministry of Education summarized the effects of school broadcasts in some sixty schools that kept records and submitted opinions after two or three terms of serious consecutive listening. Much of this material is not relevant to the present pamphlet, but one important question raised in the pamphlet arises here also. What is the effect on reading and writing of an activity which depends wholly on listening for its immediate effect and on memory and recall for its long-range effect? In School Broadcasts there is evidence that, for the most part, this activity affects speech markedly for the better. Is there a corresponding loss to reading and writing? The rather fortuitous subjective evidence of School Broadcasts cannot be conclusive, but there are some grounds for believing that school broadcasts, properly treated, encourage reading and composition (rather than acting, as some believe, as a deterrent or a substitute.) By their imaginative stimulus school broadcasts often start quests and projects and encourage written composition by providing both material and interest. They are said by those best qualified to know to have enlarged vocabularies and to have encouraged a decent and polite habit of criticism. They have put first class models of speech, recitation and dramatic presentation in front of the children and brought meaning into many passages of prose and verse that were hitherto little more than ritual texts. For further discussion of these questions readers are referred to two surveys carried out by the School Broadcasting Council and published in 1951 as pamphlets with the title English and Broadcasting.


Whether we like it or not, television has come to stay and its potentialities are almost unlimited. About its future Mr. Graham

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Hutton has written: 'The challenge (i.e. to quality) is, however, immeasurably more serious for television (than for sound radio), because its potentialities for instruction, enlightenment, information, interpretation, and education are immeasurably greater than those of the cinema or sound radio. The potentialities of television for the instruction and enlightenment of its audience, of all ages, have the inestimable - and hitherto unique - advantage of being able to combine vision with movement in all dimensions, to combine the film with the stage and with sound-radio, and to combine impersonal diagrammatic or pictorial representation with the light, urbane, and intimate interpretation of a personal commentator - and all of this in people's homes. ... But television is something new. It does not have to go on, as the Byzantine amphitheatre went on under Christianity, copying the worst excesses of an earlier age. Or does it? That is the challenge.' (1)

It is easier to write in general terms about the educational opportunities of television than to foreshadow with any precision what their scope is likely to be. In these early days, that is natural enough. But Mr. Hutton, himself an experienced television broadcaster, has not hesitated to make a brave forecast:

'What are they? The comprehension of "the nature of the physical world"; regular and distant travel; following the procedure or "ceremonies of bravery" of great assemblies and learned societies and specialist groups; understanding how social, economic and international institutions work; gaining, under the tutorship of gifted teachers, an insight into the realms of science and the humanities, the arts and the crafts; bridging the gap of comprehension between the specialist's sense of our modern problems and the plain man's, which we admit to be the Achilles' heel of our democracy and culture.' (2)
If this is anything like a reasonable sketch of future television programmes, if only for a fraction of the transmissions each day, it is probable that language will be as important to television as it is to sound broadcasting. The cinema incorporated speech as soon as this was technically possible, and this alone appears to show that, though sound can do without images and though images managed for a short time to do without sound and speech, pictures alone are not an adequate medium of communication between civilized or 'modern' minds; whenever it is technically possible the two will act together, and the success of each will depend on the harmony with which they are blended.

It is therefore likely that the English language, which, it was suggested, is changing under the influence of broadcasting, will change again when it has to be adapted to the sort of programmes fore-

(1) B.B.C. Quarterly, Winter, 1950-51.

(2) Ibid.

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shadowed by Mr. Hutton in the passage quoted. This will probably be the most fiery ordeal for language since it was used by the Elizabethan dramatists. Drama itself will be re-shaped. Talks, politics, reporting, instruction, discussion, will all be thrown once more into the melting pot. There may be new uses for language. For example, with the aid of television, broadcast language may reach some who, by reason of low intelligence or mental resistance, are at present almost impervious to words. At the other extreme, it may be that, with the aid of images skilfully magnified and manipulated, language may be enabled to enter that region of symbols and formulæ that has hitherto been a closed world of the scientists, economists and statisticians, But the struggle will be hard.

In the Sunday Times of June 7th, 1953, Mr. Maurice Wiggin wrote in an article entitled 'Television's Finest Hour' (following the Queen's Coronation):

'The influence of the new reporting on the older journalism is likely to be wholly good. I am not aware of any conclusive evidence that television supplants the printed word: on the contrary, it seems to stimulate a demand for it. Never have so many books and newspapers been printed. What television may well do is to stimulate a demand, not a moment too soon, for better prose. We want to read about what we have seen; it is always fascinating to compare notes; but when we have seen an event for ourselves, be it crowning or cricket, ballet or boxing match, we are not going to be fobbed off with inadequate descriptive writing or second-rate critical commentary. Here is a challenge and an opportunity which the better journalism will gladly accept.

I have an idea that the future of creative imaginative broadcasting, like the future of music, lies with sound radio. But whatever may happen within the studios, there is no doubt that when television steps out into the world in its role of reporter, it will have first claim on the attention of the people. After last Tuesday, there can be no looking back.' (1)

(1) Sunday Times, June 7th, 1953.

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Language and the Schools:
A Synoptic View

THE various chapters of this pamphlet have been written mainly for teachers, but the subject of language has not been treated from a purely pedagogic point of view. The intention has been to formulate a number of linguistic questions and to explore these in the context of our own language and literature, but against a background of history, philosophy and world affairs. This treatment has necessarily been selective and it remains to summarize a few principles that can usefully be offered to teachers as a practical contribution to their everyday work.

The first is the practical importance of unpractical speculations such as those attempted in Part I. In those chapters the nature and purpose of language was examined in outline and a distinction was drawn between the communicative and the creative functions of language and between the idealist and the behaviourist views of language. In the wake of such distinctions follows a string of practical questions, on the answers to which will depend a great deal of the spirit, methods and objectives of a teacher's work. For instance, which came first, mind or speech? Is it possible to think without words, or does language create the categories of thought? How far is the ability to speak an inherited characteristic? How do young children think? How do primitive peoples think? How necessary is it to be able to read and write? What distinguishes literature from mere records of communication? What is the authority for literary values? These are all, in part, psychological or philosophical questions, but there is no teacher who would not be the better for trying to answer them. The pamphlet does not try to answer them all. Its different chapters are, however, based on the assumption that language is more than a convenient social device, that it corresponds with and derives from powers of the mind, the feelings and the imagination, and that it defines, shapes, strengthens and releases such powers as it transmits them.

The first consequence of such an assumption is to regard literature as the highest and most indestructible form of language, and, therefore, as the most reliable guide to mastering the use of words. On this view there is no hope of raising standards of communication

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by exercises of a purely practical, remedial or 'clinical' kind. It may be true that the teaching of English has suffered from an excessively narrow and academic concentration on unsuitable texts; but it is the scope and choice alone that have been mistaken. There is nothing wrong with the practice of teaching reading and writing through a loving acquaintance with the best books. If this method were abandoned in favour of short cuts, as a counsel of haste or despair, nothing is more certain than that the results would be worse than they are now. A great deal of time has been wasted in the schools, and in public discussion, in trying to change the aims of English teaching. All that is needed is a refinement and improvement of method, a more judicious distribution of emphasis and a conviction, inside and outside the schools, that the teaching of English matters.

A second consequence of such a view bears directly on the teaching of English to boys and girls under fourteen, and especially on teaching reading and writing to the very young. For very young children English is not a subject, or even a branch, of the curriculum. It is, in large measure, the curriculum itself, and much else besides. For these children the mastery of words is closely linked with their play, their practical occupations, their drawing and painting, stories and poems - and this goes on throughout childhood and there are some senses in which it is true even of adolescence. Accordingly, the teacher of English or the class teacher of young children should not think of his work in reading and writing as a subject only or a group of subjects or as a form of acquired skill - though it is all these - but also as a contribution to the growth and harmony of imaginative powers, and so of character.

A third consequence is complementary to the second. If language is a distinguishing gift of man, and written language of civilized man, then standards of reading and writing matter supremely in the modern world, and any general decline in the power to deal with print is retrograde. This point has been made repeatedly throughout the pamphlet, and it is not invalidated by the popularity of films, radio, television and illustrated papers. In dealing, therefore, with an accomplishment of such importance, i.e. reading and writing at all levels, progress cannot be guaranteed by methods that rely wholly on an intuitive or impressionistic or 'free activity' basis. The application of methods that are economical and expert is as important in English as in mathematics or science. Practice and hard work are also important and there is a place for technique as well as for persuasiveness and enthusiasm.

Finally, standards of achievement in reading and writing are not so difficult to frame, at various levels, as is sometimes supposed,

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assuming that they are not used, as they should not be, for exact statistical comparisons over large areas. The assumption that interest and standards are not compatible (or a concentration on incentives and interest that leaves standards out of account), is not likely to yield any sort of harvest worth reaping. The past two decades have witnessed some remarkable educational growths that are now firmly established and are of great potential value. But most of the work has not yet been done that will determine whether this crop will be eventually garnered or whether it will be left to sprout. In Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 suggestions are made for reconciling the valuable elements in modern educational theory and practice with those standards of achievement on which a modern society depends for its health and strength, in reading and writing no less than in technology. This is not a compromise between two absolute goods but a necessary harmony of two partial views, each of which, by itself, is bound to be sterile and may be moribund.

A healthy balance between the oral, the grammatical and the literary aspects of the teaching and learning of languages seems to be the key to successful practice. Generally speaking, the temptation is, naturally enough, to lean to the easy way, and the easy way varies with different countries, different generations, different individuals and different languages. We ourselves in teaching English tend to neglect technique, but in teaching French or German we often do the opposite. Some other nations, on their own admission, over-formalize the teaching of their own languages and literature, but they have perfected an admirable oral method for the teaching of English and other foreign languages. The ideal equilibrium is difficult to reach and to maintain. But it remains the most important objective of the schools on the humane side of the curriculum. That this ideal stands at the end of a receding vista, and that no good teacher is ever satisfied with his own progress along the road does not make the search any the less important or valuable.

In this pamphlet a good deal is asked of teachers and much is asked, accordingly, of those engaged in preparing young people for the teaching profession. It is probably fair to say that a decisive contribution is made to a future teacher's career before he or she leaves school. To that extent, the issues raised in this pamphlet are doubly important - first to teachers now teaching, from the viewpoint of their own practice; second, to future teachers who are still at school, from the viewpoint of their own education and especially of their attitude to language and literature. Whatever the value of the suggestions made in these chapters, and whether or not they are found generally acceptable, it is important that not only the teachers but also the staffs of training colleges and departments

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should be considering the issues raised and should be reaching their own conclusions.

No specialized professional advice is offered here to training college staffs. Their problems vary from college to college and, to some extent in present conditions, as between men and women. For the most part, moreover, the colleges and departments have the universities and institutes of education to turn to for advice. No more is, therefore, said here than the following: whatever the organization and methods of the colleges, the teaching profession can reasonably expect its entrants to pass muster in certain fundamentals. For instance, they ought to have read and enjoyed a number of important books of prose and poetry and to have studied some of them closely. They should know how to read, and how to help and encourage others to read and to go on reading, with increasing understanding, as the years pass. They should have caught some glimpse of a mature and assured style in an English author of established reputation - not an author arbitrarily chosen for them, and not a style which is eccentric, self-conscious or employed as a veneer; but a genuine inward appreciation of the use of language by some experienced writer whom they have come, under guidance, to understand and admire - different authors for different students. Last, but not least, resisting the many current temptations to carelessness or vulgarity of expression, they should respect words and use them, in and out of school, with a scrupulous care for meaning and decency (in the old sense of that word). Opinions will differ as to whether this is asking much or little. It will, however, be agreed that nothing less will do even the barest justice either to the schools or to the language.

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Some Notes on Reading

The following three notes may be of interest to readers, especially in relation to Chapter 5. The third is taken from the Ministry of Education's Pamphlet No. 18: Reading Ability. The first and second are personal expressions of opinion, based on his own long and wide experience, by Mr. John Duncan, O.B.E.

(i) The Use of Phonics in the United States and in England

It is never a simple matter to give a clear picture of practices and methods in schools in another country, because some schools may accept a fresh view quickly, but a period of twenty years may elapse before a majority of schools are influenced. It would, however, probably be true to say that, in general, in the United States of America during the past twenty-five years the use of phonic work in teaching reading has disappeared. No widely circulated readers published in that country in recent years has any phonic basis nor contains any phonic work. During the past two years there have been signs of reaction. Some American educational journals have been noting protests from employers of labour who complain that many workers in factories are unable to read notices which contain technical and semi-technical words, even when these words are in common use in their speech. The printed words are new patterns, not previously seen, and these people (possibly of below middle-ability) are unable to analyse and synthetize them. (Many bright children, after a 'whole sentence' approach, evolve, unaided, a syllabic method of recognizing new longer words.)

In England in recent years phonic work has been generally out of favour. The reasons for this may be:

1. Some children learn to read well without any phonic teaching.

2. In the past a phonic approach to reading was made by young children. It lacked meaning for them and was believed to be psychologically unsound because we tend to see first in 'wholes' (a young child may recognize the word 'elephant' before he knows the sounds of letters - because it is a distinctive word-pattern).

3. The lists of phonic words were long and contained, in many cases, words not in the child's speaking vocabulary.

4. The words in the lists were not related to the text. Practically no phonic reader has lists related to the text beyond the initial stages.

5. The words in the list were not immediately - in many cases never - applied and used.

6. 'Drilling' with long lists led sometimes to boredom without achievement, or to the acquisition of an immediate pseudo-skill which faded quickly.

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7. Training in word-building sometimes hindered reading for pleasure. Instead of attempting recognition (a) from context-meaning, (b) from the whole word-pattern, some would laboriously build - sometimes unnecessarily - word after word.
Many less able children are undoubtedly helped if they receive some training in phonics - after they have acquired some reading vocabulary by a different approach.

The selection of suitable reading books is a problem. In some graded readers for young children no phonic work at all is introduced. In those in which phonics are introduced, the phonic work appears either in the first book or immediately following one introductory book - i.e. at too early a stage. Less able children would be helped by a series in which phonic work is deferred until a fourth or fifth graded book.

Many older backward readers feel frustrated if they have to ask help often in order to recognize words. Some phonic work brings groups of words into their reading vocabulary. The sound of the initial letter of a word is often a clue for them. It appears, however, important to ensure that pupils should attempt to recognize a new word first by context-meaning, then if that fails, by viewing as a whole pattern, before using phonics.

(ii) Possible Reaction about Reading-readiness

For some years the trend in this country and in the United States of America has been for children to begin reading at a later age than formerly - at an age of about six and a half years. There has been a tendency sometimes to forget that some children (a few) have a mental age of six to six and a half years when they are four to five years old and are mature, not only intellectually, but in other ways. A considerable proportion of children have reached maturity in all these ways by the age of five to six years. While there may be a greater danger of introducing some children to reading prematurely than of delaying introduction for some who are ready, there is no purpose in delaying introduction for those who are ready. Witty makes this point. In a recent article (1) the following appears: 'It is conceivable that in years to come, children, although handicapped with T-V eyes, may nevertheless learn to read before attending school. Some do now. What then? Among other things a new concept of readiness will be forced upon us.'

(iii) Preparation for Reading

It is not for a moment suggested that a premature formal teaching should be replaced by a complete vacuum. Just as very young

(1) Paul Witty: Reading in Modern Education. London: Harrap, 1949.

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children learn to speak by being, as it were, immersed in the spoken language, so slightly older children can grow up at school in an atmosphere in which the written word is accepted as one of the natural and necessary accompaniments of living. Such children can be making acquaintance with words in visual form long before they realize why they do so. The skilful teacher will contrive many occasions on which everyday happenings may be associated with the printed word, so that the child comes to accept this as a necessary and proper part of his daily life.

It has already been implied that the first step to literacy is through speech, and that children need to build up a stock of ideas and a vocabulary sufficiently large to enable a beginning in reading to be made. To this end, more active ways of learning, in which a child takes a positive part in his own education instead of being passively taught, are becoming more common in schools; but 'activity' in itself is not enough. It needs to be carefully planned, and to be accompanied by a deliberate intention on the part of the teacher to use every appropriate opportunity for enriching the children's experience of the mother tongue and for practising them in its use. While all this is going forward, children can be discovering the pleasure to be found in books by listening to the teacher reading stories and by handling attractive picture books; or poetry may be used to give sheer pleasure in words and their sounds.

The forms which the preparatory period may take will vary with the circumstances of each particular school. To some extent this more or less extended preparation is an act of faith, for no measuring device can accurately assess the amount of learning which has taken place. But perhaps the grounds for faith are as simple as this: before organized skill can come, there must first be something to organize.

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Time Allotted Weekly to the Study of French
in Certain French Schools

[click on the image for a larger version]

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1 Schools for boys and girls of the compulsory school age (six to fourteen), corresponding to former elementary schools in England and Wales, NOT to present primary schools.

2 The figures include two and a half hours for recreation.

3 Cours Préparatoire, for pupils aged six years.

4 Cours Élementaire, for pupils aged about seven and eight years.

5 Cours Moyen et Supérieur, for pupils aged from about nine to about twelve years.

6 Classe de Fin d'Études, for pupils aged about thirteen years.

7 The time-allocations for the different subjects in the Classe de Fin d'Études are no more than suggestions, meant to be applied flexibly.

8 As a rule, the teaching periods in lycées and collèges are nominally of an hour's duration. In practice, they usually last for from fifty to fifty-five minutes. Half-hours in the weekly allocations mean generally that the subject in question receives an additional hour either once a fortnight for the whole year or once a week for half the year.

9 The forms are listed in ascending order of seniority, VIe being for the youngest pupils (aged about eleven years),

10 Not all the hours that pupils in lycées and collèges spend at school are specifically allocated in the horaires. Hours not assigned to definite subjects on the time-tables are devoted to étude, during which the pupils work on their own, under supervision and generally at tasks that have been set by the subject-teachers. This explains the variations in the total time allotted to subjects in the different forms.

11 At all levels the pupils of the different sections (divisions or classes) have the same curriculum, except in foreign languages and - at the very top - in French, VIe Classique studies Latin as well as a modern language.

12 VIe Moderne and all the higher sections modernes and sections M study a modern language, but not Latin.

13 The curriculum includes both Latin and Greek.

14 The curriculum includes Latin and a second modern language.

15 The figures in brackets indicate the number of hours that may be devoted weekly to optional subjects (e.g. music and handicraft from IIe on, art from Ie on).

16 Section A1 has the same curriculum as section A, but it devotes each week one hour less to Greek, two and a half hours more to mathematics, and one hour more to science.

17 Section C has the same curriculum as section B, except that the second modern language is optional (and studied for less time each week). More time is allotted to mathematics and science.

18 Section C1 has the same curriculum as section C, except that pupils do not have the option of continuing their second modern language, and their science includes biology as well as chemistry and physics.

19 M1 has the same curriculum as M (the continuation of the sections modernes of lower forms), except that the second modern language is optional (and studied for less time each week), and the science includes biology as well as chemistry and physics,

20 Optional.