Are mindfulness and language learning connected?

Nov 28

Are mindfulness and language learning connected?

I believe that mindfulness and language learning are connected because they are both about being in the moment. Essentially, mindfulness is a state of relaxed concentration, where we allow ourselves to be fully present in the moment and not engrossed in obsessive thoughts or fretting about the future.


Language learning naturally brings the present quietly into focus, as our thoughts turn to the meaning of words and we experience an enhanced awareness as to how we speak and listen ourselves.


"It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives"

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre


Mindfulness and language learning take place in the present moment

When you are learning a language you are incredibly focused on the here and now beacuse you have to be. In contrast, your conversations in your mother tongue are unconscious, meaning that you can be thinking about all manner of things whilst holding a conversation.


Few of us can really hold our hands up and say that we are 100% focused on what we are hearing and saying, when we are communicating in our own language. Maybe, you churn over thoughts about the past, or worry about the future, or try to second guess what the other person is thinking? All this takes us away from what is actually happening in the present moment.


Language learning sets you free from these disruptive thoughts. There is a big difference in the way you consciously focus on the moment. When you are learning a new language, you have to be there 100%. This means, listening and being very attentive to words, grammatical structures, intonation and pronunciation. It means, consciously thinking about how you are going to say your next sentence. It brings about enhanced awareness of the impact of your words on the person you're talking to.


When you are language learning, you have to be present in the here and now, or risk missing a key word that unlocks the meaning of a phrase.


A break from worry

If your conscious mind is fully consumed, with solving the problem of speaking and understanding another language, it doesn't leave much space for worry. Et voila! say bonjour to a welcome break from obsessive thinking about problems and mundane tasks.


Whilst you are studying language, you are focused in detail on parts of sentences. You are trying to crack the hidden codes inside phrases, so you can connect with another person. This naturally, brings about mindfulness and holds you in the present moment.


Contrary to what many people believe, language learning is one of the least judgemental activities I know. When communication is happening in a second language, the most important thing on people's minds is how to communicate or understand a message. The reality is a second language learner is focused on delivering a carefully thought through sentence and the attentive listener is trying their best to understand and give a relevant reply. It's communication at it's most attentive.


It's brilliant! The listener is actively paying attention and the speaker is working hard to communicate in a way that helps the listener understand. How often is this missing from day to day interactions in our native languages?

It’s easy to think of listening as a passive activity – something that happens naturally simply by being in the room or in front of a screen while somebody is talking. But it takes effort and focus.


As David Hockney said: "Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it. "


Being listened to is the nicest feeling and when you are in a language class at The French Room, you are being listened to.


Being listened to is the nicest feeling


Mindfulness and language learning are natural highs

An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre


Of course, being fully conscious of the current moment is only a benefit if that moment is enjoyable. Fortunately, language learning is a very pleasurable experience, not least because it gives you so many opportunities to experience a sense of achievement. It sounds crazy, but if you bash out a sentence that actually sounds French, or you manage to use a verb in the right way, or remember a word that is new, the sense of elation is just wonderful. All these small wins add up to an enjoyment that just makes you feel good in the present moment. For me, that has to be what mindfulness is seeking to achieve.


Language learning is natural mindfulness that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine

There are so many routes to mindfulness and for sure mindfulness and language learning are connected. It is such a simple thing to incorporate into your daily routine too. Why not give it try today?

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