Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

Seven Steps to Genius Every Day
by Michael J. Gelb

Curiosity (p.9)
An insatiable curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.

Learn a New Language (70-73)


Learning a new language is a popular ideal hobby and a wonderful way to cultivate Curiosita. Like Leonardo, you can learn a new language at any age. We all know that babies are the best learners. Their openness, energy, and playfulness allow them to learn languages with ease. A baby raised in a home where three languages are spoken will learn all three without difficulty. The good news is that if you re willing to adopt key aspects of the baby's learning strategy, you can progress with similar ease and delight. And as an adult, you can take advantage of resources that can help you learn even faster than a baby.

Let's say, for example, that you wanted to learn la bella lingua (the beautiful language): Italian. Here are a few tips for accelerating your language learning:

  • Be willing to make a lot of mistakes. Bambinos do not worry about looking cool or instantly achieving perfect pronunciation and grammar; they just dive in and speak. Your progress in learning will correlate directly with your willingness to play and embrace feelings of unfamiliarity and foolishness.
  • Have you ever noticed how babies will find a word or phrase and repeat it over and over? Do the same: repetition is the simplest secret of recall.
  • If possible, start your learning process with an "immersion course" Just as a rocket needs most of its energy to launch and fly out of your atmosphere, you will get the most out of your learning if you launch your efforts with a concentrated program. Your "intensive" with "jump-start" your brain circuitry to start rewiring for your new language.
  • If you can't find a formal immersion course, then create your own by listening to audiocassettes, watching Italian-language movies with subtitles, learning the lyrics of great Italian songs like "Rondini al Nido" and "Santa Lucia," singing along to Pavarotti recordings, sitting in Italian espresso bars and just listening to people talking, and going to real Italian restaurants and ordering in the native tongue. If you tell the waiter than you are trying to learn the language and ask for help, you will usually get a free Italian lesson, even better service, and sometimes extra antipasto!
  • Learn words and phrases related to areas of passionate interest. Many language programs are a bit boring because they focus on necessary but mundane matters such as "Where is the station?" and "Here is my passport." In addition to these every day matters, aim to learn the language of romance, sex, poetry, art, fine food, and wine.
  • Put Italian translation Post-it notes on everything in your house.
  • Most important, open yourself to the feeling of the language and culture. When you speak, pretend you are Italian (I recommend Marcello Mastroianni or Sophia Loren, for starters). Adopt the expressive gestures and facial expressions that go with the language; you will have more fun and learn much faster.

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