An intriguing look at early attempts to get real

From Funk & Wagnall’s New Spanish Self Taught, 1952, Introduction:
“…. the first sentences usually mastered are such as these: ‘Please give me something to eat,’ or ‘Please bring me the bill of fare,’ or Please let me have a steak and some potatoes.’ Such sentences are necessary to everyone; and it may be remarked that nature, through the mastery of these first simple sentences, points out the true and only way in which languages can be learned. It is through sentences, and never through single, isolated words…. Consider here the simplicity of nature’s mode of teaching. By mastering this first little phrase nature has furnished you a ‘sentence mold’ by the use of which hundreds of correct sentences may be composed.”
It’s not tprs and sounds a bit more like ALM, but the notion of a sentence mold is intriguing.
The unnamed author describes the typical class: “For dreary academic years students grind away at textbooks and grammars. hey learn to repeat whole pages of rules and foreign words by heart; they are capable of rendering a piece of foreign prose into smooth English. Theoretically, they know the language they are studying perfectly. Yet on going abroad these students are incapable of asking for the common necessities of life idiomatically, nor do they understand the remarks of shopkeepers, waiters and servants.”
Yes, it always makes me upset when I can’t understand the servants.
Aside from the slightly archaic (bill of fare, meat and potatoes instead of arugula and quinoa) terms, the writer is on to the failure of the legacy teaching method. (This book came out of The Language Phone Method of Practical Linguistry [sic], 1945).
He cites impractical sentences from textbooks: “Where are the monks? They are in the refrectory [sic]. Who killed the elephant? It was the grocer. Where is the bird? It is sitting on the blacksmith’s shop.” “The Italian shoemaker has purchased an Egyptian antelope from the Andalusian merchant.” The author generously admits these are egregious and not quite representative, but we’ve all suffered through “the hat of my uncle lies on the bed of my aunt” type exercises.

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