The Quest for Gold in the Foreign Language Classroom

by | Dec 7, 2022 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Most are familiar with Mark Twain’s quote: “all that glitters is not gold.”

Mr. Ballou said I could go further than that, and lay it up among my treasures of knowledge, that nothing that glitters is gold. So, I learned then, once for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, unornamental stuff, and that only low-born metals excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter.


However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.”

From Mark Twain’s “roughing It” (1872)

 The Deep Dig

The above quote and response by the character Ballou captured my attention in the Notable Quotable section of the Wall Street Journal (2013). Now, as then, it still resonates within me. I can relate my foreign language teaching experience to its moral and philosophical lesson.

For example, though honorable and representative of best-in-class effort, it is hardly enough for me to shine bright in the ranks of graduates from the Michigan State University, Master of Arts in Foreign Language Teaching, (MAFLT) program. I covet the accomplishments of fellow Japanese language teachers, whose Advanced or Superior proficiency levels will outshine and exert influence for which I am still working to attain.

Most importantly, language teachers not only attain and instill the quest for high performance and language proficiency, but we also teach target language culture, which temper our student and build character. They find brilliance within themselves. I experience a richness in language teaching and learning that can only be mined, which means digging to great depths in pedagogical skills through personal development and life-long learning.

Finding the Hidden Nugget

My goal to become a great teacher can be compared to digging well beneath the surface of language teaching glitter. I seek to serve the underserved communities that have disproportionately low numbers of students with exposure to Japanese language and culture. Language teaching is a painstaking labor, even with the ideal student and environment. In my “gold mining” analogy: climbing mountains, carrying tools and resources, like picks, shovels, and blasting twine and fuse, I “[strive] with might and main” to reach the disadvantaged, bring the best out of each student, and motivate them through their learning experience. There is a hidden nugget in every language learner, waiting to shine.


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