Today: How the urge to look up words and overanalyze grammar is hindering your fluency.
How to enjoy lang learning, make faster progress, speak fluently so you can enjoy your Italian life and connect with your Italian family.
Invaluable insights from the mind of a polyglot even if you don’t care about being one.
Let’s go! For many people lang learning, specifically speaking fluently, seems the most difficult.
Why can it not be more enjoyable with more concrete results?
My name is Giuseppe and I help Italian lovers have an amazing time in Italy by feeling confident in their speaking.
Self-taught I speak 5 languages (for now) fluently, today how can I make this journey easier for you?
This applies to any other language. Observe yourself the last times you didn’t know a word, you were watching that video, reading that book you like in Italian.
How did you manage that feeling “not knowing that word”?
In fact, how do you manage missing or ambiguous information?
Let me guess most people cannot resist the urge to look up immediately, overanalyze but why, and find it difficult to move on without soothing “unknown itch”, right?
This is such an obstacle to your fluency. More on why.
What I call unknown itch is the urge, instinct to analyze, resolve missing or ambiguous information immediately.
Trying to immediately soothe this urge takes you away from the flow of the conversation, from the emotion that was building up, from the story that was ensuing.
The unknown itch feels like an urge that claims to be important, wants to know right now and resolve ambiguity right now. Like a child, does not seem to understand the concept of “later”.
You with me right?
Now, this constant trying to soothe unknown has many forms – asking the meaning of the word right away, the origin of the word or looking it up, getting frustrated why is it so different, analyzing grammar and trying to logically understand why etc.
When you constantly soothe the unknown itches, you don’t allow emotion to build up.
In a conversation with Maria, whilst watching your best Netflix series, there’s always an emotion.
The emotion is what’s going under the hood, how the language is making you feel, the story it’s telling.
In most cases, the average learner interrupts the emotion to figure out something in their mind.
This is a problem because this way you’re making reaching fluency 10x harder and more painful.
Still with me? Let’s continue see how me and my students have a great time in our highly practical and interactive lessons.
LET THE ITCH
To enjoy my time learning langs, I acknowledge the urge to look up when it rises.
I refuse to resolve ambiguity immediately.
I let the unknown itch for a bit.
My focus is continuing to interact, developing the conversation.
I’m interested in what this person is saying. I’m curious about them.
Satisfying my curiosity about the other person’s culture or personality is more important than soothing my unknown itches.
The unknown itch can be there for a while, it’s okay.
I have a track record that proves that in a few moments I’ll have forgotten this “important urge”, and despite that I can still have a great time and communicate with this person..
..which in turn will strenghten the trust that it’s okay to let the itch, and it’s going to be easier to let it go next time around.
How connected to being fluent?
FERTILE VS DRY GROUNDS
Because our brain learns mainly by emotion.
Our brain wonderfully, effortlessly remembers when there’s emotion.
When Maria tells you she’s very happy she had a baby, when Giovanni says he’s struggling and you’re trying to understand him..
When you let yourself continue and enjoy the conversation with what you do know.
You are worried, how am I going to learn new words. Mostly by context.
“Today I ate two ??? and I liked them, it’s those fruits that grow on trees, they are sweet. My ??? also likes them, I really love her, she lives with me. Together we went on a hike, and I told her, dear ??? can you please give me some ??? I’d love to eat some because I love sweet fruits! Oh sorry I have to go now, my ??? just called me, she needs some ??? for lunch and she has none, I need to bring this to my ???”
See how you’re getting involved in the story, there’s an emotion.
It’s obvious that the unknown/ambiguous words refer to something to eat (could be apple) and some kind of person (could be cousin or friend).
But for you to learn new words and to seriously stick in your long-term memory and be a part of you (= fluency) you need to let this context build up.
If you interrupt the context formation the very moment you don’t know something and translate it, ask what it means, try to understand why grammar like this not like that, and try to resolve it immediately, it becomes impossible.
You need to let your brain guess, feel ambiguity, have a vague sense.
From this vague sense of “it is something you can eat” “it is someone they meet often” “you can use it for writing” “it’s used when two people meet” etc.
The meaning will become more and more clear the more you meet that word.
So here you are finally forget you’re learning a language (that’s a great sign btw), you are into some kind of emotion: curious, excited, sad, angry, surprised etc.
Emotion = fertile ground of fluency
Here’s what happens. When you’re focused, absorbed on the meaning and story, your enter hypnotic states that allow you to retain information much more easily, without even trying.
Let me prove it to you.
What’s a dear memory of a time in your life you deeply enjoyed that you’d be happy to revisit?
What’s an unpleasant experience you came across that you still remember but prefer to not think about?
Now, what did you “do” exactly to remember a detail instead of another, to remember this and not that?
You didn’t book a lesson to learn the past participle of the memory, did you?
You didn’t make a shopping list what to remember and what not, did you?
The 47 ways to say goodbye, the 134 most common words in Italian etc.
You think you’re learning, but really you’re not retaining anything.
Why? Too much logical, abstract information = very low retention = lots of efforts little results
The paradox we try so hard to remember words and we end up forgetting them, and then we remember words and memories without making any effort!
You can ask yourself, what state is my brain in when I’m conversating?
If analytical, logical state = dry ground.
A dry ground is when you’re hyper-focused on the technicalities of the language, when you’re making a lot of effort “trying hard”,
when you “try to get it” with abstract or logical explanations, when you use a lot of “if this, use this” “if this, use that” “if that, use this”
Too much information, abstraction, analyses = dry ground = you won’t retain words
HYPNOTIC STATE = MEMORY RETENTION
You never told your brain, hey now you form this memory, put this this and that, now please remember it.
When it comes to what you’ll remember – you can’t give it a start date, can’t give it an end date, neither for the good nor for the bad.
We don’t have control over what or when we remember.
Telling your brain what or when to remember creates the opposite scenario, because it enters analytical mode, which is actually the worst way to remember.
And eccoci qui this is the method most teachers and schools use!
A little shocking indeed – you might get away with it when reading, but not when speaking.
Because speaking requires different skills that I can help you with.
To be fluent, what you do have control over, is creating fertile grounds as often and deeply as possible.
Knowing in this optimal, hypnotic, emotional state, your brain will learn by itself and codify in the long-term, emotional memory = fluency!
Some signs you know you are in fertile grounds:
✅ you’ve spoken for some time, look back and realize you’ve forgetten you were learning a lang because too busy understanding and continuing a story
✅ you’re having a good time, fun, excitement, curiosity
✅ you are absorbed, focused on the story
So what control do we have on our brain to be fluent with langs? Good question!
What you do have control over is precisely creating the fertile grounds.
In this conversation, how can I remove dry grounds, how can I create fertile grounds?
This should be your main focus.
How to create these fertile grounds? By removing analysis and letting space for emotion.
✅ it’s okay to have ambiguity. The easier I let go of soothing the unknown itch, the easier it gets, the more I can focus on the emotion.
✅ I don’t control what or when I’ll remember, I can only create fertile grounds, so I don’t expect to tell my brain “now you’ll learn x” and to learn x immediately.
✅ I let go of making the technicalities of the language, or commenting progress with the language, all I talk about. Simply put I don’t make what concerns the language the center of every conversation.
✅ resisting to language differences won’t change anything, I understand the sooner I’ll accept the sooner I’ll speak fluently. My role is not to change the language but to connect with what matters to me, and this language just happens to be a great tool for it.
Thus, the main struggles being fluent in a language, really, don’t consist in the language itself, but in our own brain disposition towards it.
Let’s wrap this up. Let your brain learn that by itself, it already knows how.
You don’t directly teach to your brain, you can only facilitate it, create fertile grounds, so it can learn by itself.
This is not all, but I hope it helped.
And if it’ll come around one day, I help Italian lovers who already speak basic Italian to feel confident in their speaking, so they can have an amazing time with their family and their new Italian life.
This is done through conversations that interest you and a very hands-down approach with examples, role play, scenarios.