Speak Italian Magically!

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Is Using a stick better than using a carrot to learn Italian?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 16 marzo 2015

Imagine for a moment you had a teacher who uses a stick to teach… I know that this kind of teacher is anachronistic and that he wouldn’t last for long nowadays (he would be probably reported at the first opportunity), but imagine you had a teacher making you feel bad for not being able to learn his subject, insulting you and letting you feel hate against him and the subject… Imagine now that he is an Italian teacher, one of the teachers who still makes lessons of only grammar, grammar, grammar. Pretend that he even wants you to learn only with his method.

Have you done it? Have you imagined this kind of teacher? Now, do you think you would still be motivated in learning Italian or any other thing this imaginary teacher is trying to teach you in such a bad way?

Answer the last question and then use your imagination to “create” a a teacher who is really interested in your success, someone who puts you at the center of the learning process, someone who makes you feel at ease, someone who teaches you how to learn the foreign language and to rediscover the pleasure and the ability to learn on your own.

Between the two imaginary teachers, Which one do you prefer?

Keep in mind that the second teacher is not the kind of teacher who just praises you for the sake of praising. He gives you feedback… He can give you feedback the sandwich way; in other words he would be telling you what he liked about what you did (the bread), telling you what you should be improving (the ham), and finally giving you an overall assessment of your performance (some more bread). This teacher may, if you prefer, give you straight feedback (it depends on you). Or he can even use another way of giving you feedback, that is: telling you what he liked and what you should improve (he would tell you something like: “ecco quello che mi è piaciuto ed ecco quello che dovresti migliorare”). This second teacher would propose you new ways of learning, such as guided imagery, brain gym, shadowing, unusual and fun exercises, he may even use comics books (he has done it for ages), and it’s fun to be with him.

You may be thinking: come on, there’s no such a teacher! Maybe, but keep on playing with  me and you’ll find out where I want to get at.

I’ll repeat the question I asked you before, but asking it in a different way.

With which of the two teacher do you think you will learn a foreign language in a more effective way?

teachers to speak italian magically

I’ll tell you what I think: the first kind of teacher doesn’t do anything but increasing the affective filter of which Stephen Krashen, the famous linguist, talked about:

“The best situations for language acquisition seem to be those which encourage lower anxiety levels”

which in Italian could be translated as follows:

“Le situazioni migliori per l’acquisizione di una lingua sembrano essere quelle che incoraggiano bassi livelli di ansia”

In the light of the latest research this theory has been confirmed by the fact that, when a situation is perceived as stressful or generating anxiety, it activates the fight or flight system. When one’s nervous or stressed, he or she enters in the condition of “combatti o fuggi” that can happen when a lion is running toward us. The possible reactions in this circumstance are two: or we are so strong and bold to fight against the lion (fight), or we are so quick to to run away (flight). Surely it’s not the best situation to learn (consciously) or acquire (unconsciously) a foreign language, don’t you think? Learning and acquiring a language are two sides of learning that can be fun, it’s not about a lion wanting to tear you to pieces or a teacher scaring you! So, I strongly advise you to avoid the fist kind of teacher I wrote about like the plague, if you really want to reach your goal of speaking Italian very well!

As I write this article a story comes to my mind. It’s a story that I listened to somewhere and I’d love to retell you in a different way…

There was this teacher who managed to teach in a whole form, communicating at several levels and he had this student of him, who had been his apprentice for several years. The student couldn’t afford to pay for the lessons, but the teacher was happy to help him out giving him free lessons, letting him spend time with him, to absorb the skills that he had mastered so well.

One day, he even gave the student a gift: the handbook of the masterful teacher, to let him know that the time to separate had come. The student thanked him and accepted the wonderful gift. At that point the teacher asked: “How are you going to repay me? The student stammered: he didn’t know what to say… And the teacher began telling him a story: his own story.

He was a young boy who had health issues, couldn’t work manually, and couldn’t even pay for his studies. So he went and asked help from a wealthy relative of his. His aunt was eager to help him. She paid for his studies with a great teacher and he managed to learn everything he could learn. After doing it, he got back to his aunt to thank her and let her know about his success. The aunt asked him this question:”How are you going to repay me?” He stammered like the student did, but then his aunt told him: You can either repay me with money or… you can became a great teacher!”

The teacher, with a moving tear, chose the second option.

I don’t know why this story came to my mind, what I know is that I also, like the main characters of this story, chose the second option, knowing that this means that I will keep enjoying  a process of constant improvement, day after day, knowing that there are things of my acting as a teacher of Italian for foreigner that I can and want to improve, moving daily toward the direction of the second kind of teacher I talked about today.

I am telling you this because I am really convinced that anyone who is in the teaching position, whether they are coaches, doctors, or humble “teachers”, should enrich and empower all the people they meet during their lives. And this is worth for all people we meet, even through the pages of a blog, letting them feel better and.. so, it’s important that you who are reading me, feel better and more responsible of what you are or aren’t able to do, trusting that if you apply yourself constantly, you’ll succeed, taking a step at a time!

Good, you have read all the article! Thanks for doing it, but, now, “How are you going to repay me?”

Perhaps you are smiling now, or you are stammering like the characters in the story I told you. In any case, know that you can repay me in two ways: you can either repay me with money, or… you can become better and better in what you do, even Italian!


P.s.: this is an adaptation of a former article of mine, published in Italian here. Enjoy!

Pubblicato in inspirational | Nessun commento »

What has Siddharta to do with the learning of Italian?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 8 novembre 2014

“You know, my dear, that I already as a young man, in those days when we lived with the penitents in the forest, started to distrust teachers and teachings and to turn my back to them. I have stuck with this. Nevertheless, I have had many teachers since then. A beautiful courtesan has been my teacher for a long time, and a rich merchant was my teacher, and some gamblers with dice. Once, even a follower of Buddha, travelling on foot, has been my teacher (…)”

Which in Italian has been translated as follows:

“Tu sai, amico, che già da giovane, allora, quando vivevamo tra gli asceti del bosco, io ero pervenuto a diffidare delle dottrine e dei maestri e ad allontanarmi da loro. Sono rimasto allo stesso punto. Tuttavia ho avuto dopo d’allora molti maestri. Una bella cortigiana è stata per lungo tempo mia maestra, e un ricco mercante fu mio maestro, nonché alcuni giocatori d’azzardo. Una volta anche un discepolo del Buddha in pellegrinaggio fu mio maestro (…)”

Hermann Hesse

A little time ago I finished reading aloud the book (where from the previous excerpt was taken) to my wife… Yes, I admit it: I read books aloud to my wife! I consider it, along all other things I do with her, something pleasant that I share with the person I love, and besides - depending on the books we read - it makes both of us grow and improve.

Exactly this excerpt inspired me write what follows and you can read it till the end to find out what Siddhartha and the Italian language may have in common. Do you know the Siddhartha’s story? If so, good; if not, relax, by reading till the end you’ll manage to understand where I want to get at!;-)

As you may know, if you follow this blog, sometimes I get passionate about something and I want to learn it, many times on my own, some other times (less, actually) with a live course. And I try and learn from the best (or at least the ones I believe are the best!), just like I suggest you do in the book Risveglia il tuo italiano! Sometimes I manage to single the best teachers out, sometimes I don’t, but even when I am wrong (and it happens!) the question I ask myself is: what’s there that, despite everything, can be useful for me to learn from this person and situation?

You should know that - perhaps it depends on the mind maps that I love doing - I love seeing things from different perspectives and get my own conclusions, keeping in mind one of the values that for me are fundamental.

My goal - in my small way and with due proportion - has always been to empower people, to make them self reliant… After all we know that it’s better teach someone to fish, instead of giving him a fish. It’s better that you learn how to learn on your own, instead of depending on someone else, isn’t it? What do you think about what I’ve just written? (Let me know on the Facebook page or on the Google+ page if you want and it’s a pleasure for you!)

I’ve already written and in all possible ways that you can acquire Italian on your own, also by keeping in consideration the social side of all this: language is a means to communicate with other people! So, after learning it, after training yourself mentally to use it, just… use italian and enjoy!

When I find someone sharing this same value (that of empowering people!) I am happy, especially if this person is up to date with
the latest research in neuroscience (the person you are about to read below is also author, along with Shawn Carson, of the book “Keeping the brain in mind”, of which I talked about in a previous post of mine).

Lately this thing has happened a few times…

It happened once with Melissa Tiers, as I am attending the course “Coaching the Unconscious Mind” and, to integrate/absorb/remember the content of it, I am using Tony Buzan’s Mind Maps. The course is in English and this allows me to keep my English in shape, as well as to improve it, while attending something that’s really interesting for me!


The same thing happened with another wonderful course (also in English!) where two great university professors (Dr. Barbara Oakley e Dr. Terrence Sejnowski) taught me again to learn how to learn (the title of the course was right “learning how to learn“). The course was free, but it was really worth a lot, because it taught how to… fish;-), uhm… to become self-reliant while studying an learning and everything was sparkled with humor and a pinch of neuroscience.

I love saying “knowledge is power and can also be fun if you know how to learn” (“la conoscenza è potere e può essere anche divertente se sai come imparare“), but I have to admit that acting upon what you learn is much better! So, I advise you, who are reading this page, what follows: learn and act!

Now, there’s a very simple technique that Melissa Tiers teaches and suggests that you use it also as a pattern interrupt, when you have bad habits you want to change, cravings, or even in the case of anxiety (she’s the author of the booklet “The Anti-anxiety Toolkit) and she calls this technique bilateral stimulation… A very simple action that allows you to activate both your brain hemispheres - and you can see her with your own eyes as she shows you how you can practice it, unfortunately in English and not in Italian!

The youtube link is: http://youtu.be/3Sy9YGeNjCI

From the big picture I have on several subjects, it seems to me bilateral stimulation is based - more or less - on the same principles other exercises are based: such as Brain Gym (More here: http://goo.gl/vYIeTR ) , or another ancient exercise called Super Brain Yoga (http://goo.gl/9C8Srl). The main difference is that bilateral stimulation is used by Melissa as a way to stop an urge, Brain Gym and Super brain Yoga may be used in a generative way (I mean: content free and toward your real potential).

When I find something interesting and useful, even if a bit weird, I love experimenting it on my own! I did it, so perhaps you can do it too and notice the differences between times when you practice these exercises before speaking Italian and times when you don’t.

You may be thinking that all these exercises aren’t helpful at all, that they are rubbish, that they are based on suggestion, but anyway… does it really matter? If these exercises work for you, very good! If they don’t, then you can laugh because you practiced them… And we all known that laughing is good! ;-)

So, remember that you can learn Italian - and many other things! - from a lot of people (speaking Italian, of course) and from everything that surrounds you, by experiencing it, because, by saying it Siddhartha’s way, wisdom can’t be transferred…And at the same way, you can have all teachers you want to improve your Italian, but no one can do it for you. It’s you the one who can act constantly and relentlessly toward your goal of speaking Italian very well, also by relaxing while enjoying your journey.

You can have all teachers you want so that you too can grow and discover what Siddhartha found out;-)

Relax and enjoy the journey!


P.s.: I adapted this article from a former article of mine in Italian… You can read it from here: http://goo.gl/i9qFZO

Pubblicato in inspirational | Nessun commento »

Can Tim Ferris help you speak Italian faster?

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 10 dicembre 2011

Read this article through for the answer…Anyway, who’s Tim Ferris?

He’s the author of the book on the picture on the left. It’s also available in Italian here.

I was reading an interesting article on his Blog where he said that the “the ideal system — and progression — [ to learn a language] is based on three elements in this order…

1. Effectiveness (Priority)
2. Adherence (Interest)
3. Efficiency (Process)”

As far as effectiveness is concerned he actually meant that “you need to select the right materials to learn a language. Practical fluency is impossible without the proper tools (material). Teachers are subordinate to materials, just as cooks are subordinate to recipes.”
That sentence makes me think. What if I could forget about levels  and teach to the genius which is inside everyone? So,  a seed has been planted into me:

What about creating a piece of  material that can let people learn Italian and useful skills at the same time?
Ferris writes then about adherence:

“Review, and multiple exposures to the same material, will always present an element of monotony,which must be countered by an interest in the material. [...] If you have no interest in politics, will you adhere to a language course that focuses on this material? [...] Oftentimes, it is best to select content that matches your interests in your native language. [...] Use the target language as a vehicle for learning more about a subject, skill, or cultural area of interest.Do not use material incongruent with your interests as a vehicle for learning a language – it will not work.”

By reading this text I realized that this is what I usually do when I want to learn a language. I select a piece of material I am really interested in and the I’ll do my own best to understand it and master, so that I can learn something new or a new skill.

After all Stephen Krashen in his book The power of Reading affirms that you learn much faster and more if you read out of interest. And he tells about a boy who wasn’t very good in writing and after reading a lot of novels he astounded his teacher, who actually couldn’t believe he  had written that piece of essay by himself.

Besides, there’s a teaching method, called CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), that teaches skills and school subjects through the second language. This way conveying both content and language. And this is  what I usually do with a dear student of mine every week. We talk and read about what happens in the world. This is a subject very interesting to him, and to me as well.

But, then I thought:

What kind of content or skill can I convey that is interesting, compelling and useful as well?

And the answer is what you could find in the new book of mine that is about to be published: skills that help you refresh Italian and master any other skill that you need to learn faster in your everyday life.

If this seems to far fetched wait just another little while and judge for yourself.

Another question came into my mind: I know that multiple exposure to the same material in different times is the best way to master it (NEUROSCIENCE says so),  and how can I still keep interesting? A reviewer of my Speak Italian Magically book had the answer for this:

“If you first listen and read along to the English, then just listen, then repeat the experience with the all-Italian version, you’ll have lived out the same little scenario four times, each time getting progressively further into experiencing Italian as a spoken language that you understand without getting bored of it before moving on to the next session”.

After reading that, I thought: Mamma mia!:-)  I already have a method that helps people have multiple exposure to the same material and it is in the”how to use this course” section of Speak Italian Magically. In fact, there I tell about seven different ways to be exposed to the same material. And of course you can still be creative and come up with new ones. (And lately I have been singing those texts with my Students, having a lot of fun, even if we are not good singers at all;-)

Tim Ferris goes on talking about efficiency:

“It matters little if you have the best material and adherence if time-to-fluency is 20 years. The ROI [Return on investment, Nota di Antonio]  won’t compel you. Ask yourself: Will this method allow me to reach accurate recognition and recall with the fewest number of exposures, within the shortest period of time?”

I had the answer  to this too because I know for sure that if you are in a state of relaxed alertness you learn much faster. The idea of creating a new book was all there:

A course teaching skills that also help learn skills, (and this is very interesting and compelling for me and for many people I know. What about you?) and be exposed to a fair amount of Italian language, that can also be learned much faster than with traditional approaches.

To know more about this new project of mine, stay tuned (sign up to the newsletter if you haven’t yet) .

I just want to tell you that it will be the ideal sequel to Speak Italian Magically and will be suitable especially for people who already know a bit of Italian. Even though absolute beginners will be able to understand it too;-). How is that possible?

I always want to create material that can give something new to me and people that already know my work, so it will be something different.

In the end, I just want to thank Tim Ferris very much . If it wasn’t for him this book might have not been written. I haven’t read your books yet, but I am sure I’ll do! :-) And the answer to the beginning question…”Can Tim Ferris help you speak Italian faster?”…For me is YES…He has wonderful good points on that article. What do you think about?

Pubblicato in The course | Nessun commento »

Buzan’s Mind Maps to learn Italian now!

Scritto da speakitalianmagically.com il 17 dicembre 2010


In Speak Italian Magically you also have a mind map in each adventure.

What are mind maps and what are they useful for?
Invented by Tony Buzan, a popular English psychologist and mind researcher, they will help you involve all your senses. When you learn new words, you can draw and write them (to engage your kinaesthetic preferences), speak them aloud (to engage your auditory preferences) while listening to some classical music or the Speak Italian Magically adventure you just listened to and then look at (to engage your visual preferences) the mind map you realized.
Please notice that the drawings I put in the book are in black and white for you to have fun and colour them (in the paperback version). Have more fun and create your own. Also remember to write a word on each branch of the mind maps, as I didn’t do it on purpose.

In my other website and on Youtube I uploaded a video on how to create a mind map and practice your Italian. I did it with the following story. Do you understand it all? You can also watch the video about the creation of the “spoken” mind map. Thank you very much for reading this post! If you enjoyed it, feel free to write below!


La storia dell’asino caduto nel pozzo

Un giorno un asino cade in un pozzo. Il povero animale si mette a ragliare sconsolato, mentre la sua proprietaria, una contadina, riflette su cosa fare. Alla fine decide che il pozzo è secco e l’asino è vecchio, e quindi non vale la pena cercare di tirarlo fuori. Così chiama i vicini e dice loro di aiutarla a riempire il pozzo di terra, per farla finita con quella faccenda. Alle prime palate di terra l’asino raglia più disperato che mai, perché ha capito che cosa stanno facendo quegli uomini. Poi stranamente sta in silenzio. Dopo un po’ mentre gli altri continuano a gettare palate di terra, la contadina guarda nel pozzo e si meraviglia. L’asino sta facendo una cosa incredibile: ad ogni palata si scrolla la terra di dosso e risale di un passo. Arrivano altre palate, l’asino si scrolla e fa un passo più in alto. Infine tutti vedono con stupore l’animale che sporge la testa dall’apertura del pozzo, scavalca il pozzo e se ne va trotterellando.


Pubblicato in The course | 1 Commento »


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