Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Meditation for Language Learning

by AJ

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We have a strong tendency, as both language teachers and language learners, to focus on quantity. We stress about test score numbers. We stress about the number of words we know. We stress about the number of hours we study each day.

There's no doubt that quantity is important. To learn a language well, you have to put in a lot of hours. You need hundreds (thousands) of hours of listening. You need hundreds and thousands of hours of reading. You've got to listen to and read a lot of different material.

But quantity is only half the story. For all study hours are not equal.

I see this a lot in my class. Many students dutifully come to class each day. They attend four hours a day, four days a week.. for a total of 16 hours.

But some learn a lot faster than others. I've found that the speed of their learning has less to do with natural talent and more to do with the quality of their class time. In other words, some students concentrate and participate during the entire four hours... while others barely pay attention. The latter group text message on their cell phones, stare out the window, chat with each other in their native language, daydream,.. and do anything else but focus on the English material we are working on.

All the students in my class are getting the same quantity of English hours, but some are getting much higher quality...in other words, much more efficiency... because they have the ability to focus and concentrate.

While many of the "bad" students are not motivated, some are. What they lack is not so much the desire to learn English as the ability to focus for an extended period of time.

Perhaps this is a result of the TV age. But for whatever reason, many people just can't seem to concentrate on one thing longer than 15 minutes.

This is a problem- as concentration is essential for mastering any skill, not just language learning.

The good news is that if you don't have much power of concentration, you can develop it. The best way I know is through meditation. There are many forms of meditation, but all demand increasing powers of concentration. Daily meditation practice, therefore, will strengthen and lengthen your mental concentration. Little by little, day by day, your mind will grow stronger.

Do a google search on "meditation", or get a book by Thich Nhat Hahn, S.N. Goenka, or another meditation master. Start slow.. just a few minutes a day.. and then build up gradually.

As your meditaion time increases, you'll be able to focus longer, and will thus get much more out of your study time.

This is vital, because in language learning, all hours are not created equal.

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