Can language learning be mindful?
Published on August 25, 2020 / Updated on January 8, 2024
Do you ever find your mind wandering when you’re learning English? Perhaps you’re trying to master the third conditional and end up daydreaming about your dinner. Or you dedicate 30 minutes to vocabulary learning but spend half that time answering Whatsapp messages. A lack of concentration will hold your progress back.
But, it’s natural to have difficulty concentrating when your brain isn’t used to it. You can’t do 20 push ups the first time you go to the gym. So you also can’t concentrate for long periods without some brain training either.
Mindfulness is a great technique to help you to stay in the moment. And it can make you a better and more effective language learner.
Mindfulness means focusing your mind on the present moment. It is a purposeful action; you notice the things around you and don’t let your mind wander. Mindfulness also means not reacting strongly to what is happening, and not becoming overwhelmed.
Mindfulness is used by psychologists as a tool to help their patients better manage their mental well-being. It has been found that those who practise mindfulness are happier individuals.
Mindfulness is readily available to us, but it does take practise. Just like those push ups. It can be as simple as pausing to enjoy the fresh air while you’re walking, or something more involved, like meditation.
Pausing slightly during your daily routine is the easiest way to start. If you want to take it further, you can spend 10 minutes practising noticing your breath. You can also do body scans: sit or lie still and put your attention to different parts of your body, noticing but not reacting.
Take a moment to clear your head and ready your mind for learning. Going from one task, such as writing emails in your own language, to learning another language, is a lot for your brain to handle. So breathe deeply and give yourself a moment to re-calibrate.
Try not to let your mind wander. When practising mindfulness, you concentrate only on the task you are doing. It’s all too easy to be distracted, but if you don’t give your language learning your full attention, you learn less and you learn inefficiently. Focusing means you remember more and you won’t have to repeat what you did. So, being present helps your concentration and memory. Putting your phone on silent really helps!
Not reacting doesn’t mean that you can’t have thoughts. It simply means that you don’t react to those thoughts. And it means not being overwhelmed. This means that when you meet something new, or something you don’t understand, your reaction is not, “Oh my GOD! I’m never going to learn this. Why is English so stupid?”. Your reaction is: “This is something new for me. Let me explore it.”
Achieving a state of non-judgement is part of mindfulness. And in your language learning this is really important. Don’t judge yourself for the mistakes that you make. Because you will make them, along with everyone else who opens their mouth on any day. And, don’t judge yourself for losing concentration. Notice what happened, and move on.
Focus only on today. I don’t mean forget everything you learnt yesterday, obviously. But don’t think about what you did or didn’t manage to do the day before. And don’t think about what you need to learn tomorrow. Set yourself a task for the day and complete it. Don’t rush through your lessons, trying to make it to the next activity. Don’t think: Aghhh! I need to learn all of the irregular verb forms. Think: I need to learn three irregular verb forms today. This is a way to stop yourself from being overwhelmed.
Be grateful. Thank yourself for what you managed to do that day. Thank your body for sitting still, and your bum for being sat on. Thank your mind for concentrating, and for possibly knowing a few more words of English than it did before.
If you feel like your language learning has plateaued, try mindfulness. It’s a great tool to help your brain learn a little more effectively.
Head over to our website today to book your 7-day trial with Lingoda and put your mindfulness into practice.