In 2011 I was lucky enough to have been awarded an EU-grant which allowed me to travel to Munich, Germany, and attend a course on intercultural communication. As part of the course I not only met six amazing professionals passionate about their chosen fields, but also learnt about the famous theorists and their work and how this can influence my own work in a very practical way.
Before attending the course there was one particular topic with regard to teaching Hungarian which was quite often on my mind. At the time I had not known there was a famous theory on this, I just felt there was ‘a narrow strip of land’ on which my learners can confidently navigate, where they find the lessons challenging without being too demanding.
For if they find the lessons too easy, they can get bored and we certainly do not want that; and if I put the bar too high, they may find the lessons too difficult, and so get frustrated and lose interest.
We discussed this with every learner of mine, and agreed that we need to communicate in an honest and very open way to make sure we can find that place where they feel comfortable, but not too comfortable. Learners’ feedback is crucial so that we can find this ‘strip of land’ which in some cases can, indeed, be quite narrow.
It was a very nice reassurance that during Assist International HR’s Intercultural Communication Course in Munich I learnt about Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced “chicks send me high” according to the Professor!), a fellow Hungarian who worked out the theory we now refer to as the ‘Flow’. According to this, people are most happy when they are in a state of flow, i.e. when they are fully immersed and don’t even notice time passing.
According to Csíkszentmihályi some people find it easier to get into a state of ‘Flow’ than others. These are people with an autotelic personality, i.e. people whose personality traits include persistence, low self-centeredness and curiosity. However this does not mean that only this group of people can get into the ‘Flow’, on the contrary: I am sure that everyone can find this magical state and there are several methods which can help with this.
For a great view on how to achieve the ‘Creative State of Flow’, please read Victor Stachura’s superb article.
I personally think that learning a new language can be a very rewarding experience and one, that, similar to playing music, is perfectly capable of getting people into the ‘Flow’. I am also convinced that it works the other way around also: a state of ‘Flow’ can immensely help the language learning process. When I teach Hungarian I do my absolute best to get each and every person into this state and help them increase the time they spend in ‘Flow’.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you find it easy to get into the ‘Flow’?