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ORAL READING AND
DEFINITIONS. Oral English treats of the science and art of reading and speaking the English language effectively. It formulates the fundamental laws and principles of expressing vocally our thoughts and emotions. It may be possible to express the thoughts of others, but quite impossible to express emotions not our own.
The printed page, at best, can record only the ideas and thoughts of the writer. What the author felt is purely conjectural on our part. Sympathetic experience is our best interpreter.
Oral English may be divided into two main divisions : 1. Oral Reading and 2. Public Speaking.
Oral Reading relates to the verbal reproduction and sympathetic expression of the ideas and emotions of another. The ideas and thoughts of an author can be made our own, and these can be reproduced in the exact language of the writer or speaker, but the emotions of another can be only suggested. A reader can interpret the meaning of the printed page and express this meaning to his auditors; and may to a limited extent feel emotions similar to those of the writer or speaker, and be able to arouse concordant emotions in his audience through proper voice modulations and appropriate physical expression.
Public Speaking presupposes an audience, and refers to the expression of our own thoughts and emotions. Private conversation and public speaking differ only in the number of auditors. Effective speaking, whether private or public, must be governed in manner and character by the size and nature of the audience.
VALUE OF Oral English. Ruskin says, "If I could have a son or daughter possessed of but one accomplishment in life, it should be that of good reading.”
The human race always has had some method of communication. At first only inarticulate sounds and simple signs were used. Man's expression became more varied as his thoughts and emotions became more complex. Mankind has profited from many inventions, but from none other so much as from the invention of articulate language. There is a striking analogy between the development of speech and of the general intelligence in the human race and in the individual. Vocal expression preceded by many aeons a written language. The child learns to talk many years before he learns to write, and after he has learned to do both, he speaks a thousand words to writing one.
In actual practice, the communication of thought and feeling is, for the most part, by word of mouth.
Literary Value. Poetry and song spring spontaneously from the heart. The poem and the lyric, to be appreciated, must be recited and sung. "Literature is not in the book. She has to do with the living speech of men. Her language is that of the lips. Her life is in the song and ballad, the story and the oration, the epic and the drama, as they sound and are heard of men. We, too, no less than the scientist, must get behind the book to that of which the book is but the record and notation, the mere tablet of memory-to enchanted speech. Where there is no enchantment there is no literature,” says Percival Chubb. Literature is life. It must not merely be read but lived. It is
sensuous, and to be appreciated must be heard. Like a bar of music, it must be played and sung before its beauty and melody can thrill the heart.
The great literary masterpieces can never be appreciated fully without being heard: Manifestly this is true of oratorical literature, which is addressed to a hearer and not to a reader; and it is quite as true of the idealized language of poetry. To Shakespeare, as Professor Corson points out in his little book, The Voice and Spiritual Education, "language was for the ear, not the eye. The written word wás to him what it was to Socrates, “the mere image or phantom of the living and animated word.' Reading must supply all the deficiencies of written or printed language. How comparatively little is addressed to the eye, in print or manuscript, of what has to be addressed to the ear of a reader! There are no indications of tone, quality of voice, inflection, pitch, time, or any other of the vocal functions demanded for a full intellectual and spiritual interpretation. A poem is not truly a poem until it is voiced by an accomplished reader who adequately has assimilated it-in whom it has to some extent, been born again, according to his individual spiritual constitution and experience.”
The art of printing has caused language to be overmuch transferred from its true domain, the sense of hearing, to the sense of sight. Then, too, the multiplication of books, magazines, and newspapers in modern times, has encouraged silent reading. The practice of the olden time, when the family gathered together to hear a book read by some one of their number, gave the family a unit now largely lost. The picture of Longfellow is realized rarely to-day when a member of the household is asked to
read from the treasured volume
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
And as silently steal away.
Emotional Value. From the first year in the primary to the last year in the college, the student daily has opportunities for impression, but few opportunities for expression. The child longs to express his ideas, emotions, his images; the adult is “cold and moveless as a stone." It is thought that a practical man should not express, but suppress his emotions. The result is that he soon learns that he is wholly incapacitated to enjoy a beautiful painting, good music, fine literature, or a summer sunset. Nature's laws cannot be violated with impunity.
Proper emotions should be developed, cultivated. The man who is merely a "thinking machine” is only half a man. As we learn to sing by singing, we learn to smile by smiling. We learn to be happy by making others happy; we learn to love by loving. We must express what is within
Who has not been thrilled through and through by a beautiful song, by a selection well read? Actors are frequently moved to tears by the sound of their own voices. We must express our ideas, our thoughts, our ideals, or they will suffocate within. Says Professor S. H. Clark, "I believe there is no better way to inculcate the love of literature than by having the pupil read it aloud. We talk glibly of the sonorous rhythm of Milton's verse, but cannot quote a line. We talk of the fertile imagination and sublime passion of Shakespeare, but how many of us ever pick him up for an hour's reading? We talk of the tenderness, of the homeliness of the lyrics of Burns, but never read them.”
Cultural Value, Jane Addams says, “The person of the highest culture is the one who is able to put himself in the place of the greatest number of other persons." Self iden
tification with the characters in a drama, or the personification of the monologue develops the highest instincts and the noblest motives in a child. The boy and girl must be permitted to live their ideals found in literature. The ability to see, feel, and will as our associates ; to appreciate the beauties in life through the eyes and ears of the masters, is the acme of culture. Beauty and pleasure must be shared. No life can develop without expression.
Professor Edward Dowden, in his New Studies in Literature, says, "Few persons now-a-days seem to realise how powerful an instrument of culture may be found in modern, intelligent, and sympathetic reading aloud. The reciter and the elocutionist of late have done much to rob us of this which is one of the finest of the fine arts. A mongrel something which, at least with the inferior adepts, is neither good reading nor yet veritable acting, but which sets agape the half-educated with the wonder of its airs and attitudinizing, its pseudo-heroics and pseudo-pathos, has usurped the place of the art of true reading aloud, and has made the word “recitation' a terror to quiet folk who are content with intelligence and refinement.”
Social Value. “Education is social efficiency.” “No man liveth unto himself alone.” Our joys magnify many fold, when told, our sorrows decrease when poured into a sympathetic ear. The ability to converse fluently, agreeably, accurately, with a well modulated voice is the outward sign of a cultured mind. The voice is the thermometer of the soul. Again, could not a long lonely hour be shortened by reading a poem, a story to a sick friend? Why is not this done more frequently? We are ashamed of letting others know how poorly we read !
Educational Value. Not long ago one of the world's greatest athletes died at the age of thirty. Large external muscles do not insure longevity. Strong internal muscles are of greater importance-muscles of respiration and as