If You Meditated Like the Dalai Lama Could You Learn Spanish Faster?
by Brent Van Arsdell
We are all familiar with repetition, grammar study and quizzes as methods for learning a foreign language.
But have you ever considered how learning to meditate might speed up your Spanish learning?
At first glance it would seem that meditation has nothing at all to do with language learning!
Why would learning the Dalai Lama’s meditation technique, or any other meditation technique for that matter, help you in any way to learn to speak Spanish?
Surprisingly they are very connected. Here’s why.
Meditation Accomplishes the Same Thing as Turning Your Phone Off While You Study
If your phone rings while you are studying Spanish, it’s obvious that your language learning has been interrupted.
But what if you suddenly have an interesting thought about your upcoming vacation to Mexico while you are studying Spanish? Well, it’s not as obvious — but you have been distracted just as much as if your phone had started ringing.
It’s obvious that when you sit down to study, you’ll learn faster if you turn off your phone, turn off your chat programs like Facebook and make sure that you aren’t interrupted. Studying without distractions is better. That’s easy.
Meditation Turns Off Internal Distractions
When you learn to meditate, you’ll learn how to find the off switch for your ‘mental’ distractions.
After you learn to meditate, thirty minutes of studying Spanish will really be thirty minutes of learning Spanish instead of fifteen minutes of learning Spanish and fifteen minutes of daydreaming about Mexico.
Turning off your phone when you study is important, but it won’t keep you from daydreaming. Learning to meditate will.
When I started working on Language101.com in December of 2007, I worried almost all of the time. I had very little control over my thinking. I never could turn off my thoughts and get any mental rest because I thought that I was my thoughts!
When I would study a foreign language, I would often be interrupted by worrying or planning.
In December 2008, I learned how to focus my attention intensely on whatever was happening at the present moment. When I did this my worries would always go away, but only for a few seconds.
After the first time that my worries went away for a few seconds, I figured that all I had to do was to repeat the same technique to totally get rid of my worries. So I started to repeat the reminder phrase “attention here and now” hundreds of times per day.
Every time I said the phrase and re-focused my attention on the present moment, my worries would go away. After six weeks I was about 95% worry free.
I Learned Faster When I Got Rid of My Worries!
The first time that I got rid of my worries by focusing on the present moment, I had no idea that what I was doing was meditation. It’s a good thing too or I probably wouldn’t have done it.
After my worries were gone, I learned other types of meditation. Then I wanted to see if meditation had any effect on foreign language learning.
First I tried meditating before and after a foreign language study period.
Meditation before a study session seemed to dramatically reduce the amount of time that I spent daydreaming. Mediation after a study session seemed to have no noticeable effect on the amount that I learned.
The important points seemed to be:
- I felt a LOT better after meditation.
- I was much less distracted after meditation.
Meditation Takes Practice
The first time I treid to meditate, I completely failed. It didn’t work on my second or third tries either. You might not be able to do it the first time you try either. Fortunately for me, meditation became a lot easier when I used the binaural beat meditation tapes from Kelly Howell.
For most people, I suggest that they learn to meditate by learning to do a driving meditation. Keeping a high level of concentration on your driving will make you a safer and better driver.
It will also speed up your language learning because learning to concentrate intensely on your driving, will immediately help you learn to concentrate intensely on studying Spanish.
But please never try to learn a language while you are driving. It’s dangerous.
Like any skill, learning to meditate takes training and effort. Fortunately the reward for that effort is huge.
The Attention and Medical Benefits of Meditation
Part of that reward are the benefits to your mind and body. They have been proven scientifically beyond any reasonable doubt. The New York Times even cites specifically that meditation sharpens your attention.
PubMed.gov lists over 2000 scholarly research articles on meditation, so the medical benefits of meditation are proven beyond any reasonable doubt.
However, the benefits of meditation on foreign language learning are (to the best of my knowledge) not as well researched.
Take It From Me: It Helped My Foreign Language Learning!
If you have any experience with meditation and foreign language learning, or if you know of any research on the subject, please post your comments below.
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Last Updated: November 11, 2011