IN NO FIELD of modern language study is there such wide divergence, both in theories and practices, as in that of speech. A common view, held by many educationists who have authority, prefers oral to written work and favours a modified Direct Method. Its most fervent partisan is perhaps Mrs M. Hodgson, Lecturer at London University Institute of Education, who believes that “language is essentially speech, and should be taught orally”. Some officials tend to judge a language teacher or pupil solely on his rate of fluency or the quality of his accent, to dismiss an awkward, but clear sentence as ‘not French’ or ‘not Russian’, and to insinuate that a person who does not know the German for ‘sparking plug’ or ‘lard’ knows no German — particularly if he has obtained first class honours in the subject. The result of all this is a kind of mania among some linguists about accent: a Russian teacher is condemned as pre‐Revolutionary or Polish, a native French teacher is ‘out of touch’ because she has not been to France for a few years, the music of Chekhov's language can allegedly only be appreciated in the pure idiom, which may or may not be the carefully preserved Moscow Arts accent; the value of an individual and expressive pronunciation that is as much personal as it is national, (one has only to think of Edith Evans or Dietrich Fischer‐Dieskau), is generally discounted.
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