Do you know the story of Pygmalion? According to legend, Pygmalion, a talented sculptor, one day decided to sculpt a statue of a woman of extraordinary beauty. His project was so successful that, once the statue was completed, the artist fell in love with his work. He couldn’t help but kiss her with the intimate wish that his creation would morph into a real woman. Immediately kissed, the statue arose into life, and was embodied in the body of a real woman. His wish had come true.
In the social sciences, this story gave its name to the Pygmalion Effect. This is a phenomenon known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. These are beliefs of the individual that leads to improved performance. Thus, the more an individual tends to believe in success, the more he would adopt a behavior likely to attract it. This is the mindset’s power. And here we invite you to discover how to draw the full potential of it in your learning French.
Self-fulfilling prophecies and self-defeating prophecies
It is especially motivating to tell yourself that you only need to believe in your success to increase the chances of causing it. Some would probably even be tempted to say to themselves that, once the wish to become fluent in French is realized, the hard part is already done. Yet nothing is less true.
Maintaining the right frame of mind actually takes daily effort to overcome anything that negatively affects your motivation. Indeed, the mindset is fluctuating. It is particularly sensitive to mood variations. It can be your best ally as well as your worst enemy. Because, if believing in your success increases the chances of causing it, not believing in it can, on the contrary, lead to your lasting failure. This is the dark side of mindset. In educational sciences, we speak of self-defeating prophecy to qualify this phenomenon. Indeed, all learning has its ups and downs. One of the keys to success is therefore knowing how to identify these moments and respond to them adequately. Working more in times of strong motivation and self-discipline in times of demotivation are some of the keys to successful learning. Measuring the importance of mindset is therefore essential to benefit from it while limiting its negative effects.
Avoid the pitfall of perfectionism
Wanting to succeed is good, as long as it doesn’t end up hampering your learning. Many learners have high expectations of themselves. While this requirement is of course positive when it leads to achieving ambitious goals, it can also have negative consequences when it becomes unrealistic. This is the pitfall of perfectionism.
It’s all about the dosage. When the gap between the requirements and the real possibilities is too great, it ends up having the opposite effect of what is expected. For example, wanting to speak without making any mistakes is certainly laudable, but it restricts the opportunities for progress and creativity. A key to progress in French is therefore knowing how to set achievable goals. The feeling of succeeding in achieving your goals will indeed be a power source for your motivation. It is a question of finding a balance.
Likewise, it’s tempting to want to find the best method for your learning, but that shouldn’t become your ultimate goal. Feeling like you’re not doing the right thing to progress can be overwhelming and make you forget that it’s less the method that is important than what you choose to get out of it. The method is important, but it should only be seen as a tool. What will make the difference is your mindset.
If you tend to set goals that are too high, you may want to do the opposite. Think small, very small. The principle of micro objectives is simple, to be successful in learning French, it is better to be an ant than a cicada. By setting yourself micro-goals you stack the odds in your favor of accomplishing them. You will thus create a virtuous dynamic where you have the feeling of progress. Once the momentum is created, you can then set new, more ambitious, but still achievable goals.
Let’s take an example. You are very motivated to learn French and to familiarize yourself with pronunciation, so you decide to listen to 2 hours of French per day. The first month you implement this strategy. Everything goes as planned. It is a bit difficult, but your great motivation encourages you to continue. The second month, you have a busy schedule and you are overwhelmed. In the end, you couldn’t keep up, you missed many days. You know that you did not meet your goals and that makes you doubt your ability to learn French. Now imagine that, faced with this disappointment, you choose to revise your goals downwards by listening to 10 minutes of French per day. It fits easily into your schedule and you don’t feel particularly hard even on your busiest days. After 6 months, you have fully integrated this simple practice into your daily life. You feel ready to take the next step. Micro-goals are a powerful way to keep the urge to learn while you keep improving.
An interesting way to approach your learning French is to think of it as a game. It is okay to fail. Learning begins when the organism is faced with a new situation that requires finding a solution. To successfully find a solution, it is then possible to attempt a multitude of actions that may at first be perceived as errors. In reality, these trials allow the best solution to be found. One of the most popular learning strategies in Behavioral Psychology is the principle of Trial and Error Learning.
Error is therefore part of the learning process. As in the trial-and-error method, they represent the path that all learners take to mastering French. Not being offended by mistakes also frees up creativity and being more daring. Indeed, if it is okay to fail, then you have every reason to try, to try things you never would have tried by following the rules.
Opt for a growth mindset
So what is the ideal mindset for learning French? It would be a mindset that could be described as a Growth mindset. Indeed, in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” Carol Dweck, the world-renowned Stanford University psychology professor develops this concept which is particularly applicable to learning French.
The Growth mindset is opposed to the Fixed-mindset which consists in a mindset preoccupied with the judgment of others, afraid of failures, dreading effort and unable to self-correct. In contrast, the growth mindset values learning, learns from mistakes, enjoys discovering new things, and is willing to put in the hard work to be successful.
In short, it is about adopting a mindset that emphasizes open-mindedness. Open-mindedness is indeed what enables curiosity without which no lasting learning is possible. It is again the open-mindedness that allows you to step out of your comfort zone to always challenge yourself and improve. It is still the open-mindedness that allows us to question ourselves so as not to remain attached to habits or methods that handicap us and to remove the mental barriers that limit us. The Growth mindset is, in short, the ideal mindset for learning.
If mindset is so important, it’s because it can determine the success of your learning, in both ways.
To help you with your French learning, you can read as well our article 10 Tips To Start Your French Learning Journey.