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artificial; and then, if the book be closed, without the pause of a moment, the talk will be resumed in the same easy strain as before. This is the first defect to be removed. Before you can hope to read well, you must thoroughly emancipate yourself from this bad habit of treating reading as an operation altogether different from talking But

you will ask me how you may learn to do this. You must first distinctly recognise the fault, for, like most faults, a knowledge of it is half way towards the

You must remember, also, that in this instance your business is more to unlearn than to learn. You have acquired a bad habit, and you must rid yourself of that ; you have laboriously taught yourself to be affected and unnatural, and you have to lay all that aside before you can read naturally. But that, you will say, is the great difficulty. You are right; it is far more easy to learn than to unlearn. A bad habit, of slow growth and long cherished, is not thrown off without the exercise of much firmness and persistency. It can be conquered, if you will that it shall be subdued. Time and practice are the remedies. A few days, a few months even, may not suffice to effect a perfect cure ; but week by week there will be a perceptible improvement; and though the fault may be never wholly removed, you

will find such a lessening of it, that you need not be ashamed to read anything aloud anywhere.

Clearly understanding your fault, betake yourself to a room where, being alone, you will not be shy of failure, and give yourself your first lesson in the art of reading, and thenceforth let this besetting sin be ever before you when you are practising; for if you forget it for a moment, during your earlier studies at least, you will

soon

certainly relapse into the old strain. Do not begin with poetry, or speeches, or any kind of composition that has a tendency to provoke bad habits. You would probably sing poetry and mouth an oration ; everybody does who has not studied reading as an art. But select some very simple narrative, especially if it contains some conversational dialogue, such as people talk in real life; before you pronounce a word, ask yourself this question, “If I were going to tell this story out of my own head, instead of this book, to a friend sitting in that chair, myself sitting quite as composedly in this one, how should I utter it ?” So try to read it aloud, addressing the said chair as if your friend was there in fact. At first make no attempt to read well ; practise nothing but how to read naturally. Repeat the same reading several times in succession, noting with a pencil such passages as you feel not to have been properly spoken, and when you come to them take special pains to avoid the fault of which you were conscious before. Suppose that

you choose for your first lesson Andersen's clever story of the “Emperor's New Clothes” (and you could not find a better for your purpose). Think how you would tell it to your family circle, after dark, before Christmas fire, and in that strain try to read it. The perfection of such a reading would be, so to read that the eyes

of

your audience only, and not their ears, could tell them that you are reading. This must be your aim, and to this skill you will gradually approach-insensibly perhaps, if day be measured by day, but perceptibly enough to a listener at intervals of a month.

I dwell thus upon this first step in your teaching, because it lies at the foundation of good reading; and if the faults of early habit are not thrown off, and a

a

natural manner restored, whatever your other accomplishments in the art, you can never become a good reader. The Art of Reading can be mastered only by practice, conducted as I have described (for I am treating now of self-instruction), and that practice persistently pursued for a long time.

I would recommend to you that, at the beginning, you give your exclusive attention to this subject. It should engross your thoughts during your reading practice. Have no other care than how to read naturally. When you have made some manifest progress in this, and you are conscious that you are beginning to read as unaffectedly as you talk, you may begin to have regard to the other qualifications of a reader.

And of these the first is to sound your words. Here, too, you will probably have a good deal to unlearn. is almost certain that you have fallen into habits of slovenly utterance, acquired in early childhood, and never afterwards corrected ; for at schools it is seldom thought necessary to teach the pupil to speak and read -it seems to be taken for granted that he can do thus much, or that it is a matter for his own correction only, and not within the province of a regular educational

Moreover, in our daily talk we do not speak distinctly. We drop letters, we join words, we slur sounds, we mutter much that should be spoken. This is peculiarly an English fault, and you must guard against it sedulously, for it is a bar to good reading. The cure for it is the same as for the habit already noticed-practice—until you have so conquered it, that the full sound of the word comes to your lips as readily as the imperfect sound to which they had been trained before. You must begin by an exaggeration of expression

course,

slowly repeated ; for it is supposed that you pursue this study alone, or with only a friendly adviser. Taking your book, pronounce each word slowly, with a short pause between, giving positive expression to every sound in the word. Make no attempt during this practice to do more than pronounce. Do not try to read ; your present purpose is to master articulation. Remember this, that there are very few words with letters in them actually mute. They are not sounded separately, but for the most part they modify the sound of other letters. Give to each sound that goes to make up the word its full value ; do not omit to roll the “r's” and hiss the “s's” while learning your lesson ; there is no danger of your running into the extreme of expression. Having in this manner read a sentence very slowly, read it again somewhat more quickly, and so four times, until you find that you read it with ease and readiness. An articulation so acquired is of infinite advantage, for it is thus that you make yourself distinctly heard far off as well as near, and thus it is that you are enabled to express the most delicate shades of emotion by the most delicate inflections of sound.

three or have so

72

LETTER XII.

PRONUNCIATION-EXPRESSION.

HAVING, by slow reading and giving full expression to every sound, tutored yourself in articulation and subdued the habitual tendency of the tongue to drop letters, slur syllables and dovetail words, you may gradually resume the proper speed in reading ; pausing, however, and repeating the lesson, whenever you find yourself returning to your old habits of speech. The time thus spent will be a gain to you in the end, for you cannot read well until this mechanical portion of the art is accomplished mechanically, without requiring the aid of the mind, which must be engaged upon other parts of your work. If you are considering how you shall pronounce your words, you cannot be thinking also what was the meaning of the author and how it should be conveyed to your audience—the only matters upon which the mind should be engaged while practising the art of reading. Therefore will it be necessary for you to exercise yourself in articulation for a very long time, and not to cease from practice until you mastered it that you articulate well unconsciously, without thinking how you are to articulate.

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