Mindful language learning. Why focus and attention are essential to learn a language

Photo by Irmeli Aro

You are reading a book and you start thinking about what are you going to eat for dinner, you are writing a letter and you start checking your e-mail, you are cooking and you start thinking about the book you were reading.

In a world full of multimedia gadget, sms, e-mail, twitter, distractions are always around the corner and multi-tasking is often praised as the ability to perform more tasks at the same time.


But what are the consequence on our ability to carry out well a task if we start thinking or doing other tasks instead than maintain our focus?

Multi-tasking comes with a price: you will be less effective in what you are doing because your energy and focus are not aligned.


One solution is to practice as much as possible mindfulness when conducting a task.

Mindfulness has been defined as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999, p. 68).

Mindfulness can powerfully enhance our performance; indeed many athletes exercise mindfulness as part of their training. If you are learning something new, you want to listen mindfully, you want to practice mindfully, you want to absorb the new information and the new skills as efficiently as possible.

Similarly, mindfulness can enhance your performance as a language learner. One hour learning your target language mindfully has much more weight than one hour learning the language while browsing internet and thinking about your holidays.

The only caveat is that is not simple, we are too used to distractions and interruptions; we look for them because focusing on one single task requires, ironically, more effort. A solution is to practice mindfulness when learning by deciding to re-focus on our main task anytime we realize our attention has drifted away. Constant practice will improve our ability to maintain our focus and improve our ability to learn.

Peter

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