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?