Many fail to realize that our attitudes and beliefs about language learning, and learning in general, can greatly influence our outcomes and success.
Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, is best known for her work on proposing two types of attitudes or thinking: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe that qualities such as intelligence or talent are fixed traits. In a growth mindset people believe that these qualities of intelligence or talent can be developed and increased. Below are a few more examples of how this plays out:
|Fixed Mindset||Growth Mindset|
|Skills||Fixed; something you’re born with||Can be improved; developed through hard word|
|Challenges||Avoid; give up easily||Embrace; persist when things get tough|
|Effort||Unnecessary and fruitless||Essential path to mastery|
|Criticism||Ignore; get defensive||Useful; opportunity to learn|
|Success of Others||Threatened||Inspired|
|Result||Premature plateau||Attain higher levels of success|
What Does It Mean For Me?
Fortunately the conclusion from this research is that we can change the narrative we tell ourselves. It is not necessarily the case that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. But when we cultivate passion and commit to stretching our existing abilities, we may just end up surprising ourselves.
In my personal journey to learn Chinese, I have taken inspiration from watching other foreigners who have attained very high levels. I tell myself if they were able to get there, then there’s nothing stopping me from getting there either:
Julien Godfrey (朱利安)
Adventurina King (金小鱼)