The ministerial circular goes on to give a series of valuable hints on the teaching of the second language by the direct method: –
“A little at a time: a few concrete ideas – ideas of persons or of things, ideas of qualities, ideas of actions – springing from an attentive observation of the surroundings or circumstances in which the pupils are placed, the most everyday forms and words which the language provides for the expression of those ideas, – these, it seems to us, are the essential elements of the method….
No grammar rules, but extremely simple chats about the class, what is to be seen there, what is being done; about the home, about the scenes of domestic or rural life, in a word about subjects coming within the pupils’ range of observation, so that, in the exercises, the mind, the eye, the ear, and the vocal organs always take part, energetically and simultaneously, in the conception and in the expression of the ideas. The aim should not be to teach much in a few lessons; it should be rather to convince the young pupils that it is possible for them, if they only persevere, to enter into communication with others through the medium of a second language. Their perseverance is assured if their first successes are the obvious outcome of the use of attractive methods; as soon as they reach the stage in which they find pleasure in being able to express themselves otherwise than in their vernacular, there will spring from this pleasure the irresistible need of extending their vocabulary. Then, if they know that they can count on the good-natured assistance of their teacher, as the little child can on that of his mother, they will grow bold, they will “let themselves go,” and their greatest difficulty will be overcome.
“Experience has already clearly shown the superiority of the natural over the classical method. I desire that it be generally adopted in the Normal Schools (Training Colleges) in order that the number of teachers capable of giving instruction in a second language with advantage may be increased. This secured, it will be possible to include French and Flemish, or French and German, as obligatory branches on the programme of many Primary Schools, or at any rate to organise special courses to prepare the young to study this language with success from the moment of their entry into the Normal School, the Middle School, the College or the Athénée.
“It need scarcely be said that this teaching of a second language on the direct or natural method by no means implies the abandonment of all set grammatical instructions. The latter is employed concurrently with the former as soon as the pupils are fit for it. A time comes when it is necessary that grammatical notions should be brought in to confirm or correct the linguistic forms acquired through the medium of conversation; the utility of these grammatical notions is then better understood and they have not that dryness which always characterises the first teaching of a living language solely by way of grammar.
“The spread of the languages spoken in Belgium is a powerful medium of national education and an important factor in public prosperity; that is why it is in the interests of the country that a second language should be taught in a practical and really useful manner in our Primary and Normal Schools. To this end, I appeal to the zeal of the teachers and professors, for they alone have the power to carry out this eminently patriotic work. Possibly, the abandonment of the classical method will cause them some regrets, whilst the adoption of the natural method will demand greater efforts on their part: they will find a rich reward in the stimulating thought that, thanks to their devotion, a greater number of their fellow-countrymen will understand and be able to speak two of our national languages, and that thus closer bonds will unite one to the other the members of the Belgian family.”
This document – which is, of course, bilingual – is signed by the then Minister of the Interior and of Public Instruction.