You know that feeling of “something is in my way”? When you can literally feel that there is a barrier between you and your Italian, but you just don’t know what it is?
You’ve tried virtually everything. You’ve listened to podcasts, songs, radio shows… watched movies, TV series, programs… but still you don’t see many big changes.
You’ve spent hours on grammar books, trying to understand how the Italian language worked… But, somehow, it still doesn’t make sense to you, and you keep asking yourself why is it the way it is (and not the way that you – subconsciously – want).
You’ve tried to say something in Italian, but what you ended up doing was translating word by word sentences and idioms from your first language. Getting frustrated because no one could understand you.
You might have thought something like…
There is something wrong with me
Italian is just illogic
All of this doesn’t make sense
I’ll never make it
I’d better give up
The list goes on, right?
After everything that you’ve done, it’s now frustrating to see that, despite all your efforts, your results still feel like a mirage.
Let’s see what has gone wrong
You might not know it on a conscious level, but all those thoughts that are running through your head right now are thick invisible barriers between you and your Italian. They literally stand in your way when you want to see some progress, understand clearly, feel like you know what you’re talking about, and know what are people are talking about.
The thing is when you think those thoughts
♥ you’re not aware that they’re there
♥ and you’re not aware that you’re thinking them.
You’re so absorbed by them that they become your reality.
If you unconsciously think that you’re dumb, not talented, or not gifted, you will create a self-fulfilling prophecy that will mirror exactly what you think about yourself.
You will act in a way that will confirm that what you think is true, and you will stay stuck in the same vicious circle that you’re trying to escape. Ironic, isn’t it?
Another barrier that might stand in your way is then made by a different type of thought: prejudice.
We all have a prejudice against people from another country and, especially against people from another culture. We might not admit it to ourselves, but it’s quite hard not to have it.
If you’re reading this article it’s because you, clearly, love Italian, Italy, the Italian culture, and the Italians of course. But do you love absolutely everything about them?
Try this introspection exercise for a minute.
Take a pen and a piece of paper and write down what you think about Italy, the Italians, and their culture.
Is every point on your list something that you would label as “positive”? Or did you write something that you, personally, don’t like that much?
Be honest with yourself.
If you wrote something that you would label as “negative”, this might be the reason why you’re struggling to pick up Italian, to wrap up your head around its grammar, to understand it when you hear it, and of course to speak it.
When you have a bad relationship with a language, its speakers, its culture, and its country, you develop a rejection towards it. And this rejection is what prevents you from moving forward, from truly understand how that language works, and from truly connect with its people.
Whereas, when you have a good relationship with a language and everything that is related to it, you’re more likely to create bonds, to understand it at a much deeper level, and to ultimately connect with its people and eventually speak their soul.
How can you go beyond these barriers?
When it comes to thoughts, you cannot just get rid of them. At least not in a fraction of a second. And, of course, not with a magic formula.
What you can do is learn how to recognize them, be aware of them, and not identify yourself with them. Because guess what? You’re not your thoughts.
And ultimately it is up to you to decide to do something about them.
Being responsible for your own situation, for your own learning, and for your own progress is the best way to begin to see the changes that you want.
Below you will find two exercises. The first one will help you identify your thoughts and disengage from them. The second one will make you aware of your thoughts, beliefs, and prejudice that prevent you from understanding the Italian language and speak it without doubting yourself every two seconds.
Ready? Let’s begin!
Spotting your inner thoughts
♥ Choose a quiet place where no one can disturb you
♥ Sit comfortably on a chair, on your bed, or on a sofa
♥ Take a few deep breaths to relax your body and your mind
♥ Allow your breath to go back to a natural pace
♥ Observe your breath. See how your belly fills up with air and how the air goes in and out of your nose.
♥ You will soon notice that a few thoughts will begin to show up. Notice them, acknowledge their presence, and kindly go back to what you were doing before: observing your breath.
♥ Remember to be kind to yourself when you shift your attention from your thoughts to your breath
♥ Repeat this activity a few times
This is a simple mindfulness exercise and, if you do it consistently, it will help you detect thoughts like I’m so bad, I should give up, etc…
Remember that it’s not a magic pill, but a training. And, like all training, it requires time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see the first results after the first few times.
Italian and prejudice
♥ Again, find a quiet room for yourself and leave all your distractions out
♥ Take a pen and a piece of paper and write down what you think about the Italian language, the Italian people, the Italian culture, and Italy
♥ Be truly honest with yourself and write down everything that comes to your mind. Without thinking. It can be positive or negative things
♥ Now ask yourself: “Are my beliefs really true?”, “Do I have proof of that?”, “Do I have first-hand experience to say that things are the way I believe?”
This exercise helps you break your mental and emotional barriers between you and the Italian language.
Sometimes, we don’t want to identify ourselves too much – or at all – with the people who speak the language that we’re learning and that we love. And this, among other things, is because of some prejudice that we have.
Somehow, we believe that
all [fill in with any nationality] are [fill in with any stereotype]
But this is not true. We’re all unique, and there is more than one way to be Italian, French, Spanish, British, American, Dutch… feel free to continue.
Thoughts and beliefs are always going to be there. We cannot get rid of them forever. But we can learn how to spot them, challenge them, and overcome them.
And, as I said before, and as every mindfulness practitioner will always tell you, you are not your thoughts. You’re so much more than that.