"Non-Academic" Original Languages?

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Tue Dec 17 22:00:54 EST 2002

Peter wrote:

> but in learning
> vocabulary by memorisation, especially of the crude kind common in
> introductory grammars of a list of words with glosses to be learned in
> each lesson, one is just as dependent on the glosses selected by the
> author of the grammar. So what is the advantage of memorisation?

I should clarify that I'm not advocating any particular approach to language
learning. My point is only to set language learning apart from that which is
not. I don't happen to think that brute-force memorization is the be-all and
end-all of classical language instruction. There are a lot of things I like
about Randall Buth's material, for instance, which early on has nothing to
do with memorizing from lists. (I can't comment on the later stages, because
I haven't gone through them myself.) I think there's also a lot to be said
for approaches that try to move as quickly as possible through the basics of
grammar and vocabulary to get students reading texts as soon as possible.
The extreme form of this method, of course, is to do away with the
introductory stage altogether. I've never gone through such a format myself,
but I've heard of classes where instruction in a dead language begins with
reading directly from a real text in that language. Vocabulary and grammar
are acquired in context, or at least that's the idea. Memorization is still
required, but some of the rote qualities are removed. Perhaps some middle
approach is better than either extreme, but the fact still remains that by
whatever means material will need to be memorized if the language is to be
learned adequately.

Trevor Peterson

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