(18) Acquirement of the language [[90-93]]
[] So much has been said on this subject, with a view to correct a prevalent opinion that it is easy to get into society in India, and that then a gentleman may put his hands in his pockets, while his friends forward him rapidly. Such, assuredly, was the case in days of yore; but within the last thirty years or more, there have been numerous retrenchments in all the public offices, so that the prospects of many young men who proceeded to India with the hope of being engaged in merchants' houses, have sadly failed.
It should never be forgotten how far all persons ignorant of the language spoken in common, namely, the Hindee (vulgarly called the Moors), are incompetent to any duty, beyond that of making out copies of accounts-current, and registering correspondence. Even these, to be performed with correctness, demand some local knowledge. This may serve to prove, that full[y] one year must be provided for before any employment which may ensure a livelihood, and afford the prospect of future advancement, can be reasonably expected.
Of such importance does this appear, that were one to [] advise a young friend about to proceed to India, as to the manner in which he should pass his first year, it would be nearly in the following terms: "Rise at daybreak, and ride gently for one hour in the hot, and two hours in the cold, season. Make a moderate breakfast, avoiding melted butter, salt meats, salt fish, sweetmeats, &c.; good tea or coffee being assuredly the most wholesome. Study the language for an hour or two, and attend some office gratuitously, in order to become acquainted with the accounts, price-currents, markets, provisions, commodities, &c.
"About two o'clock retire to rest, and about an hour before sunset, bathe, by means of three or four large pots of water poured over the head. Put on clean linen, and dine moderately upon plain viands, taking care never to exceed two or three glasses of the best Madeira. Proceed for two hours with studying the language, and after taking a cup or two of tea or of coffee, or a crust of bread and a glass of Madeira, go supperless to bed, avoiding to sleep in a strong current of air."
Possibly it may be urged that a person intent on learning the Hindee, so as to be competent to transact business in the course of twelve months, would not attain that object by four hours only of daily assiduity. Nevertheless, such a portion of time, appropriated under the guidance of an intelligent linguist, will certainly enable the student to make a wonderful progress; especially when combined with the resolution to enter as much as possible into familiar colloquy in that language, and to put it in practice among the natives on all occasions.
A gentleman determined to learn the language began the study of Persian at rather an advanced age; which caused many to rally [=tease] him on the new turn he had taken. He, however, persevered, and in the course of two years became more than commonly proficient. The explanation [] he gave, as to the plan he had laid down, must convince anyone that a person with a tolerable memory may, in a moderate time, acquire any regular language.
His mode was, for the first month, never to retire to bed until he had perfectly learned by heart twenty words, so as to explain them with promptitude, however catechized. After that first month, he was master of no less than six hundred words. During the next month, finding that former acquirements greatly facilitated his progress, he made a point of gaining twenty-five words daily; thus acquiring in that month seven hundred and fifty words; making a total of thirteen hundred and fifty.
In this way he added five words every day, till he found that, by the aid of derivations and compounds, he was well grounded in the language. His computation was that, as few languages contain more than forty thousand words in common use, whenever he should be able to learn fifty words daily, he might, to use his own terms, "make the language fall before him in two years."
This is an arithmetical demonstration of the powers annexed to persevering regularity, and ought to induce every youth -- for that is the season for acquirements -- to adopt such a system as may insure the great object in view. So steady a mode of carrying on a pursuit cannot, however, be expected in young persons, many of whom have just escaped from the trammels of parental vigilance; and who, having passed so many years at their studies, rarely feel much disposition to prolong academic labours; while, at the same time, the pleasures of society are open to their participation.
Still, it is to be hoped that this volume may prove intrinsically beneficial to a large portion, by pointing out the means whereby preferment may be obtained, and by shewing with what facility, as to all intellectual [] pursuits, the foundation may be laid for a most superb superstructure.