Guest Blogger: Elena from Hitoritabi
Practising mindfulness is a powerful way to get better results in language learning.
Ever got frustrated at yourself because you couldn’t focus on a reading exercise for more than 2 minutes?
When you practice mindfulness, your attention span improves. This makes it easier to retain the vocabulary you have learnt and to get better results at listening and reading activities.
And what about the times when you beat yourself up because you’re not learning fast enough, or you’re making too many mistakes? Sometimes you think you’re just not good at this language learning thing and you consider giving up altogether.
Before you get that far, give mindfulness a chance…
It will help you become kinder to yourself, more accepting of the mistakes you’re bound to make during the learning process. It gets easier to let go of your perfectionism, that too often gets in the way of your progress.
You’ll finally give yourself permission to take a break when you need it. Because let’s say it, pushing yourself too hard would only bring you to a crisis in your language learning, eventually.
You won’t persist in the damaging habit of comparing yourself to others and harshly judging your weaknesses. Quite the opposite: you’ll be more productive and you’ll even find new fire for your creativity.
And what about those days when doing anything is hard because anxiety crawls up to grab you?
Well, mindfulness also increases your ability to manage stress and gives you better control over your negative emotions. Training your mind to focus on the present moment will relieve your anxiety greatly.
This said it’s clear how taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness every day can be a breeze of fresh air in your studies.
But have you ever thought about making language learning itself into a mindfulness practice?
Performing a repetitive, day-to-day activity can become a way to practice being focused on the present moment.
Simple actions, just like colouring or knitting, can be an anchor for you to avoid getting carried away by distracting thoughts. At the same time, they’re not so energy-consuming to leave you drained. As a result, they are perfect to relax your brain.
The following activities are good because…
You won’t use any app or electronic device.
Being constantly connected reduces our attention span, making it more difficult to focus. While practising on our electronic devices, we often get distracted by a notification, or we feel a sudden need to check our mail. For a mindful study session, go back to good old pen and paper.
You’ll write by hand.
Writing by hand appears to improve your memory. Using pen and paper, instead of a keyboard, helps you recall and understand concepts better. Moreover, the action of moving your hand on the page can be a relaxing and therapeutic action in itself.
You focus on a simple task.
Some language learning activities require you to put a lot of effort into them, to understand new words or complicated concepts. While these activities are important, they can leave your brain exhausted and are not the most appropriate to practice mindfulness.
3 language learning activities for mindfulness
Sort your notes and colour-code your notebook
A lot of the time, I jot down words and ideas on my language notebook as soon as possible, not to forget them. So my notes are all mixed up: vocabulary with grammar, exercises and writing practice in between rules and idioms.
From time to time, I like to take my coloured pens and to order topics by colour: I draw green frames around grammar rules, little pink circles next to idioms, yellow lines for vocabulary.
When starting a new notebook, then, it’s time to review. I re-write the topics I’m still unsure about in the new one, leave the things I know well and the exercises in the old one.
Practising writing a different script
Though some learners argue that learning how to write a different script by hand is useless nowadays, I tend to disagree.
First, as mentioned earlier, writing by hand helps you remember information better. In the case of a different script, you learn it with the muscles of your hand through repetition. This way, even after a break from studies you’ll still be able to write the characters almost automatically.
And of course, like lettering and colouring, it has an anti-stress effect. You could start a learning session with 5 minutes of this activity, to relax before moving on to more challenging tasks.
While grammar explanations can sometimes be hard to grasp, grammar exercises are often based on repetition of a pattern or rule over and over, to help you assimilate it.
This much-neglected task has everything you need to stay present and leave the thoughts that don’t serve you outside. You have to stay focused, to remember the rule and try to apply it correctly. At the same time, you don’t need to understand anything new and your brain won’t be overwhelmed by new stimuli.
There’s nothing like tense drills to empty your head and calm down an overworking mind!
Have you ever thought of any language learning activity as therapeutic? What is the one that calms you the most? Leave a comment and let me know!
Guest Blogger: Elena
I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek and proud Ravenclaw. I help introverts and other quiet learners to keep anxiety out of language learning.