Learning French? 4 Ways Mindfulness Can Help

Mindfulness and Languages, a strange combination, you say? Look at it more closely, and you’ll see… Today I’m sharing with you 4 ways in which mindfulness can improve how you learn French.

1. Knowing why

Watch the YouTube video here

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

If your motivation for learning French in extrinsic, you’re likely to meet some difficulties on your path to fluency.

The deeper reason why

What I have observed, after 15 years as a language teacher, is that when you only connect to an intrinsic motivation at a superficial level, it only gets you so far.

Our common human traits

Languages are the way we human beings express ourselves, connect to ourselves and connect to each other. Languages express how we identify and belong to a group, as small as a nuclear family and as large as the human kind. We speak its language, and therefore we understand and relate to its culture, its history, its mentality. We are one of them.

Some examples of deeper why’s

  • Identifying with loved ones who speak / spoke that language;
  • Raising to a challenge and being committed to progress;
  • Being part of a community of language learners;
  • Or more specifically, a community of French speakers;
  • Connecting to yourself and the world;
  • Gaining security in who you are;
  • Developing self-confidence in life through self-confidence in your language;
  • Freeing yourself from language barriers for inner and outer exploration;
  • Expressing your authentic self outside of your own cultural expectations;
  • Relating to and being accepted by a culture;
  • Healing from your own traumas.

Be aligned with your core values and identity

As in Life Coaching, before even starting to set goals and deadlines, you must identify your core values and your core identity. This, in turn, will help you express your broader purpose in life.

How to access the subconscious reason why you learn French?

Why don’t you journal about it to see what comes out?

2. Being present

What is mindfulness?

Back to mindfulness in its stricter sense. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the practice of becoming present to ourselves and to everything around us. That’s it. The way you practice it varies from “formal practices” such as meditation, to “informal practices” such as savoring, connecting to your senses in any situation of your daily life, doing yoga, journaling, etc.

Why is being present so important?

Because it allows you to leave the past in the past, and the future in the future. That means that whatever happened in the past, you know you won’t be able to change, so you let it go. And whatever may or may not happen in the future isn’t really in your control right now, so you decide to trust your future self that he/she will be able to deal with it. Then you come home to yourself, in the present, which is the only moment that truly exists. It’s the only moment in which you can take action.

Leaving the past behind when it comes to learning French

I’ve had a bad experience at school. I’m sure many of you can relate to this one.

Letting go

With mindfulness, I can recognize the trauma, accept that it happened and slowly disengage from the emotions that my younger self went through.
With mindfulness, I can let it go, and possibly bring more compassion for this overworked depressive and alcoholic teacher, as well as for myself, knowing that it was harsh and had nothing to do with me.

Dealing with anxieties for the future

Likewise, I tend to be a little bit of a perfectionist at times. That means, for example, that when I plan an event, I want to go over every detail several times, and I tend to imagine every possible worst case scenario, in order to already have a B plan in mind, and a C plan… just in case.

3. Accepting what is

Another very common obstacle to progress is a wrong evaluation of the actual state of things. We wrongly assess our levels, we wrongly assess our goals, we wrongly assess our priorities and we wrongly assess the time that is available to us once we’ve taken care of our jobs, loved ones and homes.

Why do we lie to ourselves?

This doesn’t happen because we’re stupid, it happens because we have an ideal image of how things should be. Especially when discussing our goals with someone else, like our French teacher. It’s like our egos want to show that we are willing to do the work, that we are good students, and ultimately good people.

Find the truth

  1. What is your real level of French?
  1. My daughter and the rest of my tribe
  2. Career and all that entails
  3. Leisure

Uni-tasking

The myth of multitasking

I don’t know about you but when I was a young adult, I heard this myth that women were so much better at doing several things at the same time because of our specially-wired brains: we could do two or more tasks at once, such as cooking while talking on the phone and having a eye on the baby playing in her crib*.

Consequences of mindless multitasking

Research has shown that when you do several things at the same time, like for example listening to a French podcast while you’re answering your work emails (you recognize yourself, don’t you?), your brain is paying attention to the emails for a few seconds, and then to your French podcast for a few seconds, constantly switching between the two activities. Meaning that at no time will you be fully concentrated on neither. ( Source: Alina Tugend, “ Multitasking makes you lose… um… focus “, 2008 in The NY Times)

As a consequence:

  • Writing that email will take you in average 35% more time than if you had done just that;
  • You will probably miss half of the message in both the email and the podcast, and your mind will make up the rest by projecting meaning, which may or may not be accurate;
  • And you will also most likely feel stressed, overwhelmed and in the long run, burned out.

How to implement in life and for French?

Simplify!

Walking

Next time you go for a walk, just go for a walk, with all your senses. Observe what’s around you. Feel the wind on your skin, in your hair. Feel the ground supporting your steps. Smell what there’s to smell. Listen to the noises, the subtle ones, and the loud ones. Be present, and experience how much richer this walk becomes.

Cooking

When you cook, just cook. Look at the colors of the food, think of where they came from, of who picked them for you, how they arrived on your cooking table. Feel their texture, smell their flavour. Give it your undivided attention.

Technology and learning French

When you’re having a French learning session, do only that. Put your phone in “do not disturb” mode, tell your tribe you’re not available, and do only that. It also means no Netflix show in the background and no Instagram by your workbook.

Conclusion

Mindfulness and Self-Awareness are amazing tools when it comes to designing a more balanced lifestyle, but also when designing a more effective French learning journey. As you may imagine, the 4 ideas that I shared with you today are only a small part of how mindfulness can enhance your language learning experience. But they are a good starting point. Once you implement them, I’m sure you’ll be able to notice a difference. And please, let me know and share your impressions in the comments.

French teacher, & Mindful Life Coach, I help intermediate — advanced French learners find their authentic voice and express it confidently