Speak Italian Magically!

Relax! You can learn Italian now!

If you think you can’t do it, hold on a moment, then do something else to improve your Italian!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 30 Giugno 2014

Would you like to stop the negative messages that sometimes pop in your mind?
And what about the possibility to overcome a bad habit as you improve your Italian? Would you like it?

I hope so, because you will be able to find out some very interesting things just by reading this page till the end;-)

It may have occurred also to you to learn Italian and reach a point when, despite your efforts in reading, practicing and listening to the language, it looks like you “have reached a dead spot”. To say that, experts use the expression:” to hit plateau”…

And perhaps despite the fact that you have lately kept on doing something for your Italian, you may start telling yourself: “I’m really not improving at all”, or “Today I don’t feel like doing anything with Italian, I am not improving at all anyway…”

If this has happened to you, know that the negative sentences that may pop in your mind are normal and Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz has named them “deceptive brain messages”….

Let me give you some background about this doctor and how his research may help you improve your Italian today

Dr. Schwartz has created a protocol without medicines that can be helpful to people suffering from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)… It’s those people compulsively repeating an action… perhaps they want to wash their hands every two minutes, or - nowadays - compulsively check their  email or Facebook account…

I don’t know if you have watched the movie titled “The Aviator”: in that movie Leonardo Di Caprio plays a character with that  “discomfort”… Dr. Schwartz was Di Caprio’s coach during the movie shootings. In my web browsing I was attracted by this video where dr. Schwartz talks about it in English (unfortunately without Italian subtitles):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycnIO4o9vbE


If you aren’t able to watch or understand it well, I would like to point out an interesting piece of information: the mind can change the brain so that Leonardo di Caprio has immersed himself so much in the role that three months after shooting the movie he still behaved like an OCD sufferer. It took him several months to recover. This implies that the mind  can have a powerful effect on the brain and tha any good actor enters so much in the role to change his brain!

This information also has some very positive implication, as Dr. Schwartz fully demonstrates.

As I am not a medical doctor, I’ll leave you with the task, if you wish so, to deepen your knowledge on the subject, perhaps by reading the book “You’re not your Brain“, by Dr. Schwartz, that of course (ironic:-) hasn’t been translated into Italian yet.

If you are a trainer and you are keen on knowing how to teach better and at a deep level, then you could also read this other book, titled “Keeping the brain in Mind“, by Melissa Tiers and Shawn Carson that I’ve just finished reading and that, among many other things, summarizes Dr. Schwartz’s protocol.

In any case, what I’d like to point out to you is that bad thoughts that may pop in your mind when you can’t see you are getting near the goal, the “deceptive brain messages” are ““any false . . . thought or unhelpful impulse . . . that takes you away from your true goals . . . i.e., your true self.” (quoting the book Keeping the brain in mind).

Now, despite the fact that you may (or not) get these false thoughts, you have to know that probably if there would be a way to verify  if - by doing the right things - your brain is progressing - and there is a way to do that! - you may realize that in reality your brain is doing it even if it apparently looks like nothing happens (and forgive my twisted sentence;-)!

In fact, people who followed Dr. Schwartz protocol didn’t realize they were improving, but their brain scans showed they were doing it and, by keeping on applying the protocol, at the end of the 12-week period their brain structure had changed and so had their “problem”….

But this is a blog to Speak Italian Magically, so here you have any deceptive messages you could get in your path toward Italian mastery:

I’m not good enough. Non sono bravo abbastanza.
There’s something wrong with me.
C’è qualcosa di storto in me.
I don’t deserve to be happy and speak Italian very well.
Non mi merito di essere felice e parlare l’italiano molto bene.
My wishes or goals are unrealistic or unattainable.
I miei desideri od obiettivi sono irrealistici e inottenibili…
I always do the same mistakes!
Faccio sempre gli stessi errori!

What can you do to interrupt the pattern and focus on something more productive, getting nearer and nearer your goal of speaking Italian better and better?

What follows are the 4 steps of Dr. Schwartz’s Protocol adapted to the specific case of learning the Italian language:

1) Relabel (Rietichetta).

When you have these negative thoughts, simply stop and mentally acknowledge that you are having them… You can tell yourself: “I am having those negative thoughts again…”

2) Reframe (Reincornicia)

At this point you can continue the sentence by telling yourself “… but it’s not me… it’s just my brain!” By telling something like that you are just dissociating from those sentences. It’s not you who’s not good at learning and speaking Italian very well, but it’s your brain that is sending you false messages:-)

3) Refocus (Redirigi la tua attenzione)

After the first two phases, the piece of advice is to do something useful and productive. What can you do that may get you nearer your goal of speaking Italian very well? Perhaps you could listen to an audio from Speak Italian Magically or Awaken your Italian, or anything else in Italian, why not? I’d suggest you listen to the episode titled “When you are at your best!” Or you can watch a TV show in Italian (your favorite one)… or even carefully listen to an Italian song! The choice is infinite, as long as you do something that makes you feel good while absorbing and improving your Italian! (Because if you associate pleasure with Italian learning  then you’ll learn it much faster!)

4) Revalue (Rivaluta)

If you have followed this protocol for a while, then you could revalue what you have done so far… And you could verify something like: ” That false message wasn’t doing anything for me, but look at all the beautiful things I have learned and how good I am becoming with Italian day after day!;-)”

4-step-solution-schwartz.JPG

The moral of all this is that if someone tells you - or you are doing it yourself - that it’s very difficult to change, or that learning Italian is not easy, please DON’T believe it, first of all because you can apply Dr. Schwartz’s protocol and second because “all we are is change;-)” and you may even realize that you have changed, becoming a different person since when you started reading this article a few minutes ago…

What do you think? ;-)

If you liked this article, please share it with anyone you love!

- Antonio

P.s.: Now you could read my article in Italian about what I call “il ma positivo

P.s.2: This article is an adaptation of an Italian article I wrote and published here: http://tinyurl.com/kkt8hlv !

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Can you learn Italian with FUMETTI? ;-)

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 14 Maggio 2014

You may be one of those people who believes that to learn a language you absolutely need books that teach you either  grammar, or the proper way of speaking the language… or you may be not! I can’t know whether you are one of those people or not because you are on the other side of what I am writing right now: you are reading it. But, just for a moment, imagine that you could acquire the language, by doing something that - by doing it - will let you have fun and don’t ever think that you are “working” to learn. Are you interested in this? I don’t know if you are. What I do know is that…

fumetti-to-learn2.JPG

Today I’d like to tell you a story of a boy who loved to read comic books so much that he was sometimes immersed in them… He started like most of us with Topolino (Mickey Mouse), Paperino (Donald Duck) and company…then he moved into l’Uomo Ragno (Spiderman), Superman and superhero comics…passing through Bonelli comics (Dylan Dog, Zagor, Martin Mystère, etc)… It was another world that for the duration of the “fumetto” allowed him to suspend disbelief, expand his fantasy and enjoy the time he spent like that . There were no computers (or at least he didn’t own one at that time),  tv was not so entertaining…but comic books were. Although in some periods of his life he stopped reading comics, from time to time he got back there in that fantasy world that allowed him to temporarily escape from the ordinary world and fly with fantasy. A thing that the boy didn’t know was that through those comic boos he learned a lot… He learned how to spell words, he learned new vocabulary, he learned so much (also) through them, that he became the man that he is today… He also learned to read them in another language…and enjoyed understanding them in a language that wasn’t his own mother tongue… By the time he managed to read comic books in a foreign language he was 26; after all he started learning that foreign language when he was 24…

Well… That grown up boy still enjoys reading comics… not so many like in the past… Sometimes he likes reading some comic books for mature readers (such as “Y the last man“), sometimes he reads Smarter Comics (http://www.smartercomics.com/), such as Think and Grow rich (by Napoleon Hill) or Influence (by  Robert Cialdini)…. And other times he likes reading il Grande Diabolik (the criminal hero that we have here in Italy and that many of my advanced students know;-)… Recently he rediscovered Zagor, a comic book that a cousin of his (ciao Aurelio!) introduced him to about 30 years ago (well… he is 38 years young now!)… and thanks to the “Collezione Storica a colori” he is reading Zagor again.

01_zagor_660giallo.jpg

But why am I telling you this story and why am I talking about comics today?

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know that comics, especially the ones that have an audio adaptation can be used to learn a language.

When about 10 years ago I started using one of my passions to teach Italian in the school I was teaching, the director asked me:” What? You are teaching Italian through comic books? Is that even possible?”

I told him: “Look at the results”… By the time the story in the comic book was over, I had asked the students so many questions (in Italian!)…They had answered them (in Italian!)… They had retold me the story…. and they had enjoyed their time just by listening  and reading a nice and compelling story! I proceeded in this order: I let them listen first, ask questions, let them answer (of course! ;-), then listen while reading and looking at the pictures, ask other questions or let them retell me the story…

After so many years that  I’ve ALSO  been using this approach to let my students improve they listening and speaking skills, I am happy to tell you that Alma Edizioni has recently published some comic books with multimedia video (or audio if you close your eyes and just listen!)… And they are graded  according to your level!

Here you have a preview of one of them:

Habemus Papam TRAILER from Alma Edizioni on Vimeo.

I also watched a video that some Japanese students have created with  their own adaptation of the Alma Edizioni fumetti… To do that, they had to read, listen, understand and express themselves in Italian… By doing this, they had a lot of exposure to comprehensible input…

And if you still think that comic books cannot be used to learn a language, you may have forgotten what I wrote about Stephen Krashen in this article… (in Italian: http://tinyurl.com/l3p9jvm ) Do you remember what he told about the word bouillabaisse in his “The power or reading”?

To end this article I just have to tell you that, if you haven’t realized it yet, I am the boy of the story I told you a few lines before…

I still read comics… in my own language and in English… And I learn a lot, while having fun! And you? Why don’t you do it? ;-)

-Antonio

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Leave for your Hero’s Journey and Awaken your Italian!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 19 Aprile 2014

“Nella caverna dove hai paura di entrare si trova il tesoro che stai cercando”.
“In the cave you fear to enter lies the treasure you seek.

- Joseph Campbell

What’s the symbolic cave you are afraid to enter? Before you answer this question I could tell you a story… Perhaps I could begin with “C’era una volta… un eroe” (”Once upon a time, there was a hero“), but I prefer, if you let me do it and read me till the end, to change the protagonist of the story and tell you that…

Some day you could wake up and after doing all the things that you normally  do every day, something happens, something that can change your life… Perhaps it could be - to stay on the positive side - that for a reason or another you have to leave on a journey (and a trip) to Italy, or you receive a wonderful job offer and you have to perfectly speak Italian to take the job… But you may not speak it so perfectly yet, or at all…

So, what will you do? Will you fight or flight? Perhaps it’s a one-time opportunity and it’s really almost like a call to adventure. Will you decline the call, staying the way you are? Or will you accept it, by facing the challenge.  And how can you face it? Perhaps a good Italian speaking friend of yours may help you, or you could attend an Italian school or use a multimedia course…
Remember that if you’ll decline the call to adventure you could have some regrets… such as the regret of not living a different life, perhaps your dream life… So, after thinking  the right amount of time about it, you may accept the challenge and you’ll get ready to cross the threshold, to leave your ordinary life and begin either your journey, or your new job in which you speak Italian very well.

On this journey you’ll possibly meet some bad teachers, but also some good teachers… It’ll be up to you to tell the good from the bad and realize that you can meet someone who would like to let you use only the rational side of your mind… and this will apparently be the easiest path to follow - or you can meet someone inviting you to use your whole brain - not only the rational side, but also the creative and emotional side… In your path toward the mastery of Italian you may meet some “magic allies” that will help you get your goal faster. These allies may be good teachers, mentors or just supporters, people who will help you Awaken your Italian or Speak Italian magically :-) [after all you are on the Speak Italian Magically blog;-)]
It’s also true that you may also meet some demons who will try with every possible trick to slow you down or even to stop you and let you get back to square one… And sometimes those demons will be your inner demons… because, as a dear friend of mine (Raul, who’s improving at Italian day after day)  says, “You can be your worst enemy”. And then you’ll need to have the strength to defeat those (symbolic) dragons and demons that you may meet on your path… the path toward the so wished mastery of the Italian language and consequently your journey to Italy, your new job, your dream, etc., or any other thing you wish for during this time of your life.

In any case, after reaching your goal, you will have obtained a transformation because by developing your inner resources you will be able to efficiently face any new challenge you will encounter in the future.
And finally you could begin the final phase of your path: almost like coming back home. In other words, you could share with others what you have discovered, accomplished and learned… And you would have experienced what Joseph Cambpell codified as the Hero’s Journey… That I have mind mapped here below:
viaggio-eroe.JPG

Recently I have watched the following video (it’s in English, but you can watch it with Italian subtitles if you feel like!), where the author, Matthew Winkler, briefly and brilliantly  explains what the Hero’s Journey is about.

And the conclusion is that: all of us - me, you and anyone else - are living our hero’s journey through the symbolic stories of our lives. Leaving our comfort zone, we daily live experiences that transform us, and the beauty of it is that after doing it, perhaps we recover for a while and then we’ll start all over again! And it isn’t that we need to slay dragons or fight Voldemort (from the Harry Potter’s saga), we just face problems just as scary - at least from our point of view.

So, accept the challenge, begin your journey, claim your treasure… and please do remember what I love to say: Relax and enjoy the journey!

-Antonio

P.s. 1.: A wonderful documentary film about the hero’s Journey is “Finding Joe” by Pat Solomon (I don’t think it has been adapted in Italian yet:-( . I really advise you to watch it! Ne vale davvero la pena! (It’s really worth it!)

P.s. 2:  My friend Conor has asked me a question about shadowing and I answered here, also on a video with Italian subtitles:  http://tinyurl.com/languagetsar

P.s. 3: This article is an adaptation of a former article that I wrote a couple of days ago in Italian and you can read it here: http://tinyurl.com/viaggio-eroe 

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If someone speaks Italian better than you, how can you react?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 29 Ottobre 2013

What’s your reaction when you find someone who does something better than you? How do you react? Do you get depressed? Or do you look for ways to criticize that person and you say for example :”He can do that because he has all the time in the world to do that” or “Hey…he was wrong there, though!” Or you even get verde dall’invidia (green with envy) because he’s good at it and you’re not? Or do you react in any different way?

Surely there’s a better and more productive way to react, instead of the ways I have just described to you.

Moreover, let me tell you, but I think that all of us have been culturally conditioned to believe that we must compete with the others, at all costs… What would the world be like if you competed only with yourself instead? Have you ever wondered?

If it were so, maybe many people wouldn’t find football games  so exciting  and many others would be disappointed… But forget about football for a while (if you can;-) and concentrate on what you are about to read.

Think of any learning, sport or everyday life situation, when you can - or have to - compare yourself with someone else. What happens? How do you behave? Do you try to thwart others? Or do you become fossilized only with some parts of your preparation, so that you overcome only that challenge? Whatever your answer, let me tell you that perhaps it is normal. I don’t believe that many have told us that there’s a better way to behave.

mappa-reactions-m2.jpg

At this point, imagine you are an athlete and you want to win a race that will take place with competitors, that you already know and you also know their strengths and weaknesses. You know for sure (at least you believe so) that the other seven competitors are able to run that distance in 4 minutes, not a second less. And so you concentrate on running the distance in 3 minutes and 59 seconds. The thing that you don’t know is that at least one of the others, let’s call him Giulio, has decided to compete with himself, that means he’s training to improve his times day after day, perhaps of a few fractions of a second a day. And he’s constantly improving. So, when the day of the race comes, you run the distance while concentrating on the goal you had set and you run it in 3 minutes and 59 seconds. But Giulio runs with passion, with joy, caring neither about you, nor about the others and wins the race in 3 minutes and 57 seconds. And even if he hadn’t won that, he would be happy anyway, happy of his improvement, and he would keep on improving day after day. Whereas you would…

I read some time ago about Kurt Hahn, a very influential educator, who created some schools where, among the other principles, there was also that of self competition: “Students are encouraged to compete not against each other but with their own personal best
and with rigorous standards of excellence
.”

The important thing about this concept is that by competing with yourself, if you have a daily little piece of improvement in what you do, you are happy about it! So, if, for example, the day before you knew only 100 words of Italian and today you know 101 of them, you have to be happy about it! If until yesterday using the imperfect correctly was difficult and today it’s  a piece of cake, you have to be happy about it! It doesn’t matter if Giulio (or any other person) is quicker than you in learning Italian or anything else. What matters is that you are improving day after day and… You have to be happy about it. So, you can’t learn a language by transforming the learning journey in a competition against others;  at most you can cooperate with others to reach an even better result, better than what you could have accomplished by yourself.

And if you meet someone who’s better than you in what you want to do, there’s a better way to react, different than what I described at beginning of this article… Perhaps you could combine the concept of self competition with that of learning from person who’s better at it. What does that person do that you could do yourself too? There’s a caveat, though, you don’t have to simply imitate or copy the person who’s better at it, you need to learn what there’s to learn from that person and then continue on your personal path for improvement, with Italian and any other skill you want to learn.

I think that these concepts may be useful whether for anyone who’s learning a foreingn language in a school, or for anyone who’s learning by himself.

For these reasons, when I meet (via the internet or in the real world) some people I can learn from, I am curious to know how they do what they do. One of the people who has positively struck me is Luca Lampariello, the famous Italian polyglot - I talked about him somewhere else. If you don’t know him yet (and perhaps you are one of the few who doesn’t ;-) you have to know that Luca speaks at least 10 languages at a very high level. Now, I don’t have in my next plans to become a hyper-polyglot, but I have been interested in anything related  to learning for a few years, so if Luca reveals his way of learning in detail, I want to learn from him, for me and for whoever learns through me. That’s why I bought his master class, he recently published online. Despite the fact it is in two languages (in English with consecutive translation in Russian) and this can bother a little who understands just one of the two, the pieces of information contained in that are a treasure for anyone who learns  languages, for teaches or  for anyone is into lifelong learning. We have been living a learning revolution in the last few years and we must open ourselves to the possibility to learn in new, different and also pleasantly entertaining ways… And Luca explains how, after the initial time when you have to build a core in the foreing language, you can create your personal learning materials and learn the language through what really interests you, inspires you and its’ fun for you. In the video below you can watch him in action to discover how to learn a foreign langauge: methods and principles.

 

In the book Unlimited - The new learning revolution and the seven keys to unlock it (that I read as  it was published four years ago) a statement struck me: when you want to learn something by yourself, “Don’t start with academic books. In the area of your interest, find the three best books written by people who’ve done it“. Despite the fact he hasn’t written a book (yet), Luca has done it for sure and thus he is rightfully among the people you want to learn how to learn a foreign language from.

I want to be more precise about the academic world before concluding though. A few days ago I listened  to a speech about multilingualism by dr. Clelia Capua, of the Ca’ Foscari University (part of the wonderful training project “Un mondo d’italiano“) and I have to tell you that something is changing in the academic world too…But this is another story (and maybe I’ll talk about it in another post!)

But now tell me… What would you answer now if I asked you again:

What is your reaction when you find someone doing something better than you? ;-)

Have fun  with Italian and with learning in general!

-Antonio

P.s.: This article is an adaptation of a former article of mine, that I originally wrote in Italian here!

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Change your mind-set to speak better Italian!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 17 Settembre 2013

If you are more than 20 years old, what beautiful things were you doing about 20 years ago?

What was the world like 20 years ago?

What did you enjoy doing the most that time of your life?

Take a bit of time and remember some good memories of that time and, as you do it, take mentally note of the feelings that you feel while thinking about it. You may perhaps want to think about your typical day in that time of your life. Why do I ask you these questions? You’ll discover it only by reading this article till the end;-)

It’s been a while since I wrote my last article, I know, but summer is a time that I devote to other activities (unfortunately or fortunately not to holidays). During the month of August I am busy preparing breakfast and making people feel at home (even if they are indeed at my home;-): all people who decide to come and visit and to spend their sea and swimming holidays between Tropea and Capo Vaticano. That’s why the time that I have to write and read is little, but there’s a moment, the moment that I call “the sacred moment“, when I have the chance to read or listen to what I really like. And do you know what this moment is? When I’ve just finished preparing breakfast (imagine the smell of just baked cornetti;-) and I wait for people to come and eat and chat with them. I think it’s important for me to precise it: when my guests come for breakfast I am really happy to give them my full attention. As I read last year for the first time in a bar in Morano Calabro:

ghandi-cliente.jpg

“Il cliente è il più importante visitatore dei nostri locali [in the picture it’s written “delle nostre assunzioni”, but, in my opinion, “dei nostri locali” is the right Italian expression], colui che non è dipendente da noi. Invece noi dipendiamo da lui. Lui non è un’interruzione nel nostro lavoro. Lui è lo scopo del nostro lavoro. Lui non è un esterno del nostro lavoro. Fa parte di esso. Noi non gli facciamo un favore sevendolo. Lui ci fa un favore dandoci l’opportunità di farlo.”

Which in the original English version is this:

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

The author of this short piece of writing (or saying) that you have just read is Mahatma Gandi.

After closing this little digression, the goal of my writing here today is to tell you that one of the few books I read till the end in my pleasant waiting moment is really good. I had read about it in one of the few blogs that I sometimes follow- Psicologia Neurolinguistica by Gennaro Romagnoli. Getting curious, I looked for the book, but, there was nothing to do, I couldn’t find it: the Italian edition is out of print (no eBook edition either). So I went on with my search and I found it in English. The title is “Counterclockwise“, by Ellen Langer, member of the Psychology department  in Arward. If I believed in it;-), I could say that I was destiny for me to read it in English and so I did.

counterclockwise-antiorario.jpgCounterclockwise is based on an experiment held by the author.

A group of elderly people were brought in a center where everything was letting the place look as if they were 20 years before (everything looked like it was 1959). Besides, even if till that day they were helped in everything, from that day on they wouldn’t be helped, but they were supposed to “work” on their own. As an example, here’s an episode: they had to bring their suitcase to their room…on their own! For anyone who hasn’t read the book, this may look cruel, but instructions given by doctor Langer were indeed clear and human. The elderly people would have all the time they would need to bring their luggage to their room. So, they could have made a step and stop to rest, or make a larger distance and rest. Slowly but constantly they would reach their room with their luggage. This is just an example of what happened that week. The rest, along with many thoughts by the author, you can read in the English edition of the book (given the fact that the Italian edition is out of print, as I have already written).

What do you think happened to this group of elderly people who went 20 years counterclockwise?

They improved a lot, they looked healthier and youthful.

In the author’s words:

ellen-langer-photo.jpg“These improvements were the results of one week spent with a group of strangers. Imagine the possibilities if our culture afforded us a different set of mindsets than we have about old age”.

Which in Italian could be translated more or less like this:

“Questi miglioramenti furono il risultato di una settimana trascorsa con un gruppo di estranei. Immagina le possibilità se la nostra cultura ci permettesse un atteggiamento mentalee diverso rispetto all’avanzare dell’età”.

The author, still respecting the medical profession (and I fully respect
it too: there are times it’s better to go to a doctor instead of acting on your own), manages to explain in a very clear way what the risks of giving labels and following statistics are. I also briefly talked about this inside the section about the science behind Awaken your Italian. Have you already read it? In English or Italian?

While reading Dr. Langer’s opinions, that were very often based on scientific research, a story came back to my mind, a story that I had read some time ago. And without writing any longer, I’ll conclude this article with it. You can find your own conclusions about it and perhaps you can write on the comments below what you think this article has to do with learning Italian ;-)

Two patients, both with the surname Jones and first initial W., were lying next to each other in the pulmonary ward. One had severe pneumonia and a painful cough; he was also an asthma sufferer. The other W. Jones was a chain smoker and had severe bronchitis; he was in hospital because he was coughing up blood and needed to get a bronchoscopy. The asthma patient Jones was diagnosed , after X-rays, with a very progressive and aggressive form of lung cancer; the prognosis was dim: six to nine months. The smoker Jones was told that his symptoms were of severe pneumonia, and he was put on a course of antibiotics and other appropriate medications. When he received the news, he was visibly relieved and his whole physiology changed. He was humming songs and telling jokes to the other patients. He was so happy because when he’d come into hospital he had been certain he had cancer and given up hope; he had come to hospital with the belief that he was going to die. From that day he quit smoking and went back home to his life. The other W. Jones was not so lucky; after having struggled for many years with chronich asthma, he was now diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer and was considered to be at the end of the road. He was terribly depressed and did not speak to anyone anymore. His family tried in vain to ease his despair, but could not change his funeral mood. Three months later this W. Jones passed away. The doctors were proven right once again in their prediction of the future.

However, the story does not end there: some weeks after asthma sufferer W. Jones death, a medical student discovered that there had been a mix-up in the patient files. The surviving W. Jones, the former smoker, was the one who’d had the lung cancer all along. He was called back for another X-ray. To the great surprise of all the doctors there was no trace of lung cancer, except for a small calcification where the tumor had been. This W. Jones was completely cured and symptom-free.

Source for this story: Roy Martina, Emotional balance, Hay house (also available in Italian as: Equilibrio Emozionale, Tecniche nuove)

P.S.: Do you remember that I have already written about beliefs and the placebo and nocebo effects?

P.P.S.: This article is an adaptation of a former article of mine, that I wrote in Italian. Do you want to read it in Italian?

Pubblicato in The science behind learning Italian | Tagged: , , , | Nessun commento »

Train yourself mentally to speak Italian better and better!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 26 Luglio 2013

If you saw a group of guys staying still, with their eyes closed, and their trainer would tell you that they are intent on imagining
doing free trow shots (those of basketball) in their mind, what would would you think?

Here you have three alternatives:

a) they are all a little nuts;-);

b) they are wasting their time;

c) what they are doing can serve them in some ways so that they improve their ratio of scored free shots.

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A few years ago, like you, I’d have also answered either (a) or (b) and perhaps I’d have told you that one thing is imagination and another is reality. And if you have also answered this way, go on reading to find out something more about mental training.

If you already heard about it, you may know what occurred in an experiment held in an American University in the sixties and you  may be curious to read where I want to get at, so go on reading till the end!

The psychologyst R. A. VAndell did an experiment about the effects of mental training in basketball free trow shots. There were three groups of students.

The first group practiced shooting hoops for 20 days.

The second group did no practice for 20 days.

The third group spent 20 minutes a day, imagining they were throwing a ball at the hoop. If they imagined they missed the shot, they imagined correcting the shot. Each group was scored on their first and last days.

And do you want to know what the results of this experiment?

The first  group (that trained physically) improved 24%.

The second group, that did nothing, had no improvement.

The most amazing thing is the third group result. They improved 23%, just for imagining to shoot hoops. [Also Maxwel Maltz speaks about this in his wonderful book titled Psychocibernetics]

How was all that possible? Wait another little bit and I’ll talk about what’s behind…but think for a moment about how this information can help you, who are learning Italian and improving day after day.

Now, let me ask you another question…Do you think that just watching a top athlete can help someone who watches him/her to   improve his/her performances? If you’re keen on calcio (soccer for the States), practiced and watched, do you think that just watching Lionel Messi as he scores, can make you a champion? Or if you are keen on tennis (practiced and watched), do you think that watching Serena Williams as she scores points after points, can make you a better tennis player?

Recently I read about the so called “couch potato workout” (which in Italian could be translated into this: l’allenamento del pigrone). Basically it’s the training practiced by who, after stretching and relaxing, stays in front of a video to watch other top athletes performing at their best. And the result is that the performance of these observers drastically improves.

Likewise, you, after deeply relaxing, you could start watching (see, listen to) a person who speaks Italian very well and by simply doing it may be useful to you for the purpose of improving  your ability of speaking Italian. Of course, if you already understand what the Italian speaker says, the the experience will be even more fruitful: the concept of comprehensible input still counts.

Too good to be true? Maybe, but go on reading!

If it’s possible to improve thanks to either visualization or observation, why is it so?

Sport psychologists talk about “muscle memory programming” or “neuromuscular programming”. Basically, as we watch someone - even at TV - who does something, we also practice that skill…unconsciously, through invisible micromovements. And the same happens when we vividly imagine doing something, like already demonstrated by a famous research by Elisa Tartaglia, about whom I also talk in the Science behind Awaken your Italian.

Neuroscientists talk about mirror neurons, those that activate when we watch someone doing somehting, allowing us to get ready in doing that action we’re watching. I can better clarify this concept talking about kids learning how to ride a bicycle. Usually the fastest are those who have spent a bit of time watching other kids riding a bike. These children, as they watched the others ridin have activated their mirror neurons…mentally riding a bike.

The example you have just read about is from a book (Stroh im Kopf: it’s in German, I don’t know if it’s been translated into other languages) by Very F. Birkenbihl. In this book, the authoress (not living anymore) was wondering if it was possible to activate mirror neurons for a beginner who didn’t know the movement to practice. Paraphrasing and adapting what she wrote for our goals (speak Italian very well), her conclusion were: as a part of the brain is busy learning how to speak Italian and to build the neural pathway, while another part has to coordinate the muscles of the tongue and mouth to perform the taks - and that requires resources and energy - the piece of advice is to work in small modules and switch back and forth between real action and mental rehearsal. And this lets you learn Italian (or any other skill you want to learn) in a faster and more effective way.

And it’s what I invite you to do with my books based on visualization (Speak Italian Magically and Awaken your Italian), where I also suggest you several ways to layer your learning of visualization and mental training applied to learning the Italian language… In other words, you can switch back and fort between a passive phase where you relax and just listen to an audio, letting your mind wander by following the suggested ideas and an active phase where you ask yourself questions, hilight new and interesting words, or you just practice shadowing to speak Italian better and better.

Now it’s up to you! Have fun with Speak Italian Magically and Risveglia il tuo italiano!

-Antonio

P.s.: This article is an adaptation of a former article I wrote in Italian. Are you ready to read it?

Pubblicato in The science behind learning Italian | Tagged: , , | Nessun commento »

Learn Italian a little a day…every day!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 10 Luglio 2013

Be honest with yourself, how much time a day can you spend learning Italian EVERY DAY? One hour? half an hour? Or just a few minutes a day?

And be careful, don’t immediately answer one hour a day, because maybe it’s something that you won’t be able to keep in the long run. How many little (or big) commitments do you have every day, beside your work, your school, or family maybe…that can distract you from your goal of speaking Italian very well?

When some people make a decision (like the one of speaking Italian very well, for example), they speed away at the beginning, by saying: “From today on I’ll do exercises every day”, “From today on I’ll eat less!”, “From today on…I’ll do something with Italian for one hour a day!”…

If you’re interested in what’s the right way to set goals, I’ve already written about this in Italian in another blog of mine, so I would like to write about something else today.

What can you do once you know the basics of the Italian language (maybe because you attended a course for beginners, or completed a book for beginners, such as Assimil Italian) to improve your language skills in a progressive way, even though you have a little time at your disposal?

Before answering, let me explain what phases we go through during any learning:

1) unconscious incompetence: imagine you don’t know that there’s another language to learn, you wouldn’t know anything about and you wouldn’t even be skilled at speaking Italian (that’s an extreme case); or - a more likely case - you know that the Italian language exists, but you don’t know anything about its rules and you don’t know how to use them…

2) unconscious competence: you found out that Italian as a language exists and you know you aren’t able to speak it; or you found out that there are many rules in the Italian language, but you don’t know how to use them.

3) conscious competence: you have been studying Italian for a while, but you have to think a lot before uttering any single word you have to say and you’re not sure how to say it: you’re a little slow and clumsy.

4) unconscious competence: at this point you’re master of the Italian language (Finalmente!) and you speak it correctly and without thinking about it.

If you have finished that basic course of Italian, it’s possible that you are between phase two and three, aren’t you? How can you reach (and faster) unconscious competence?

Many linguists - Stephen Krashen among them - state that mastery of a language is a process so complex that it exceeds our capacity for conscious control; so, what can you do to reach the wished unconscious mastery of the Italian language (as if it were your mother tongue)?

The simplest answer is…

“Pratica! Pratica! Pratica!”

But you can practice Italian in a pleasant way and even for a little a day!

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Below you’ll find an (incomplete) list of ways of daily improving your Italian and, keeping in mind the time at your disposal, you can devote just a few minutes a day:

1) Do you like reading? Do you know that you can read anything that you normally like, but in Italian? Or…Do you like listening? What do you like listening? Do you know that you can listen to anything that you normally like, but in Italian? Do you like watching TV shows? Watch them, but in Italian! This way you will exponentially and rapidly expand your vocabulary, by having fun… If you believe that reading or listening something directly in Italian can be frustrating (because you don’t understand anything you read or listen to - but do you remember what I think about frustration?), then you could initially choose a book with English translation, or a magazine, such as Pronto Estate 2013 [Do you know that a couple of years ago I recorded the audio of it? And it’s still here in audio and PDF], that allows you to discover Tropea and nearby and it’s written in three languages (and it’s free in the PDF version). Have you ever thought that you can just read a page a day in Italian and constantly improve? If you read one page a day, or you just listen to a little audio a day, it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Can you find them, can’t you?

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2) You can put yourself in a total immersion situation where you have to speak only in Italian, because no one else speaks your language. In this case be sure that progress will be very fast, and sooner or later you will find yourself thinking in Italian or even dreaming in Italian, why not? If you live in a touristic place where Italians come and visit, you’ll just have to approach the first of them you see and talk with them, or do you believe you’re too shy to do it? ;-) Or you could leave and come in Italy on vacation (I hope this is achievable for you!), but without anyone speaking your mother tongue!

3) You can practice mental training in Italian and for this the course Awaken your Italian can help you! Its bilingual texts and mp3s will explain you how to mentally train to speak Italian very well and they’ll help you internalize the Italian language used in it. Even if there are some lessons that require even 30 minutes (especially the last one) if you have less time, you can choose to quickly reread the lesson, or listen to the questions and answer them as quickly as possible. Avoid putting yourself in a Procrustean bed!

4) You can use any other course with guided imagery in Italian. It’ll be like daydreaming in Italian, while your unconscious mind internalizes Italian and help you start and think Italian. If you don’t know where to start from and you haven’t used it already, dare I suggest my Speak Italian Magically? Lessons will last 10 to 15 minutes…and you’ll really relax into Italian!

5) After listening to a lot of Italian, you can practice shadowing and I have already written about it. This will help your tongue untie a lot - mentally and physically! For how many minutes a day do you want to practice it? It’s up to you!

6) You can have someone ask you a lot of easy questions to answer as quick as possible, so that you’ll automatize the process. Or you can answer the questions that you can find at the end of Speak Italian Magically or Awaken your Italian as fast as you can!

So..

There are a lot of things that you can do to daily improve your Italian and you just need a little time to do it…So, next time you say that you don’t have time to improve your ability to speak Italian very well, think about how long you stay in front of TV or social networks and remember about this article and about all the chances you have to do a little a day to speak Italian better and better.

Knowledge is power! Sapere è potere!;-)

-Antonio

P.s.: This article is an adaptation of another article, that I’ve written in Italian on another blog of mine. Are you ready to read it in Italian???

Pubblicato in The course | Nessun commento »

Create a ritual to speak Italian very well!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 23 Giugno 2013

What mental state are you in when you learn Italian? And what mental state are you in when you speak it?
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Imagine this situation: you’re at home, sprawling either on your sofa, or on your bed, or even at your desktop table; you’re relaxed, you think how beautiful it is to learn Italian (do you?), then you start and learn it for a while. As you learn it you are at ease, perhaps you’re sipping a tasteful drink. Imagine another situation: you suddenly have to speak Italian, perhaps in an important work situation, or, in an extreme case, you need to help a person - who speaks only Italian! - who fell and you have to calm him or her, until the ambulance comes. What’s your mental state in these two situations? I guess it is a little different, isn’t it?

If, like I believe, your mental state is very different in those two situations, then probably it won’t be easy to remember words and expressions that could be useful  to help you cope with the real situation your in. What do you think about it?

In my last article I briefly talked (wrote, actually:-) about state dependent learning (apprendimento dipendente dallo stato) and how you can overcome this by adding new layers to your learning. Have you read it, haven’t you?;-)

In this article, instead, I want to talk (write, actually:-) about athletes and their rituals. Why do I want to talk about it? Go on with the reading if you’re curious to find it out.

Have you ever seen those athletes (at the TV or at the stadium) who start and do some things that from your point of view really seem bizarre? By searching the internet through Google you can find out that:

“nel rugby e nel calcio, per esempio, molti giocatori pretendono di avere sempre lo stesso posto negli spogliatoi. Per non parlare di chi vuole solo ed esclusivamente il solito numero. Ai tempi di quando giocava nell’Inter, si racconta che Bobo Vieri indossava sempre le stesse scarpette con le quali aveva segnato la domenica precedente. Che dire del grande Giovanni Trapatoni, che quando allenava la nazionale di calcio Italiana usava versare sul terreno di gioco una bottiglietta di acqua santa?”

Which in English, could be translated more or less like this:

“in rugby and in soccer, for example, many players require that they always have the same place in the changing rooms. Let alone those who only and exclusively want the same number. When Bobo Vieri worked at Inter Milan [a famous Italian soccer team], they say that he always wore the same shoes he scored with the previous Sunday. And what about the great Giovanni Trapattoni, who, while training the Italian national soccer team, used to pour on the game field the content of a holy water bottle?” (the source is here!)

What do you think? Are these rituals useful?

Whatever your opinion (and I care about your opinion - let’s make it clear!), let me tell you what’s mine.

If an athlete performed very well by following a precise ritual, then repeating it at the beginning of the next match could help him get again in the same mental state, in the mental “zone” that will allow him to perform very well. If instead, by following the ritual, he performs poorly, then - read carefully! - by repeating it, very probably he won’t be able to perform very well - maybe  because he’ll end up having what’s called a collapsing of anchors (I talked about this in Italian in another blog of mine).

If you remember what you’ve read at the beginning of this article (do you? Don’t you?:-), then you’ll agree with me that if you are able to recreate the same mental state when you learn Italian ( or even when you read it or learn it for pleasure) and when you speak it in a real situation, then you’ll have an easy life with the Italian language (and with any other thing you want to apply this principle!)

Please keep in mind that anything I said about adding new layers to the learning, still counts! So, you could generalize the learning by adding new ways of being exposed to the same material… and over and above this, you can create a ritual, or one of those that in NLP (NEURO LINGUISTIC PROGRAMMING) are called anchors (I talked about this subject in Awaken your Italian).

But… how can you create a special ritual for you to access the same mental state and then remember what you want to remember?

There are infinite ways of doing it!!!

What follow are the first three that come in my mind:-)

1) Create a new Italian identity! One of the things that I like doing while teaching Italian to my students is to create a new identity, an all Italian identity, with name, family name, city of residence or origin, address, profession and age, all in Italian! Why? For several reasons. What do you think? Why this could be useful for you, who are learning Italian and you speak it better and better? I am talking about creating a new, all Italian identity. Because, first of all, you will end up smiling every time you are called with the name Francesco (or Flavio), or Rosa (or Lavinia); and smiling (and/or better yet laughing) will already create an optimal mind state for learning and speaking. Secondly, because you will become one with a person who already speaks Italian very well. After all you would be - you are! - a person who was born and lived in Italy and Italian would be - it is! - your mother tongue! Thirdly this would help you relax when making mistakes, because it wouldn’t be Carl (or Dave), or Jen (or Johanna) - Come ti chiami? - to make them, but it would be Francesco or Rosa - or any name you have chosen for your new Italian identity;-). At the beginning it may not be easy for you to remember the details of your Italian identity, then by repeating the process it will become easier and faster. And what I suggest my students is to briefly recall this new identity of theirs in their mind, both when they’re learning the language, and when they have to speak; and another reason I do it (and so did Lozanov in his suggestopedical courses) is that this way they’ll have a little and funny ritual to access the right mental state to learn and speak Italian! Obviously in a later moment you can do another game, the game of identity integrations, but this is another story;-)

2) Your special place and when you’re at your best! Another way to create your personal ritual could be to create a mental place to access to and relax just before you learn Italian and then when you have to speak it. Of course, at the beginning it may take a while, but with practice you can become faster and faster. And what counts is that you can do it in your mind, without anyone to notice you. How can you do it? To find it out, you’ll just have to follow the second lesson of the course Awaken your Italian, titled “Il tuo posto speciale“! Another useful lesson to speak Italian very well is the one that helps you access yourself at your best! And this you can do it thanks to the third lesson of Risveglia il tuo italiano, titled “Quando sei al tuo meglio!

3) Anchor your nose to the smell of success! Alternatively…you can create a “nasal anchor“, but doing it could be slightly more difficult than the methods you have just read about above this. In a wonderful book, titled “Keep your brain alive” the authors,  Lawrence C. Katz and Manning Rubin, suggest to create an association between a specific smell and a specific place… And while thinking about this book again, it “popped” in my mind: why can’t you create an association between a specific smell and a mental state - the mental state in which you speak Italian very well? The authors also suggest to create some little jars with sponge cubes where you can pour some drops of perfumed essential oil (lemon, lavender, vanilla, etc.). Perhaps before learning and before speaking Italian very well, you could smell the same fragrance, what do you think about it? ;-)

Now, I don’t know which one of these three methods is the most practical for you, but I do think that having mental states that are easily accessible is very useful to speak Italian very well (and even for a lot of other things in life), so I strongly suggest you to create your rituals (the simplest and the quicker, the better) that allow you to make good use of your pleasant learning experience. What are you waiting for? Why don’t you put into practice one of the expedients I’ve just talked (written, actually;-) about? Or, why don’t you create a very personal one and then you let me know it? I would be very grateful! And you would have contributed to my personal growth, and what is equally important, to yours!

P.s.: this article is an adaptation of an article I published yesterday in Italian in another blog of mine, are you ready to read it in Italian?

-Antonio

Pubblicato in The course, The science behind learning Italian | Tagged: , , | Nessun commento »

Avoid the procrustean bed while learning the Italian language!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 28 Maggio 2013

Have you ever heard about Procrustes?

Il letto di Procuste dal museo virtuale di Nino Besta

This image is from il museo virtuale di Nino Besta - Visit it!
 

If so, what was his story?

If you don’t know anything about Procrustes, let me tell you about him. The legend says that he was an assassin who put his victims on his bed…The only wrong thing (beside the fact that he was an assassin;-) was that if they were too tall to fit, he would cut them so that they eventually fit! And if they were too short, he would stretch them so that his bed would fit to every person.
Well, this is what happens in the teaching world and in schools in many cases. Teachers, me too sometimes (especially in the past), and schools forget that each individual is different, with his/her own strengths and weaknesses in learning. There are people who like to watch presentations, people who like to listen to them, people who like to act them out and to move around, and even people who like to do any of the just mentioned things.
What I’ve come to realize over the years, is that, although it is a fact that people have a preferred sensory channel to learn and absorb new information and skills, they will learn and absorb contents much better if they are exposed to the same material in different ways!

We learn better in layers!

And this is what I usually do with my students, and in my books!

Let’s take Speak Italian Magically for instance. In the introduction of the course you’re suggested at least seven different ways to be exposed to the same material.

As you may know, in  Speak Italian Magically you’ll find 10 guided meditations to get you into the Italian language.

1) The first thing I suggest you to do is to listen to the audio with your eyes closed, without looking at the text. You’ll listen to the bilingual version so that you’ll be able to understand Italian from the very beginning, without the frustration of not understanding anything even if you’re an absolute beginner.

2) Then what I suggest you to do is to listen to the same audio, but while reading the text of it, so that you add a sensory channel to it (and recently I wrote about the importance of reading and listening at the same time). Meanwhile you can activate yourself because you can underline, highlight, circle words and expressions you want to focus on.

3) The next step will be to just listen to the Italian only audio with your eyes closed, so that you’ll feel happy, because you’ll understand everything you listen to in Italian without the intermediation of the English language!!! This will help you with your motivation as well! Of course, you can repeat this experience without and with the text, so that you can notice, absorb and experience more and more Italian.

4) Another thing that you can do is to look at the mind map and remember what the audio was about. Better then would be if you created your mind map. Writing words, drawing simple and easy symbols on the branches of the mind map, will help you activate both sides of your brain - the logical left side with words, and the imaginative right side with the images! (I write about Tony Buzan’s mind maps extensively in The secrets of the Italian language)

Impara l’italiano a strati

5) There are also questions to listen to and answer as fast as you can, in Italian! Answer with simple short answers at the beginning, maybe you help yourself by finding the answers in the text of the main lesson, then you’ll improve and be able to answer them without the text, faster and faster!

6) Then you can add other layers. One is the shadowing, the speak in chorus phase, which can be a challenge, and also a nice way for you to train your ability to speak the Italian language! And you can do it in different ways as well: with the text and the audio, without the text, while doing something else…It’s up to you! Personalize your learning experience!

7)  Another layer that I usually create for my students (during lessons) is a transformation exercise which helps them absorb grammar in an indirect way. They’ll transform a text, for example, from the second person (tu), to the first (or other persons) with all the grammar consequences that this has for the text structure!

Why do you need all these layers? Because they will expose you to comprehensible input and they will also help you avoid what is called state dependent learning. If you learn something and you are exposed to it just when you are relaxed, it would be difficult to use what you learned in a relaxed state in another context - when there could be a bit of stress involved. The fact that you activate yourself, by answering questions, by shadowing the audio, by underlining and circling the text, will help your brain generalize the learning content and make it readily available for you in different contexts!

So today I’ve been writing about this, which is what I consider to be useful in learning languages… and anything else! For example, if you want to learn a new skill at a very deep level, just add as many layers as you can to your learning, so that you’ll end up having a deeper learning experience!

Of course the layers that I suggested here and in Speak Italian Magically are just some of the many you can come up with! Avoid putting yourself in a Procrustean bed, while learning and speaking Italian very well! Personalize your learning experience! Buon divertimento!

-Antonio

Pubblicato in The course | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Commenti »

Do you believe you can speak Italian like a mother-tongue speaker?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 6 Maggio 2013

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about beliefs (you can still read it here). I have recently translated into Italian the quotation I started that article with…Here it is!

“Iniziamo la nostra vita con il mondo che si presenta così com’è. Qualcuno - i nostri genitori, insegnanti, analisti - ci ipnotizzano a vedere il mondo e a costruirlo nel modo ‘giusto’. Questi etichettano il mondo, gli danno dei nomi  e danno voce agli esseri e agli eventi  in esso, così che dopo non possiamo leggere il mondo in nessun altro linguaggio o sentirlo che ci dice altre cose.
Il compito è quello di spezzare l’incantesimo ipnotico, così che noi possiamo diventare udenti [undeaf] vedenti [unblind] e  multilingue, permettendo così al mondo di parlarci con nuove voci e scrivere tutto il suo possibile significato nel libro della nostra esistenza. Fa’ attenzione alla tua scelta degli ipnotisti.

The original English text was:

“We begin life with the world presenting itself to us as it is. Someone - our parents, teachers, analysts - hypnotise us to see the world and construe it in the ‘right’ way. These others label the world, attach names and give voices to the beings and events in it, so that thereafter, we cannot read the world in any other language or hear it saying other things to us. The task is to break the hypnotic spell, so that we become undeaf, unblind, and multilingual, thereby letting the world speak to us in new voices and write all its possible meanings in the book of our existence. Be careful in your choice of hypnotists.

The excerpt was written by Sidney Jourard.

Sometimes we believe - me too - that some things should be in a certain way and that they can’t ever change, or be different. The day before yesterday, a dear friend of mine told me that she’s slow in learning languages and that it’ll take a lot of time for her to learn the new language she’s approaching, the same way it was in the past for English (that she’s been learning for a long time). After hearing that, some ideas came to my mind and I am writing about them below, but first, let me ask you… And you? Do you believe you can speak Italian very well and in the shortest time?

Besides, do you believe you can speak Italian like a mother-tongue speaker? Probably right now you may be thinking that it’s impossible, because… you’re not a child anymore, because you have no time, or a billion other justifications (or excuses?), that can be more or less valid. Whatever your answer, positive or negative, you have given an answer based on your beliefs. If you have read the above excerpt by Sidney Jourard well enough, you may agree with me that perhaps what we believe in, may depend on someone else - our parents, teachers, analysts, or the people that are beside us in everyday life or who were with us during our childhood - who have “hypnotized” us into believing that we have limits, that something is possible and something else is not.

Henry Ford used to say: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right!” If you believe that a thing is possible, then you will do everything in your power to make sure it becomes your reality; if you instead believe that a thing is not at all possible, perhaps you won’t even take that little step that can help you make your dream come true, maybe the dream of speaking Italian very well. And the thing you may not be aware of is that the beliefs behind your actions, may depend on something external and not on yourself.

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Human history is replete of facts, objects, actions that right before they were done, were believed to be impossible and then they became reality. Take for example the Wright brothers, two bicycle sellers who defying the gravity law invented the airplane. If they didn’t believe that flying was possible, probably on 17th December 1903 Wilbur Wright wouldn’t fly and history would be different. But they believed in it and made their dream come true. If they hadn’t believed, do you think they would do it anyway?

Think for a moment of everything we use in our everyday life: tablet, iphone (I don’t use it yet;-), pc, ecc. What we believed impossible (or science fiction) about 10 or 15 years ago is today’s reality. Many more things are possible. But why are they possible? Perhaps because someone believed in it. Someone was firmly convinced that it was possible to invent everything we use nowadays and acted so that it became reality. It wasn’t enough for him (or her) just to believe it, he (or she) also took some little, constant and  inexorable step toward  his (or her) dream - and you can do it with the Italian language too!

As I write, I’ve remembered another example, more related to the world of learning foreign languages. Do you know that until not so long ago someone believed that it was impossible to learn a language and speak it like a mother-tongue speaker, especially after a certain age? It was called critical period, after that it wasn’t possible to acquire a language and speak it like a mother-tongue speaker, especially as far as pronunciation is concerned. You’ll just have to search on the web to find about Luca Lampariello, who started to learn several (!) languages after a certain age and in many of them he is at a level which is comparable to that of a mother-tongue speaker. His method has nothing of a miracle, but it consists of a constant practice for about 2 years on every language he learns (I don’t know exactly how many of them he speaks today: perhaps 10 or more).

There’s then a guy who goes under the name of Katsumoto who believed it was possible to learn Japanese and speak it at a mother-tongue level in a relatively short time. He learned Japanese in 18 months, by having fun.  In June 2004, at the  age of 21, he started learning Japanese. By September 2005, he had learned enough to read technical material, conduct business correspondence and job interviews in Japanese. And he did all that without ever being in Japan. Only in October 2005 he got a job  in Tokyo.

On his website he writes:

“I didn’t take classes (except for a high-level “newspaper reading” class…which merely confirmed that classes, um, suck); I didn’t read textbooks and I had never lived in Japan.”

Which in Italian could be translated into this (more or less):

“Non ho seguito nessun corso (a parte un corso di livello alto di lettura dei quotidiani…che mi ha semplicemente confermato che i corsi [di lingua], ehm, fanno schifo; non ho letto libri di testo e non avevo mai vissuto in Giappone.”

But how did he manage to learn Japanese at that very high level and in such a short time?

His “method” was to immerse himself in everything japanese and for all the time he could, both consciously and unconsciously (he also practised passive listening): he calls it All Japanese All The Time (AJATT).

Getting curious because of his results, I went and read his website so that I could understand more of what he did.

And do you want to know what’s the first thing he did when he started to learn Japanese?

He worked on his beliefs and suggests everyone wanting to do the same, to believe some fundamental things, that I have adapted for you to help you change your beliefs about your ability to speak Italian:

Believe you can learn Italian – Credi che puoi imparare l’italiano
Believe you will learn Italian – Credi che imparerai l’italiano
Believe it is your destiny to learn Italian – Credi che imparare l’italiano sia il tuo destino
Believe you already know Italian – Credi di sapere già l’italiano
Believe you are a native speaker of Italian – Credi di essere un parlante nativo della lingua italiana

Do you know what’s the second most important thing in his method?

Find out what’s fun for you. Think of what you like, and what you’re into. The books and TV shows and movies you like, the types of music you like – these shall be your learning materials.”

Which in Italian sounds more or less like this:

Scopri ciò che è divertente per te. Pensa a ciò che ti piace e a quello  che ti appassiona. I libri, i programmi tv e i film che ti piacciono, i tipi di musica che ti piacciono – questi saranno il tuo materiale di apprendimento.

Wow, even today I have written a lot, so let me conclude by saying to you - to myself (and that dear friend of mine getting near a new foreign language)…

Enough with limits, both self-imposed and imposed by others. Begin to believe that it’s possible to speak Italian very well, that it is your birthright…and the rest will come, one step at a time!

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