A positive mindset for different levels

A beautiful view of Matera to give you a positive mindset for learning a language
Language learning is really hard but if you have a positive mindset you can stay motivated and achieve anything. Here are positivity tips for all levels.

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Learning a language is a long process. It takes a lot of time, effort and energy to improve. I’ve been learning Italian for over 8 years and I still have a way to go! During that process it’s inevitable that you look at the different levels to see where you are and so having a positive mindset is important.

I often speak to students who tell me that their English is terrible. They think they will never become “fluent” and are embarrassed when they speak. And may I add that these students are not beginners or newbies to the langauge. These are students that are at the intermediate or upper intermediate level. They can clearly communicate what  they want to say and have enough vocabulary to be very flexible in conversation too.

The problem is mindset. They perceive their language skills as bad and so they are embarrassed and this leads to them holding themselves back. Whereas, they should be thinking about all the progress they have made and what they can do. A positive mindset is the key to language learning success!

Example Time

Imagine that you are sitting in a classroom and the teacher asks the  students to describe this picture.

A beautiful view of Matera to give you a positive mindset for learning a language

And you hear these responses:

“City on the right and valley on the left.

“This is a picture of Matera. The traditional Sassi in the old town are on the right with the valley from the regional park on the left. The sun is setting in the afternoon.

“In this photo from my honeymoon last June, you can clearly see the juxtaposition of the city and nature in Matera. The traditional Sassi are bathed in the light from the setting sun with the hustle and bustle of tourists exploring the narrow streets. While the valley and sprawling greenery is calm, peaceful and serene; like an untouched paradise.”

Three very different responses. But, my question is …Are any of these wrong? No! Of course not! All of these answers are perfect. The only difference is the level of the student. They can all communicate, but with different levels of complexity.

Self assess but don’t compare!

Before we get into the mindsets, there is an important point to mention. Don’t compare yourself to others! Hearing these responses in a classroom might make you feel bad about your own skills. Maybe you don’t know all those words or complicated structures. But that’s ok. You can use that to remind yourself of what you need to learn. A target to aim for. Positive perspective, remember?

The reason that comparing yourself to others is so bad, is because it’s not a fair comparison. Sometimes you are comparing apples and oranges. You see someone on Instagram or YouTube who has learnt to speak a new language in a couple of months. They have quickly reached an intermediate level while you have been struggling to do that for years (like me!). But if they already speak 10 languages fluently, and have been learning languages for 20 years, then they have a lot more experience of learning a language then you do. So, don’t compare your Day 1 to someone else’s Day 100.

Take ideas and inspiration from them and think about how much you can improve. This will help you stay positive.

So how does positive mindset work?

Rather than aiming for perfection, which is impossible, you need to change your mindset based on what you can do. Thinking about your level and making the most of what you do know. The more you practice, the more you learn. New things will come in time, so don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the ride!


As a beginner your vocabulary is very limited. You will know a small amount of fixed expressions and a handful of other words. So aim to communicate with what you can say and already know. Accuracy at this stage is not important. It doesn’t matter if all the conjugations, genders and plurals are wrong. As long as the person on the other end of the conversation understands you.

Want to be more flexible? Learn some fixed phrases like “I want”, “I need”, “I can” and the most common verbs. That way you can make simple sentences about a lot of different things. Take the phrases you know and swap out the verbs. Instant flexibility increase!


As you progress onto the infamous Intermediate Plateau, you will start to have a little more control of the language. You can build your own phrases and say what you want to say. Accuracy is a little more important here but communication is still key.   Think about it like this… You are a lone explorer that missed the tour. You will still reach the same place but you might get a little lost along the way and take longer to get there. Same result but with a bit more effort.

At this level , it isn’t necessary to sound like a native speaker with all the natural expressions. Focus on using the words you know to communicate the idea. Anything goes as long as they understand!


Wow.. advanced level.. You finally made it!  You can communicate everything with accuracy and fluidity. However, the importance of accuracy changes. Now it isn’t so much about being accurate, but about being natural. You want to sound like a native speaker and not like you swallowed a textbook. Standard English is best at the lower levels but it isn’t always the most common or useful once you get to the higher levels.

Communication is key!  You want to sound like a person, not like a textbook. An example in English is between “you and I” and “you and me”. “You and I” is the correct form but I hear native speakers using “you and me” all the time. In that case, there is a bigger argument about if usage dictates grammar or vice versa… but we won’t get into that now! The main idea is that you want to copy what the people around you are doing so you fit in. Mimic the accent, copy the expressions and body language. Blend in like an international spy! The name’s Learner… Language Learner!

Remember with all these levels, perfection is never the goal. No one is perfect (not even native speakers)  and aiming for that is making your like impossibly difficult. Just focus on what you can do now and what you need to do to improve. That way you can enjoy the journey and stay positive. In a conversation you will only know what you know, but tomorrow is another day.

So, what do you guys think? Is a positive mindset an important ingredient in your recipe for language learning success? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time!

P.S. If you are interested in more differences between language learning levels, why not check out my post about travelling as a beginner and intermediate.

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