Learning a second language can be terribly frustrating at times, especially if it’s so different from our native language, and if we have a very busy life.
When things don’t go in the way we expected, it’s easy to feel discouraged, so discouraged we can even decide to stop learning because we think it’s not worth it or because we think we’re not good at it.
That’s normal. But it’s not the way we should look at things. Indeed, to be successful, we should change our mindset and cultivate grit.
Grit in language learning
Grit is the “ability” to keep working for a goal regardless of the circumstances.
Researchers found out that people who showed perseverance and passion to reach their goals were much more successful than people who didn’t.
Gritty learners see the glass half full rather than half empty. Indeed, when they do something wrong, they accept it and take actions to do it again but in a different way, so not to make the same mistakes again.
How to cultivate grit
a. One of the first things we should do to cultivate grit is setting long-term reasonable goals. It can be something like: in week one, I’ll learn all the Italian sounds and I’ll read one text each day out loud to try to improve my pronunciation. In week two, I’ll learn how to introduce myself in Italian, the verb essere, and how to greet someone and how to say goodbye in Italian, etc.
b. The second thing we can do to cultivate grit is fighting bad thoughts. We should stop repeating ourselves that we’re not good at languages and we should start repeating ourselves that we can learn any language with persistence, hard work and focus, instead.
c. The third thing we should do to cultivate grit is praising ourselves when we make a mistake. This is against everything we are accustomed to, everything they thought us, still it’s by accepting mistakes that we can improve and learn from them. We should tell ourselves “all right, good job, you thought about it and you tried to give an answer but it wasn’t the right one, now you know that, so why don’t you try a second time?”. And after we’ve found the right answer, we should make sure that we’ve really understood why that was the right one. That’s how you learn from your mistakes and don’t see the glass half empty.
d. Finally we should search for a guidance in case we can’t stick to our plan on our own. We can rely on teachers, coaches, or even on friends. The important thing is to find the right person that understands us and keep us on track.
If you’re interested to find out what are the chances of you being a successful language learner, have a look at the grit scale. It’s a scale researchers have created to help us predict our success in language learning. This scale presents some statements and asks us to rate ourselves on a five points scale where 1 is not like me at all and 5 is very much like me.
Do you consider yourself a gritty student? What do you do to improve your language skills and cultivate your grit?
Original image by Bruce Mars