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In this category you will find articles and web pages about the science behind learning Italian and Speak Italian Magically!

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:


“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 | 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.


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!


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 | 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?
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?


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

What if you listen to, read and speak Italian at the same time?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 28 Aprile 2013

lettura ascoltoI have to admit it, I read more non fiction than fiction books…but what counts is that I read, someone would say. Recently I have “read” a special book. Its title is Lettura+Ascolto[Reading+Listening], by Maurizio Falghera.

Why is it a special book? Well, because it’s a book to read and listen to at the same time, just like most of my books.

What do you need reading and listening at the same time for? That’s what the author wants to explain in the easiest way. And he does it in a simple way, although he still quotes authoritative sources and experiences.

One among many was very interesting for me and I quote it below from the original source found on the internet.

“This study investigated the effects of simultaneously reading and listening to the same text on comprehension and fluency gains for basic-level English language learners at a university in Puerto Rico. The quiz scores and fluency rates of two English lab groups who read and listened to E. B. White’s novel Charlotte’s Web were compared to the scores and rates of two other English lab groups who silently read the same novel. The listening-while-reading group outscored the reading-only group on all eight weekly comprehension quizzes; for four of those quizzes, the difference was statistically significant.”

Another very important point in the book Lettura + Ascolto that could be interesting to you who are learning the Italian language is the fact that “Using audiobooks […] while learning the English language [or any other language, such as Italian in your case] is an absolutely necessary everyday tool in schools, colleges, universities, both in Italy and abroad. And this because it has been proven beyond any doubt that reading a written text and listening to it at the same time increases the memory retention of vocabulary, of grammar and synthax of the language, as well as it adds a remarkable amount of information about culture, history and customs. Some American studies calculate that the increase of the linguistic learning due to this method of listening and reading may even be of 30-50%.

I have always thought that adding a sensory channel (in this case the auditory channel) to what you do, reinforces the experience and speeds up the learning. That’s why I’ve often tried to get the audiobook (the unabridged version) for the books I read. Simply because it gives me a much deeper experience.

And in creating my books, I always read aloud and record the texts, so that you have a multilevel learning experience, a whole-brain learning experience. Yes, because if you use my books in the way I suggest, you will have the opportunity to relax while listening, to read and listen at the same time to absorb their content, words and expressions, as well as the conveyed skills.

Lettura + Ascolto is a nice non fiction book, aimed at Italians (so the level is very high) that allows you to experience what it talks about in the same moment when you read and listen to it (it is available as book with mp3 CD; and audio-eBook versions).

One thing which is not mentioned in the Lettura + Ascolto book and it’s what I consider to be the next step in the learning process. After you have listened to the book, after you read it and listened to it, it’s time to get in the more active phase of the learning. And how can you do it?

Well, you can for example use a technique that many international polyglots use very often: shadowing!

You don’t know what shadowing is? It’s a technique that consists in speaking “fluidily” and (almost) at the same time, by saying the same things that you listen to.

It’s good for you to know that there are several ways of practising it and in any case I suggest you do it first only after listening to and then after reading and listening to the audio you want to practise it with.

Here you have some examples of ways of practising shadowing:

1. The “easiest” way is to practise shadowing (I repeat it: aloud) while reading the text with your eyes and listening to the audio at the same time;

2. When you get good at the first method, you can simply close your eyes, listen to the audio and say aloud what you are listening to (almost) at the same time;

3. When you get good with the preceding methods, you can add some “challenges”, for example you can practise shadowing while walking, or while doing some brain gym (as well as all those movements involving both sides of your body: I like to touch my nose with my right hand while touching the right ear with my left hand as fast as I can… I know, you will feel a bit silly (or crazy) while doing it, but I guarantee that it’s very useful. And I bet it won’t be easy to do it for you;-)

If you asked me why you should practise shadowing, I could answer you with what they write at Prudl.

“Our experience as language learners has convinced us that shadowing is a truly effective method. In a nutshell, it consists of mimicking out loud a native speaker. As many of the learner’s senses as possible are involved. Hence, it encourages proper accent formation and accelerates the rate of vocabulary acquisition. In other words, shadowing creates the optimal conditions for your brain to form good habits right from the beginning.”

This could be translated into Italian like this (more or less):

“La nostra esperienza come studenti di lingue [straniere] ci ha convinti che lo shadowing è un metodo veramente efficace. In estrema sintesi, consiste nell’imitare a voce alta un parlante nativo. La maggior parte dei sensi dello studente viene coinvolta. Di conseguenza, incoraggia la corretta formazione dell’accento e accelera la velocità di acquisizione del vocabolario. In altre parole, lo shadowing crea le condizioni ottimali affinché il tuo cervello formi delle abitudini giuste fin dall’inizio.”

good books italian

Now that you know what shadoing is, you’ll just have to start and practise it with the texts that you like the most. You could even start and practise it with my books;-)

Pubblicato in The science behind learning Italian | 3 Commenti »

Can you use the placebo effect to speak better italian?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 20 Ottobre 2012

Have you ever heard of the placebo effect? And what about nocebo? What do you know about them? Can you make a quick mind map out of the word “placebo” and “nocebo” even if you haven’t ever heard of those words? Do it anyway, it’ll help you activate your brain and be ready to read further. Write down all the words and associations that come to your mind as quickly as you can.


Several years ago I listened to a story about a cancer patient who was injected a cure which he believed was a panacea (a cure for all illnesses). He was very ill but after he started with the cure he felt well again and could go back to his normal life. The fact is that this cure was not giving the same results with all other patients it was tested on. Thus the newspapers started publishing about the failure of this cure. As soon as the patient read these news he started feeling worse again. So he went back to his doctor and the doctor told him that he would inject him with a double strenght dose of the medicine, but, being this not yet tested, he needed the patient to sign some papers, to free him of responsibility. Again he started to feel well, the illness wasn’t there anymore and he could go back to his normal life. What he didn’t know was that the doctor injected him with pure sterile water. The patient’s belief alone, independent of the value of the medication, produced his recovery. He was well for two months, then again appeared in the national press that that drug treatment was wortless. After the patient read those articles, he died within 2 days.

This is a story that really explains what both placebo and nocebo effects are. When the patient believed he was injected with a wonder drug, he healed (placebo), when he knew he was injected with a worthless drug, he worsened (nocebo). In my opinion the above story warns everyone about what we believe. I’ve already written about what I think about beliefs. Here I would like to suggest a way to utilize your beliefs and the placebo effect. And the best way to use them comes from the following story.

In a book by doctor Roy Martina, titled in Italian “La formula per la vita“, the author writes that placebo also work when the patient knows that he’s getting a placebo. He writes about his brother Arnold who was having a kindney transplant. Dr. Martina suggested him that when he looked at the intravenous drip he would be attached to after the surgery, he’d think that in that solution there were nutrients and vitamins and to be thankful to those vitamins. Anytime the nurse brought him pills, he had to say:”Thank you for bringing me my vitamins“. The doctor warned Arnold that the nurse would insist that those were real drugs and not vitamins: he told him not to believe her and to go on repeating himself and her that those were vitamins. Roy Martina’s brother also had to be thankful for the kidney and tell “it” that “it” was welcome in his body. Arnold followed his brother’s advice and healed faster than any other patient undergoing kindey transplant.

What has all this to do with learning a language? Do I have to write it clearly? What you believe about your ability to learn the language will affect it, thus why don’t you use positive affirmations with conviction so that you’ll create your new reality? What do you think about a  reality where you speak Italian like an Italian mothertongue? Whatever you answer, this is a belief…And what do you want to believe today?

By the way, until recently I thought that the story about the above cancer patient was  just a story that people tell to let you understand the power of your mind…Well…It wasn’t just a “story”, it is  a fact happened around 1950 to a patient of doctor Bruno Klopfer, a researcher involved in the testing of the drug  Krebiozen. You can find reference of this story on the book by Simonton O.C. and others, titled Getting Well Again (Bantam 1978, USA ISDN 0-553-28033-3).

Pubblicato in The science behind learning Italian | Nessun commento »

What’s your unfair advantage in learning Italian?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 16 Febbraio 2012

unfairadvantageFebruary is usually the month that I dedicate to my self and my personal growth (and to my family as well;-). And this is the time when I read about subjects that I don’t usually read about.

This time I read the book Unfair advantage by Robert Kyiosaki.

Who’s Robert Kyiosaki? He’s a businessman and writer about interesting books about financial intelligence (Rich Dad, Poor dad among others).

He tells what he learned about after attending a conference by dr. Buckminster Fuller (Who’s he?)

There he heard him saying:

I don’t work for money. I dedicated all my life to serve others. […] The more people I serve , the more effective I become”.

This is loosely translated from the Italian edition of the book that I own, where it’s written:

Io non lavoro per il denaro. Ho dedicato la mia vita al servizio degli altri. […] Più persone servo, più efficace divento”.

Robert Kyiosaky also writes about what he calls the laws of compensation / le leggi del compenso (I’d have translated it compensazione, but I am not the translator of the book;-):

1. Reciprocity: give and you’ll receive / Reciprocità: dai e riceverai.

2. Learn to give more. / Impara a dare di più.

3. Have a leverage effect on the power of the financial instruction that increases in geometrical proportion / Abbi un effetto di leva sul potere dell’istruzione finanziaria in proporzione geometrica.

In an interesting article posted on the Success Magazine website, Kyiosaki himself writes that:

“Returns are minimal in spite of massive effort at the start, yet returns can be massive with minimal effort over time.

How can you learn something useful for your Italian learning from this book? Is that even possible to learn something related to Italian learning in this book?;-)

Let me tell you about another important point that Kyiosaki writes about.

The cone of learning by Edgard Dale.


I actually hadn’t read about this, so for me it was a great thing to read about.

By looking at it, you can notice that:

The more passive you are, the less you learn. The more active you are the more you learn.

And you’ll learn a lot more when you do these things:

Doing a dramatic presentation.

Simulating the real experience

Doing the real thing.

MMMM….How can I correlate this with language learning?

I already know that some authors talk about what is called silent period…(Marvin Brown and Vera F. Birkenbihl)…and they do affirm that if you want to really acquire a language and especially the proper pronunciation even if you are more than 6 years old, you need to do a lot of passive listening of comprehensible input (or listening in a relaxed way as I let you do in Speak Italian Magically and Awaken your Italian).

I also agree on what is said on the cone of learning….

So what is my conclusion?

That after doing a lot of passive (or relaxed) listening of comprehensible input (i.e. : Italian that you really comprehend), you really need to be active and SPEAK!!!

How can you speak?

You can come to Italy or you can talk to any Italian through Skype…Or you can make some role play (like the ones that you usually do in a school that uses the communicative approach). Or you can also do some shadowing (See Prof. Arguelles).


And you, what do you think about all this?

Pubblicato in The science behind learning Italian | Nessun commento »

Learn Italian faster with empowering questions!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 29 Dicembre 2011

solution focusWhat questions could you ask yourself to learn Italian faster?

Don’t you  know the power of questions? If you haven’t already, check what I wrote on this article of mine.

Then come back here, to know more about solution-focused questions

What are they? What do you think?

Now, let me tell you briefly about solution-focused interviewing…

Developed in the 1980s by De Shazer and Berg, psychologists at the Brief Family Center in Milwaukee, it has been adapted to work in other fields, such as coaching (see Jackson and McKergow, authors of The Solution Focus).

It contains the following principles:

1) The class of problems is distinct from the class of solutions…Focus on solutions, instead of problems: what is your ideal perfect future? If you are here is because you want to speak Italian very well, aren’t you?

2) The client is the expert. You are the one who knows what’s best for you, what part of the learning you need to focus more on.

3) If it works, don’t fix it. If you are very good at doing something in Italian (for example you are so good at ordering cappuccinos;-), why should you change the way you do it?

4) If something works (better), do more of it.  If you find that something really helps in improving your Italian, what about doing more of it? Do you think this would help?

5) Look for “differences that make a difference”.  Do you remember that time you spoke Italian very well (or any other foreign language)? What made that difference that made you act that way? What  made everything work out so well?

6) If something does not work, do something else. If learning any tiny detail of grammar, didn’t lead you to fluency, why don’t you do something else?

After reading thoroughly several books on the subject, including 1001 solution-focused questions by Frederike Bannink, I thought to introduce solution-focused questions to Italian learning…So in Awaken your Italian, you’ll find 12 of them.

And as a special bonus to the readers of this blog, here you also have the spoken version of them with Kevin Macleood’s music to download  to your mp3 reader and a sentence game to have fun with!

Click on mp3 to listen to what I call domande potenzianti (empowering questions) . Click on Start to play the game I created;-)!

Domande Potenzianti

If you enjoy this kind of game, check this other page out!

Pubblicato in The course, The science behind learning Italian, bonus | 1 Commento »

Mentally train in 2012 to speak better Italian!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 20 Dicembre 2011

Imagine just for a moment that you were asked to lift 365 pounds even if you haven’t been training for several months…

What would your first reaction be?

Mine would have been “Dai, che dici?“:-)

And what if they told you that if you got relaxed and imagined the lift vividly, you would actually do it?

Would you believe it?

This was the situation in which Charles Garfield found himself in 1976, when he met a group of Soviet doctors. By the way, who’s Charles Garfield? He’s the author of several books…and also the one I’ll tell you in a little while.

Before reading further, answer this: Have you ever read about mental training? What do you know about it?

Stop for a moment and create a little and quick mind map about it…

Then look a the following mind map, which I made out of the 1984 book “Peak Performance” by C. Garfield and H. Z. Bennet.

Well, this is my personal and quick mind map, so let me resume it for you.


This is actually about the pillar of mental training: VOLUNTARY RELAXATION, which according to the authors can be achieved with two 15 minute sessions a day in three months…Very quickly here are the steps:

1) First you need to EXPLORE your body, voluntarily tense it and then relax;

2) Then you need to focus on DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING. The authors suggest the following pattern:

  • fill in your lungs completely, breathing in through your nose;
  • hold your breaths for ten seconds;
  • release your breath with a sight of relief, exhaling through your mouth.

[I talked about a different and also effective pattern on this post]

3)  The AUTOGENIC TRAINING phase, where you (in sequence and in the due time):

  • mentally “wear” a relaxation mask;
  • feel your body heavy;
  • feel your  body warm;
  • calm your heart;
  • create warmth in your stomach;
  • cool your forehead.

4) once you are deeply relaxed you add MENTAL REHEARSAL.

Of course this is just a quick summary of the Peak Performance book, that, although dated (it’s 27 years old!),  contains a lot of useful information about the subject.

Sometimes, I wonder what you think while reading these posts…

And I imagine you asking me: “And what has this to do with Italian learning”?

Well, some principles of mental training were already in my Speak Italian Magically book, even though the relaxing phase was not so deep as the one required by Peak Performance standards.

Several months ago, after reading an article of Tim Ferris, I thought “why can’t I  adapt mental training techniques to let you speak better Italian in shorter time than normal”?

So, I researched the subject and found out about several authors (Ivan Barzakov, Ed Strachar, Richard Bandler and Garner Thomson, Rubin Battino, and many more) who have talked about mental training,  learning, taking decisions and following them through.

And then I realized that you don’t need three months to mentally train. It could be much faster than that.

And I started to put everything together, connecting the dots, as I enjoy to say, to create my new book, which I consider my contribution to 2012, as a year where we’ll have a better world.

In fact, 2012 is about to come and many are talking about the implications that this year might have. Pessimists imply that this would be the end of the world, optimists say that this will be the year of the AWAKENING. What do I think about?

Well, of course, I am a positive person, and as that, I AM SURE THAT something positive will happen by the end of the next year.

What will happen?

Who knows…Anyway, I do think that everyone should contribute to a better world.

And then I thought, how can I contribute to a better world, being just an humble Italian teacher for foreigners?

Of course it’s been  a while that I’ve been thinking about an answer to this question.

And of course there’s no right answer to this.

This book  is just one of my answers to it.

And what’s the title?


Enjoy it! Insert the following discount code before checking out to save: 3264T874 Click here and Awaken Your Italian!

Ebook version will come soon!

Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo da Antonio!

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

Breathe to learn Italian faster!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 6 Ottobre 2011

Do you remember the song that sang “BREATHE”?

Don’t you know it?

I found a Youtube video for you. Here’s the song:

But, wait a minute: wasn’t this a blog about learning Italian? What does the song has to do with Italian learning?

Read further and you’ll discover.

Last month I purchased a biofeedback device…an IOM, to be precise.

Why did I do that? Well, because lately I’ve been interested in tools to improve my mind and body…and I read that it is possible nowadays to check and control your personal bio signals through these little machines called biofeedback (even though the one I bought is actually an active feedback machine)…And I read that you could even control your hearth rate and relax very deeply.

Wasn’t this a thing that only yogis could do? After all when I was at school, a teacher taught me that we cannot control our heart, as it is an unvolontary muscle.

Uhmmmm….Did I believe the teacher? Yes, of course. But then I started suspecting that this wasn’t totally true when I started to practice meditation last year. But, what could I do? I didn’t have anything to prove that teacher wrong (even if by now it really doesn’t matter anymore ;-)…Untill I bought this biofeedback machine and  realised that through a simple breathing pattern I could slower my hearth rate! And the producer of this machine says that “the achievement of a ten second sine wave pattern [of the heart] correlates with optimal functionality of the major bodily systems including blood pressure, cognition, the immune system and mood”.

Then another AHA moment happened to me. What if I used this breathing  pattern before learning something? Would this help? After all they say that it helps with cognition too.

I tried it and I am very happy for doing it.

The consequence of the breathing pattern is that you get deeply relaxed. Does being relaxed help in learning a language?

According to prof. Stephen Krashen it does.  This American professor actually offered a set of hypoteses on the acquisition of  a second language. One of them is the affective filter hypotheses. By it prof. Krashen refers to the affective factors which may block or facilitate acquisition. And being relaxed does help with the acquisition of a language.

The breathing  exercise is very simple…and in my opinion it can improve any learning experience. But this is just my opinion. I’ll leave it up to you to try it.

If you want to try it with the Speak Italian Magically audios…just get your mp3 reader ready just before starting the process.

Here’s how to breath before learning Italian or anything else:

Sit quietly and still your body. Close your eyes and  focus on your breathing. Slowly breathe in (while counting in your mind from 1 to 5 inyour own personal rythm) and slowly breathe out (while counting in your mind from 1 to 5 in your own personal rythm). If you find your mind wander, just aknowledge it, accept it and start again with the breathing pattern. Continue for at least 5 minutes (and not more than 20, they suggest) and then let the audio start (click on play). Continue with the same breathing pattern while listening.  At the end, just take three faster deep breaths for you to awake and strech your muscles. NEVER DO this exercise while driving cars or any machine, as while practicing it you are supposed to be focused on your breathing, not on the car!

I still think that it’s all about connecting the dots and I hope this blog post helps you connect the dots too .

Buon divertimento!

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

Embracing the wide Sky and learning Italian

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 4 Aprile 2011

What does Daniel Tammet report about mental training?

Wait a minute, don’t you know who Daniel Tammet is? Then you should check this entry on Wikipedia (in Italian) or watch this 48 minute video, that I found on Youtube:

Well, today I started reading his second book (I haven’t read his first one yet), Embracing the wide Sky, available everywhere and about to be print in Italian too…

As usual I created a mind map before reading it, so that I can focus and get even more interested in the book…


Then, I started rapid reading it when I found about this experiment, that neuroscientist Alvaro Pasqual-Leone held.

“…taught a group of non musician volunteers to play a simple fivefinger piano exercise, then he had them practise in the lab for two hours a day for five days. After a week, brain scans of the volunteers showed an increase in the amount of territory the brain devotes to moving the fingers”

Nothing extraordinary till now, you would say. Read further…

Pasqual-Leone then repeted the experiment with another group of volunteers, asking them this time to rehearse the same five-finger sequence in their heads, while holding their hands still and imagining how they would move their fingers. Subsequent scans of these volunteers showed the same result as for those who had played the sequence with fingers. The scientists’ conclusion: mental imagery may be just as good as actual practice”

Tammets goes on quoting what mental training athletes do to enhance their performances…but I already talked about it in this other article of mine…

I have read further and I have found the book to be quite interesting, so while waiting for a student of mine to show up, I found myself reading the first 76 pages…Great book! I am enjoying it very much!

And it gives even more fundation to the Speak Italian Magically approach;-)!

Pubblicato in The science behind learning Italian | Nessun commento »


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