More definitions from Google, courtesy of Oxford Languages:
1. a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged.
“the bureaucratic inertia of the various tiers of government”
2. PHYSICS a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.
“the power required to overcome friction and the inertia of the moving parts”
Trying to get people to take steps that will lead to them actually speaking, understanding, reading and writing Italian (rather than wasting their time on stupid stuff) means I often run up against definition 1.
But I find hope in definition 2., though here it applies to the behaviour of matter rather than language-learning pyschology.
Bad news: would-be learners of Italian are likely to continue in their ‘existing state of rest’ (which is a bit of a downer you’ll admit) ‘unless the state is changed by an external force’.
But good news: if I can manage to get you moving in the first place, metaphorically speaking of course, then the laws of physics suggest that you’ll be able to maintain ‘uniform motion in a straight line’ without too much further effort on either of our parts.
OK, so definition 2. is about matter and its motion, or lack thereof. But you get the point.
It can be hard to get started, but once you’re in the habit of doing something, it might, hopefully, be easy to maintain your progress (good news), though hard to change track (bad news), even if you find that what you’ve been doing to improve your Italian hasn’t been generating results for you.
Which brings us back to definition 1. again. Oh well…
Actually the inertia metaphor is far from exact, as I find that people are not inert lumps of matter and so can get very excited about starting a new activity, such as learning a foreign language. At the beginning, little effort might be needed to get them to have a go.
The trouble is with new things, though, most people quit shortly afterwards.
So it’s not like momentum at all, really. More like an Italian interstate/motorway (autostrada) on a summer weekend, all starting and stopping, as hundreds of thousands of vehicles inch their way towards the fresher and less humid coast.
The trick with language learning?
Choose activities that involve ‘easy wins’, that’s to say that they don’t require too much time and effort, and bring a sense of achievement when completed. For example, I’ll read one article from the French newspaper, rather than trying to leaf through the whole thing.
Better if your chosen activity is intrinsically interesting. I LIKE reading newspaper articles, and choose the ones that interest me most when it comes to doing my daily French.
Also, ideally, by doing this activity, whatever it is you choose, you’ll get a noticeable sense of progress. With every article read in French, I know more about the French and what conversations they’re having amongst themselves (the local elections are big right now). Plus there’s a noticeable increase in my familiarity with the words, grammar structures, stylistic elments, and so on.
Quick, low-effort activities can, with the right amount of external force, easily become habits.
Habits benefit from intertia (continue moving in a straight line), or momentum if you prefer. It sounds better, doesn’t it?
Which reminds me – next week we’re having our Summer Sale.
On Monday (not now, please don’t write to me about this today) I’ll be publishing a coupon code which will get you a 20% reduction on the price of everything in our online shop, so one-to-one lessons with a native speaker teacher, ebooks, and so on.
(Existing students will get the coupon code earlier, probably tomorrow – look out for an email from our teaching manager, Lucia. This helps us manage demand for our teachers, and so ensure that none of our regulars lose their preferred day/time with a favourite teacher to some Johnny-come-lately.)
Don’t want to hear about the Summer Sale? Just here for the free stuff and wise words?
That’s totally fine.
Each emailed article has an unsubscribe link at the bottom. Click it and follow the simple instructions if you’d rather not be bothered in future.
Or less drastically, just stop reading until MONDAY JULY 12TH, when we begin our Summer Series of free articles with audio.
The Summer Series is on the Middle Ages: it’s written in Italian, and each text is recorded by an Italian native-speaker. There are thirty articles in total, which means a MASS of free reading/listening material, three articles a week for the whole summer, ten weeks in total.
Read/listen to them all and your Italian will be better, I guarantee. Plus you’ll know much, much more about a neglected millennium of European history.
And talking of good ways to create habits, and so momentum/interia (in a good way), don’t forget to read/listen to our thrice-weekly bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news, will you?