As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently on holiday.
We’re in Cornwall in the UK, so of course it’s raining.
On the plus side, that means time to read.
Browsing the bookstore in the nearest town, I came across ‘HELP! How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done‘, by Oliver Burkeman, who writes an entertaining column about psychology for The Guardian, a British newspaper.
Over the weekend I was reading what he had to say about motivation, a topic which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is SO IMPORTANT to anyone trying to learn a language.
The gist of what I read was that people tend to assume that they need to ‘get motivated’ BEFORE they take action, whereas the research, and lived experience, suggests that waiting for motivation to arrive means things may never get started.
Instead, the author suggests, we should ‘just do it’. Then, having taken action, we’ll feel motivated!
That’s certainly been my experience with learning Swedish over the last few years, and recently starting with Turkish.
Intending to begin something often gets me nowhere. I have a long list of things I plan to do someday, and it just gets longer.
But when something random happens which reminds me of a course of action that would lead towards a goal that is important to me?
And should I just follow that path, on a whim?
Then, all of a sudden, I’m doing what I’d been putting off starting.
And having begun, I’m no longer procrastinating, if you see what I mean.
For example, a Turkish woman who lives in our city sent a CV to the school looking for a job, which I couldn’t offer her.
But on the CV she mentioned that she did online lessons, which got me thinking that I could try one, and so help her out.
So I did.
It’d been over twenty years that I’d been meaning to brush up my Turkish but had done nothing.
Yet now, having finally got started, basically by chance, I’m studying the language most days.
Which is very satisfactory!
This morning, while clearing spam from our online shop, I came across this review, kindly written by Jill:
I was unsure whether I would actually get round to reading these books if I bought them but now I’m really impressed. Firstly they are not at all difficult to download and have ready to read on my phone which is always with me when I’m sitting on a train or waiting for something. The books are always with me so no excuse! So any time that otherwise would be wasted is put to good use. The stories, although simple actually hold my attention enough to want to find out the ending. A huge bonus is being able to listen to the story as well. My ‘Italian ear’ is not yet very tuned in so it is great to be able to listen and then check the words I don’t understand by reading and then listening again. I have tried listening to Italian radio but just get totally lost as they speak so quickly but these books are much easier to understand and therefore I don’t give up so easily. I will certainly be purchasing more of these books. I’m delighted with them.
Jill was unsure whether she would read/listen, but took action anyway, which is more or less what I was talking about.
The ebooks are “always with me when I’m sitting on a train or waiting for something”, which suggests another approach that Burkeman writes about – using that dead time between other committments, for example while waiting for your train to arrive during the morning commute.
Oliver jokingly suggests, as an idea of something that can be picked up easily and done in brief moments between other tasks, knitting.
But I’m sure reading a story in Italian, as Jill does, would qualify. That way, as Jill writes, “time that otherwise would be wasted is put to good use”.
She also mentions that the readers “hold my attention enough to want to find out the ending”, which is EXACTLY what they’re supposed to do.
I learnt Italian through reading (only through reading – no classes, no self-study), first ‘easy readers’ then trashy paperbacks.
The beauty of fiction, or more broadly of narrative, is its power to keep you interested, even though reading in another language is intrinsically hard.
1.) Take action, motivation will hopefully follow
2.) Use time that would otherwise be wasted to work towards your goals
3.) Exploit the power of narrative
To which I would add:
4.) Build habits!
Rather than relying on motivation to get you doing things, make the effort to create a habit.
Then, once you’ve got the rock rolling down the hill, momentum takes over.
Another ‘for example’: I write these articles each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
EVERY Monday, Wednesday and Friday, without fail.
That’s over a hundred and fifty articles a year.
Nobody pays me to do it.
There’s no boss to tell me off if I choose not to.
And indeed, sometimes I’m not in the mood, or am really rushed.
But writing something like this is what I ALWAYS do, first thing on a Monday, before getting on with my day.
It’s a no-brainer.
I don’t have to waste time debating with myself about whether I can be bothered this rainy Monday morning in Cornwall.
Or if I really have time today, as I promised to take the family out.
I just do it.
Habits take time to create, of course.
But what about focusing on building a reading/listening habit in Italian – say one chapter of an ‘easy reader’ each and every day – INSTEAD of worrying about verb conjugations and memorising vocabulary?
Build the habit FIRST, the idea being that the learning and motivation will naturally follow.
Oliver’s website is here, if you’d like to know more about his books.
A new ‘Book of the Week’ – at a HIGHER LEVEL!
It’s ‘Un furto ad arte‘ and the level is intermediate, which means that the text is quite a lot longer, and the audio faster.
Rome, mid-summer, and the temperature outside is so high that sensible people stay at home with the shutters closed and the air-conditioning at maximum. So a private detective is surprised when he receives a phone call from the son of one of the city’s great families. Will he agree to investigate the theft of a famous painting?
Check out the free sample chapter (.pdf) to get an idea of the level of difficulty.
If it’s too hard, pick out something from our catalogue page.
Click the free sample chapter links until you find one that’s right for where you currently are with your Italian.
Then buy it!
Back to Un furto ad arte, here’s what you get for just £3.99:
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online at soundcloud.com)
- 7 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at any level
- Normal price £7.99, this week just £3.99!
- Your e-book will be emailed to you within 24 hours of your purchase
And here are the essential links again:
P.S. Learning French?
There’s also a French version of this week’s book of the week, in case anyone’s interested.
It’s also half-price, but only this week! Find it here: