Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is defined as:
“Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” – Marlatt & Kristeller, (1999)
Mindfulness can powerfully enhance performance; indeed many successful people use it, such as athletes, entrepreneurs, actors, and musicians. If you are learning something new, you want to listen mindfully, you want to practice mindfully, You want visual stimulus, you want to absorb the new information and the new skills as efficiently as possible. Mindfulness can be used to enhance your performance as a language learner. Just 10-20 minutes language learning a day using mindfulness can make you more productive than 40 minutes unfocused language learning using gadgets.
Language acquisition is about the memorization of words and grammar rules. If you can start by memorizing keywords that you need to know, you are already half-way there. Mindfulness is well-known for its ability to help you retain new information. When I was learning French at school I found it really hard to remember the vocabulary I was learning. since being more mindful I have found this process a lot easier. Studies have shown that you need to see a fact several times before you can remember it. However, mindfulness speeds up this process so you can remember it without having to be exposed to it several times.
In addition to improving your memory, mindfulness can help you to focus for longer periods of time too. You can’t just focus for a few minutes a day when learning a new language. It would take years just to reach a basic conversational level. If you plan to succeed, you need to study regularly for at least 30 – 45 minutes per day. The problem is; the average concentration time is decreasing rapidly. Some studies have shown that younger generations can only focus for 8-9 seconds. Yes, our attention span is now less than that of a goldfish!
Here are my top 10 tips for mindful language learning:
1. Shut it down or turn it off…
In a world full of gadgets, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, cat videos, fidget spinners… distractions are everywhere! Before studying turn off all distractions. Multi-tasking is the ability to perform lots of tasks at the same time. Some people even list this as a skill on their CV. However, in reality, this isn’t healthy for us and we are actually more efficient when we focus on just one thing at a time.
2. Just Breath
Take a few deep breaths, now focus your attention on your breath. If you have any distracting thoughts don’t try to judge or control them. Bring your attention back to your breath. It takes practice. It’s important to get those deeper breaths and enable more oxygen to your brain.
3. Strech it out
Just about to have a Skype tutorial? Take a few moments to stretch out. Release any anxieties you may have by touching your toes or just swinging your arms about your waist. This will allow for a better flow before you start your language study.
4. Keep Going and don’t judge
Don’t worry about getting things wrong. Stay in a state of non-judgment of yourself.
Be kind to yourself. As any beginner knows, it is only through our mistakes that we truly learn. Stay in the moment and treat yourself with respect and care you deserve. Remember Rome was not built in a day.
6. Let go of mistakes
It’s okay to make mistakes. Notice them, and learn from them, but do not judge yourself harshly.
7. Be more self-aware
Be aware of the progress you are making, but without judgment or comparison with other learners.
8. Use your Senses to regain focus
Use all of your senses in language learning and fully immerse yourself in the culture.
Studies have shown that the act of smiling can bring on authentic feelings of well-being and reduce stress levels.
10. Notice a wandering mind
If you notice your mind keeps wondering, acknowledge and label the distracting thoughts. for example ‘worrying‘, ‘planning’. ‘judging‘. It’s up to you to either act upon that thought and become distracted or let it go and focus.
Remember Mindfulness takes practice, but with consistency, you will be able to maintain your focus for longer, learn vocabulary faster and enhance your listening skills. This means you will vastly improve your ability to learn a new language.