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?