Marcus Aurelius on Error Correction

Marcus Aurelius

As I was reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations today, I noticed a passage that reminded me of one of the perennial debates among language educators: how should we correct our students’ language errors, if at all? I admit that I did not expect Emperor Marcus to weigh in on the issue, but his words are worth quoting here in full:

“It was the critic Alexander who put me on my guard against unnecessary fault-finding.  People should not be sharply corrected for bad grammar, provincialisms, or mispronunciations; it is better to suggest the proper expression by tactfully introducing it oneself in, say, one’s reply, or into a friendly discussion of the topic itself (not of the diction), or by some other suitable form of reminder” (Meditations 1.10, trans. Maxwell Staniforth).

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