Hit Me Over the Head!

This morning I hit the internet looking for quotes on how hard it is for some people to learn languages.  I learned some people’s brains communicate in a way that better facilitates learning languages.  I learned (or was reminded) Italian is one of the Romance languages.  That’s because it’s of Latin (Roman) origin, not having anything to do with love, though I still thinks it’s fun I chose learning a Romance language for my February “someday”.  I also learned about growth and fixed mindsets (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, PhD).  I didn’t read the book; I just read a synopsis.  Here is an even briefer synopsis: people who have a growth mindset believe their abilities can be developed; people who have a fixed mindset believe they have a certain amount of abilities and nothing more.  The example given in the article, Why Some People Find Language Learning Harder Than Others was:

For example, telling yourself that “you’re not talented at languages” and essentially doing no effort whatsoever to improve your foreign language abilities is a classic example of a fixed mindset, and it can have devastating consequences.

Hit me over the head!  Was the writer talking directly to me?  I don’t want to think about how many times this month I’ve said, “I’m smart, but my brain just doesn’t learn languages well.”  I’ve saddled myself with a fixed mindset – so utterly not my normal modus operandi!  Sure, it may be true my brain doesn’t have the language facilitating way of communicating, but that ability is just an indicator of the ease of learning a language.  If your brain doesn’t communicate that way, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn the language.  However, having a fixed mindset, as I’ve had – lots of negative self-talk – can be a real hindrance.  So, starting today, I’m going to do what I do in other situations.  I’m going to fake it till I feel it.  I’m going to stop saying my ability to learn Italian is cattivo (bad); I’m going to start saying my Italian is buona (good).  And, I’ll get out my new Italian for Dummies book and really start putting in some effort.  Too bad the book isn’t titled, Italian for Those Who Are Willing to Work Hard – that’s a much more growth mindset title.

6 thoughts on “Hit Me Over the Head!

  1. Good for you, Debbie! I’ve always thought I was so naive when I just plunged into big projects like learning to speak/read/write Russian when I was in my 40s. But, with hard work and a very good prof, I did it!! It never occurred to me that I wasn’t ‘smart enough’, but it did appear to me to be a ‘manageable task.’ I truly believe that we miss out on so much of life by just dismissing challenges because we think like we always have.

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  2. I’m definitely not dumb, but I do know that while getting A’s in Poly Sci., I could barely squeak by in French. Six years of French and I almost didn’t get my language requirement in college. I believe that some people have more music and art talent (including languages) than others. (I also can’t memorize things – thus my Master’s in Urban Planning vs. law school.) You’ll learn the language if you put in enough time and effort. You just have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

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    1. Worth it? That is the question. I am going to give it a good try, but I will reevaluate my desire to learn Italian by the end of the month. Part of this process is, I believe, figuring out which “somedays” are really things I want to do. Italian may not be one of them — or it might 🙂

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  3. The only language I speak other than English is French but listening to French pop music helped a lot. Surprising how many words and phrases you pick up with a catchy tune, especially if the lyrics are printed on the CD.

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    1. Great suggestion. Thanks! We had a Norwegian foreign exchange student live with us for a year. She spoke beautiful English. Her secret to speaking so well (and understanding jokes and nuances? She watched a lot of US television.

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