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Has Anyone heard of Hamiltonian System?

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dmaddock1
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Studies: Italian, Esperanto, Latin, Ancient Greek

 
 Message 1 of 27
18 April 2011 at 9:32pm | IP Logged 
I came across this article from The American Scholar the other day which praised the teaching method developed in the 1800's by a guy named James Hamilton. His approach was entirely focused around interlinear, literal translations and almost no grammar study. As you might imagine, he seems to have generated quite the controversy among grammarians of the time.

A small pamphlet on the system can be found on Internet Archive where he describes his method and how he got started as an independent teacher. He kind of sounds like the Steve Kaufmann of his day. It also reminds me of how Iversen has described his use of Google Translate.

You can easily find a dozen or interlinear texts based on his method with a quick search on Google Books, including a short critical piece. (Most are latin/greek classics, but there are some french, German, Spanish, and Italian there too.)

The idea of interlinear texts (rather than straight graded readers) is appealing to me since I find graded material quite boring and de-motivating. I'm studying Greek & Esperanto and while my Esperanto is good enough to read unadapted text, my Greek pales by comparison even though I've studied it about twice as long. (Of course, it's an order of magnitude easier but it still isn't helping my Greek motivation levels...)

d.

EDIT: Added a listing of didactic, interlinear books available online.

Hamiltonian System

General
The History, Principles, Practice, and Results of the Hamiltonian System

Latin
Epitome Historiae Sacrae
Aesop's Fables
Eutropius
Caesar's Commentaries
Cornelius Nepos
Sallust [version 2]
Ovid's Metamorphoses
Celsus de Medicina, 3 v. -- [2] [2]

Greek
Gospel of St. John
Homer's Iliad [version 2] [version 3]
Xenophon's Anabasis

French
Gospel of St. John
Perrin's Fables [version 2]

German
A Selection from German Prose Writers

Italian
A Selection from Italian Prose Writers [version 2]

Spanish
Gospel of St. John

Locke's System of Classical Instruction

General
Essay, Explanatory of the System

Latin
Phaedrus's Fables of Aesop
Ovid's Metamorphises, Book 1
Virgil's Aeneid, Book 1
Parsing Lessons to Virgil

Greek
Lucian's Dialogues. Selections.
Xenophon's Memorabilia, Book 1
Herodotus's Histories. Selections

Italian
Stories from Italian Writers

French
The Battles of Cressy and Poictiers

From Other Systems

Latin
Virgil, Works [another copy]
Virgil's Aeneid, First Six Books
Caesar's Gallic War, Book 1

Greek
Xenophon's Anabasis
The First Six Books of Homer's Iliad

French
Voltaire, The History of Charles the Twelfth, v.1
French translation, self-taught

Hebrew
The Book of Genesis

Italian
Novelle
Raccolta di favole morali

Irish
Gospel of John

Sanskrit
The first book of the Hitopadesa


Edited by dmaddock1 on 19 May 2011 at 5:48pm

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Ikipou
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 Message 2 of 27
19 April 2011 at 1:16am | IP Logged 
I would say 1800 was way before systematic studies in pedagogy so I would be suspicious of any method from that time that did not become popular since then.

But as it is often say, whatever works for you ... :)

Note that this subject has been discussed here before: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?T ID=21356&PN=9
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Jinx
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 Message 3 of 27
20 April 2011 at 12:47am | IP Logged 
I am way into the Hamiltonian System. I didn't know until reading this thread that it had a name, but it is for me pretty much the most effective way to come to grasps with a new language; and, most importantly, to aid my memory. I find that I remember the correct way to say something in a foreign language much more effectively if I think of the actual, parsed-out phrasing, no matter how ungainly and silly it may sound in English.

Funnily enough, I think it actually HELPS my memory if it sounds stupid in English! For instance, when ordering in a German café, if I think of saying "I would have gladly a croissant," it makes it much easier (and more amusing) to recall the correct phrasing of "Ich hätte gern..."
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dmaddock1
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 Message 4 of 27
20 April 2011 at 1:54am | IP Logged 
Thanks Ikipou for the link. I did a search, but apparently not very thoroughly. :) BTW, best username ever!

So my bringing this back up isn't a total rehash of the earlier thread, here's another article about a similar interlinear system from the same time called Locke's System of Classical Instruction. Most of those books can be found on Google Books too.

It's good to hear you say that Jinx. The book I've been using for my Greek studies has an answer key with very free translations and it is infuriating! I stopped trying to make smooth-reading English translations and was basically making my own such interlinear texts by hand. It definitely makes it easier to get a sense of the idiom that way.
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hungh3
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 Message 5 of 27
20 April 2011 at 4:26pm | IP Logged 
Jinx wrote:
I find that I remember the correct way to say something in a foreign language much more effectively if I think of the actual, parsed-out phrasing, no matter how ungainly and silly it may sound in English.


Thanks for sharing this. I seem to share this view with you as well. It allows me to understand the way the language is used to express ideas.
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Jinx
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 Message 6 of 27
20 April 2011 at 5:15pm | IP Logged 
Okay, I have to slightly revise my previous enthusiastic support for the Hamiltonian System as presented by Hamilton. I still think he's basically on to a really good idea, but I just noticed something I don't like in a Hamiltonian book for French, Perrin's tales. It appears that sometimes he (or whoever made this text) switches the order of the TARGET LANGUAGE text around a bit in order to make the English sound more natural!

Case in point, the very first sentence of the book:
"Un aigle élevoit s' avec ses aiglons jusqu' aux nues."
"An eagle did raise himself with his eaglets until to the clouds."

Now, I think "until to the clouds" is great. As dmaddock1 mentioned, it really helps you get the sense of the idiom and understand how the French speak. HOWEVER, putting the s' of the reflexive verb AFTER the verb itself – élevoit – seems pointless and stupid to me!

If I had been making this text, I would have written:
"Un aigle s'élevoit avec ses aiglons jusqu'aux nues."
"An eagle himself-raised with his eaglets until to-the clouds."

My theory being, if you're already expecting the student to learn and understand something such as "until to the clouds," why not also expect them to learn that the reflexive object goes in front of the verb?! If you're going to do it, do it all the way!

Maybe this isn't true of all the books adapted to the Hamiltonian system, and maybe it's different for Greek and Latin. I'm kind of disappointed, though, because I was looking forward to using the French book, but when I found out that it does this stupid rearranging thing, I quickly realized that would be pointless.

All in all, I think Hamilton had a fabulous idea, but should have carried it out a little more stringently, in order to really achieve the unexpected but genuine benefit that oddly literal English translations give the student.
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dmaddock1
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 Message 7 of 27
20 April 2011 at 5:38pm | IP Logged 
Yeah, he does some rearranging in the Greek one I am using too. With greek, word order can be so much freer that I can see how it might be necessary to change order to make sure the student understands which case is which, particularly subjects and objects which have no propositional cues.

I'm inferring somewhat here, but since the first sections of his books have the original text in correct order without translation, I guess the idea was to work by comparing the original with the parsed interlinear.

I'm not sure if they do it too, but here's a french one from the Locke's series to check out.
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crafedog
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 Message 8 of 27
20 April 2011 at 7:31pm | IP Logged 
This is a really interesting method. I'd love to see more about it. I downloaded a few of
the copies from the Latin and Greek ones but there are very few of them for other
languages.

It seems that the more general name of this form of 'learning' is "literal interlinear
translation" which seems to be popular with the Bible.

I'll definitely use this method when I learn Latin and Ancient Greek. If anyone finds any
more links, especially to languages other than Latin and Greek, then please post them.


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