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    • A story, many stories at the Polyglot Gathering 2016 16 maggio 2016
      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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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!

Pubblicato in inspirational | Nessun commento »

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.

wright_brothers_flyer.jpg

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!

Pubblicato in The course | 1 Commento »

 

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