by David Gutierrez
Usually, meditation is perceived as either a semi-religious practice or a relaxation method used by those artsy types. What most people don't understand is that it is, actually neither – although some religions do actively promote meditation as an important spiritual practice and it does have relaxation as a byproduct. Meditation is a tool with a variety of uses, for example, in language learning. No, we don't mean that you can magically learn a foreign language with nothing but meditation – but it can significantly improve the effectiveness of all your other methods of language learning. Let's take a look at how.
One of the main problems of foreign language learning is that it is very demanding to attention and focus. It is not enough to set aside an hour a day for languages – you actually have to study rigidly throughout this time, even though language learning can be quite boring and difficult at times. If you find your mind wandering too often if you cannot concentrate on your task without feeling an urge to check your mail or something else of this kind, the meditation can be a way out – it has been scientifically proven to increase focus and help people maintain attention for longer periods of time.
If there is something you are going to need a lot of while studying a language, it is the memory. You are going to learn all these new words, grammar rules and, in fact, an entirely new way of perceiving and describing the world – and anything that can make your memory more receptive to new experiences and improve your memory retention rates is going to be of benefit. Luckily, you can achieve this without any fancy medications – meditation has been proven to do wonders for your short- and long-term memory, in addition to other health benefits.
Meditation has been proven to increase the amount of gray matter in the human brain, especially in areas associated with learning, memory and emotion control. In other words – consistent practice of meditation makes you physically more fit to acquire and retain new information, skills, and abilities.
People who regularly practice meditation have been reported to be able to process information faster and make better decisions based on it. Taking into account that any new language requires you to consume, analyze and sort out an enormous amount of completely new data, this advantage is certainly going to be useful.
Stress is a part of life, and you are never going to have the ideal conditions for study. Sometimes external stress can make meaningful study almost impossible. Meditation, however, shows signs of being able to increase one's ability to maintain or even increase productivity even in the most stressful conditions – without any side-effects of mood-altering drugs.
Language learning is just as much about recalling what you've learned as it is about learning it in the first place. When you speak a language, remembering words, conjugation rules, and other similar things can mean the difference between sounding natural and stumbling over every other word. Meditation, in its turn, is known to improve rapid memory recall, among other mental abilities.
As you may see, meditation is much more than a spiritual practice, as it has very useful and well-documented practical implications. In other words, it is a tool no language learner can overlook.