Lesley left a comment to my post a while back, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it coz it was such a lovely quote. The quote is from the French pilot, author and visionary, Antoine de St Exupery:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the workers to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

My first reaction on reading this was, that’s ridiculously idealistic! You can’t build a ship with people who only yearn, for a start! Then my next reaction was, that’s all very well but how on earth can you teach anyone to yearn for anything? My next thought was, how can I teach anyone to yearn? And what might that look like, teaching people to yearn? What would the EFL equivalent of “yearning for the vast and endless sea” look like? Finally, I stopped trying to figure it out, and just let St Exupery’s words wash around inside my mind. Maybe, if I am quiet enough, I can hear the sound of a seed germinating.

Thanks, Lesley.

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  1. Nice post! I’ve wondered about what the practical applications of the quote would be for me too. Probably a complete change in my teaching style. But I also wonder what a ship built by people who long for the sea but have no practical skills would look like. What’s best a student who longs to communicate but has none of the basics of language in place, or a students who comulsively studies grammar but can’t actually say anything? I guess the best approach is to stimulate the need/the longing and then facilitate the semi-autonomous acquisition of language skills.

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