Home > Commentaries on TTC > 58 – the luckiest number ever (according to Spongebob’s friend, Patrick)

58 – the luckiest number ever (according to Spongebob’s friend, Patrick)

Happiness is rooted in misery,/Misery lurks beneath happiness. Hardly a motivational text, is it? But one which describes language learning rather well. Don’t we all go through moments of despondency and frustration when we are beginning a language? How about when we are teaching a language? But there is some sort of motivation knowing that these difficult moments are the seeding beds of happiness. It’s something that students often seem to forget. They write off their chances at the earliest sign of trouble: a text is too difficult to understand: give up.  A word keeps its meaning locked up: get out the electronic translator. My classmate can’t understand what I am trying to say: revert to L1. Students would do well to be reminded of Lao’s advice that they need to go through these moments of difficulty if they are to be able to triumph on the other side.

And how do they plough through these moments of difficulty? By proceeding along the Way – that is, one step at a time. What means should they employ to reach their end? Ursula Le Guin sums it up beautifully when she writes that, “The point is that Taoists gain their ends without the use of means.” Lao tells us that teachers can shape things without having to hammer them into shape; they can bring people together without the need for cutting them down or nailing them into place; teachers should be “the light that does not shine.” It might be poetic, but it means something too. What?

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Categories: Commentaries on TTC
  1. March 9, 2011 at 05:58

    ‘Bitter are the roots of study, but how sweet the fruits!’ Cato

    Students often quit a course when they reach an intermediate stage and the learning curve levels off and they don’t get the huge jumps they achieved in the beginning. Jack Richards wrote a good essay about this called ‘Beyond the Plateau’.

    It is at the intermediate point where teachers need to emphasise that language learning is a lifetime promise where learning happens in small steps and the habit of daily reading becomes increasingly important in developing yourself as a valuable person in the world – a person who can master the language and use it for their own ends in life. This is similar to the Japanese concept of Kaizen and I think good students understand and love the fact that learning is a lifetime endeavour.

    • dfogarty
      March 9, 2011 at 07:31

      You are the yin to my yang.

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