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      If you want to read this article in Italian, go here: https://goo.gl/Xc5Mo4 As you are reading the following text, from any device you’re doing it, and regardless of your background, I invite you to do a little experiment with me. Imagine for a moment that you are in a beautiful place. What is it? Think about it [...]
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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

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