Sometimes the biggest issue with learning a language is not the grammar, the time required or even the cost.
For many people, the hardest thing is finding the motivation to actually study.
Getting started, and keeping going, are two of the biggest challenges when working towards a goal, even relatively simple ones.
And learning Italian is not simple, or fast, so the motivational challenges are formidable.
But hey, it needn’t be so hard…
You just need to cheat a bit.
Check out these six psychological tricks that you could employ to overcome the will-power hurdle, and so ‘force yourself’ to improve your Italian!
Trick 1: Aim high
Setting a target based on what you think you can achieve if you study a bit might be fairly safe, but isn’t very motivating.
And deciding on an overly-modest target, one that you’re pretty sure you can achieve without any effort at all, is even worse!
Why bother studying, if you’re likely to pass anyway?
No, the only way to go is to aim a little higher than what you think you could achieve with a reasonable effort.
So ‘forcing yourself’ to try harder than you otherwise would.
Don’t exaggerate though. If you set too high a target, you’ll soon realise the impossibility of the task, and be back where you started: lacking motivation…
Trick 2: Commit to a deadline you ‘can’t change’
Want to be better at speaking and understanding Italian by a specific date in the future, say June 2014?
What you need is a looming deadline, something that you can’t prevaricate about.
For example, you could sign up for a CILS Italian language exam at the level you’d like to reach (see ‘Trick 1’ to decide which level..)
Once you’ve paid the exam fee, you’ll HAVE TO study, or you’ll have wasted your exam fee!
Trick 3: Tell everyone your target and your deadline
Making your goal, and the deadline to achieve it, public will strengthen your resolve to actually do the necessary work.
After all, no one likes to embarrass themselves in front of colleagues, family, or friends.
And who knows, if everyone knows what you’ll be working towards, perhaps they’ll be supportive.
Or they might just laugh at you, in which case you’ll have another excellent reason to study Italian – to show them just how wrong they were!
Trick 4: Promise yourself a reward, or a punishment
Choose a reward that will motivate you to achieve your goal:
“I’ll take a week off work and just laze about, doing exactly what I please for a change. IF I pass this damn exam…”
Or plan a punishment in the event of failure. If you’re married, you could promise your partner you’ll do that job around the home that you’ve been putting off (and would really hate to do…)
But you only get that time off, or have to do those repairs, IF you fail your CILS exam.
That should help.
Trick 5: Exploit the ‘positive washback effect’
Teacher jargon – a ‘washback effect’ is what happens to your learning as a consequence of a (future) exam.
If the exam you sign up for will involve, for example, writing formal letters in Italian, then you’d expect to be doing a lot of letter-writing practice in the months leading up to the test.
That’s a ‘washback effect’.
‘Washback effects’ can be positive or negative (pointless, badly-designed or overly complex exams may produce negative effects on students preparing for them.)
But CILS Italian language exams are pretty good.
They require you to read, write, listen and speak Italian effectively to pass, which generates a positive washback effect.
As you prepare, you’re forced to focus on areas you may be weak at, or less interested in, and so are more likely to make a balanced overall improvement.
What’s more, having decided to take a CILS exam, you’re more likely to go looking for a quality Italian course (just to be sure to get that reward…).
A teacher who knows the exam well can help you do the very best that you’re capable of.
Trick 6: Surround yourself with successful people
If you want to lose weight, don’t hang out with the hamburger and fries crowd. Join a gym, or a slimming group, and be inspired (and informed) by the people you meet there.
Learning Italian works the same way. You may be the only one in your family, office or neighbourhood who can say as much as ‘Ciao’ in Italian. Which is not very motivating…
But go hang out in a proper language school, spend your free-time surrounded by others who have the same goal as you, and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve!