The most salutary thing about the school system

“The most salutary thing about the school system as we know it today is that it takes the Greek and Latin languages seriously for years on end. Students learn respect for grammar and the dictionary, for a language fixed by rules; a mistake is a mistake, and one need not be put out at every moment by the claim that caprices and misdemeanors of grammar and spelling, like the ones we find today, can be justified.

If only this respect for language were not floating in limbo—a purely theoretical burden, as it were, from which one is immediately released on returning to the mother tongue! But the teacher of Latin or Greek typically doesn’t bother with his native language; from the start, he treats it as a place to relax after the rigorous discipline of Latin and Greek.

The splendid practice of translating from one language into another, so beneficial in stimulating an artistic sense for one’s own language, is never applied with appropriate rigor and dignity to the undisciplined contemporary language where these qualities are needed most. And even these translation exercises are becoming less and less common: It is enough to understand the classical languages, one needn’t bother to speak them.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

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