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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.


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!


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

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