How good are you at ignoring distractions when learning languages? If it’s something you’re currently struggling with, check out my eight tips on how you can improve your focus when learning a foreign language – hope they will help you stay focused!
1. Clear away mental clutter
Switch everything off for 15 minutes and get a piece of paper and a pen ready. Lie down, close your eyes and relax. Catch all the thoughts that come into your head and write them down as they come in. Capturing them on paper means that your brain won’t be desperately trying to deal with them as they appear. You can deal with them when you’re ready and when the time is right. At least now you know they’re written down so they won’t get lost, and you’ve got some mental space to actually get on with your language learning!
2. Stop multitasking
Single-tasking is the way forward. Do one thing at a time and do it well. Can’t stop thinking about all the other things you need to do to get fluent? Go back to step 1 and transfer your mental clutter on to a piece of paper.
Multitasking drains your brain and it makes you more stressed. The key to successful language learning is enjoying what you’re doing – if you’re stressed, your satisfaction with your learning activities may decrease. Focus your energy on one thing at a time and the outcomes will be better – and, as a result, you’ll be more motivated!
3. Slow down
Doing things more deliberately will help you keep your attention in one place without wandering off. Are you learning adjectives today? Stick to that and do it slowly.
Bonus tip: Use the Motivation Journal
The Motivation Journal is a tool I’ve created for you guys to help you stay focused on your language goals and track your progress more easily. It’s a physical journal that you can fill in every week. Make sure you check it out!
4. Visualise self-sabotage situations
What are you likely to do to sabotage your own learning objectives? Watch TV, go on Facebook or have another cup of tea?
Try to visualise how you would feel in a situation when something really tempting comes up just as you’re about to sit down and do some language study. How would you feel? Is there anything you could do to resist the temptation? Imagine yourself doing it – this kind of mental rehearsal prepares you for situations where you may struggle with maintaining your attention and helps you deal with them better when they do come up.
5. Use the 20-second rule
If your phone is sitting on the same table as the books you’re using to learn French grammar, how likely are you to pick it up just for a quick while to check your email or Facebook notifications? Quite likely? I think so.
What about if you put your phone in a box, at the back of a drawer in another room?
Whatever your potential distraction is, make sure you’re separated from it by at least 20 seconds. If your guitar is hidden away in a closet in the basement for the duration of your language learning session, how bothered will you be to get it out and start strumming instead of skyping your language exchange partner? Hopefully not too much because it’s more than 20 seconds away!
6. Focus on the right things
At the start of each week, define what it is that you’re trying to achieve that week. It will help you keep your attention focused on those goals. Make sure you review them every day to increase your attention even more.
The Motivation Journal can support you in that. It can help you stay on track and fight distractions.
Meditation is a great way of training your brain to focus its attention better. I personally use an app called Headspace, which has some very short but relaxing guided meditation sessions. It helps you clear your mind and forces you to focus your attention on things you wouldn’t notice otherwise – your feelings, your breath, or the sounds and smells around you. By focusing your attention on those things, you’re training your brain to do the same when your focus is a language learning activity.
8. Go offline
Disable your notifications or just switch your WiFi off. Stop checking your phone and really focus on the learning activity you want to get done. The internet can wait!
I hope you’ve found these tips on how to improve your focus useful! Let me know if you have any tips that you use to stay away from distractions!