Home > Commentaries on TTC > 52 – an untouchable number and never the answer to the equation x – φ(x).

52 – an untouchable number and never the answer to the equation x – φ(x).

Por la boca muere el pez. In the end, it’s the fish’s mouth that kills it. Spanish folkloric wisdom and Lao T would have nodded sagely upon hearing it. What does the ELT teacher do when she hears it? Probably thinks, “ Surely it’s the fact that its gills collapse and are unable to produce oxygen for the little fella to breathe? Either that or the fact that the fisher…errr…person clumps it over the head with a stone.” Language teachers can be annoyingly literal.

In Chapter/Verse 52, Mr Tzu tells us to shut up and listen. Those who do this are those who will lead a peaceful life. For those (of us) who can’t stop our mouths, well, life is devoid of meaning and “nothing can help you.”

Look for the significance of the insignificant. Know when it’s time to stop…where have we heard that before.

The language teacher’s job is not to ram language down the throats of the students, but to help the language come out of their mouths. This is best done by shutting up and listening to the students. As they witter on about whatever might be, you listen and observe. If you want to focus on accuracy, focus on the insignificant words: the ofs, ins, buts, tos. Clever Mr Thornbury did this in his book Natural Grammar.

Know when to yield – a good time is when the students’ eyes glaze over and lose their natural shine. Or when blood starts coming out of their gills.


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