When you set out to train as an interpreter, you expect to learn skills: note-taking, public speaking, simultaneous; maybe also research skills or IT skills. You probably don’t expect to attend seminars on stress relief, or to work on your mindset.
Yet mental attitude is crucial, not only to your progress throughout your interpreting course, but also to how much you enjoy it!
I see more and more students suffering from stress and anxiety, who put huge pressure on themselves (or have it heaped upon them), and who spend much of the academic year worrying that they’re not learning fast enough, they’re not as good as the other students, or they’re simply not good enough to be an interpreter.
You can transform your learning experience, and improve your exam grades, by working towards a ‘growth mindset’.
The early work on growth mindsets was led in 1998 by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. Since then, many large scale studies have been conducted, chiefly on school children and undergraduates.
What is a growth mindset, then, and why should you aspire to having one?
Simply put, a growth mindset is the belief that intelligence (and other traits or skills) can be developed; that you can train your brain with hard work, effective strategies, and help from others when needed.
A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is the belief that certain traits (intelligence, musical ability, a talent for dance, interpreting aptitude…) are innate or impossible to change.
The results are clear: having a growth mindset can help you:
- cope better with transitions,
- develop grit and resilience,
- develop pro-social behaviours (defined as behaviours that benefit other people or society as a whole).
A growth mindset may also offer mental health benefits, such as a reduced risk of depression and anxiety.
That all sounds great. It’s also worth considering that having a fixed mindset can make you feel stressed, ashamed, or helpless in the face of difficult situations. It can make you fear failure and avoid new challenges. In short, it can lead to stagnation, frustration, anxiety, low self-esteem, black-and-white thinking, and perfectionism.In the video accompanying this article, I’ll be saying a little about the theory behind fixed and growth mindsets, and then giving you some simple tips to help you shift your mindset.
I hope my suggestions will help you become a more effective learner!
Sophie LLEWELLYN SMITH is coach, interpreter trainer, designer of teaching materials and free-lance conference interpreter.17