Tuesday, April 23, 2024


A Method of Language Learning

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Explorations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 95-96:
I think of a jolly old philosopher named John Alexander Smith. (I spent an unforgettable year reading Aristotle's Metaphysics in a seminar with him and H.H. Joachim.) He was not a dry logic-chopper or a gloomy metaphysical brooder, but a sharp, bold, critical thinker, with some delightful personal eccentricities, such as having a huge library of whodunits, and grading each of them alpha, beta, gamma, or delta after reading it. After he grew to man's estate, he learned a new language every year of his life. He always taught himself, and he always used the same method. Choosing his language, he got hold of a translation of the Bible in it, and started to read, beginning either with the Book of Genesis, or with one of the Gospels, since he knew these books pretty well by heart. By the time he had finished one book of Scripture, he had a grasp of the general pattern of the language. After finishing one of the Testaments, he could read fluently. When he had finished the entire Bible, he could read and write the new language and could make a shot at talking it when necessary.

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