Have you ever thought how to focus on studying foreign languages? Let’s imagine: you gathered all your books, notes, and stationery and sat down at your desk to learn a new language. It’s time to concentrate on your studies and… you realize that you can’t. You may enjoy studying, but memorizing large amounts of new vocabulary words and rules is a different story. Especially since there are so many distracting things around.
Even the most experienced students with self-discipline can be a little hesitant to involve themselves in the process. What sets them apart is that they know how to properly force themselves to start the learning process, and keep doing this for a long time. What’s the secret? How can you improve your attention and memory while studying a foreign language?
In this article we will teach you how to do the following:
- How to stay focused from the start.
- How to stay focused and pay attention to the process.
- Is it possible to become a more focused person and how to do that.
How to focus from the start
Almost all of your problems associated with not being able to focus on your studies can be divided into two main categories:
- You have difficulty regaining your attention to your studies.
- You have difficulty maintaining concentration while studying a new language.
Both of these problems cause the same annoying effects, but you may need very different methods to eliminate them. You need to let your thoughts go and limit distractions, just like when you fall asleep. That’s the only way you can use all of your abilities to learn and retain information at 100 percent of your potential.
And here’s how to do it.
Tip 1: Set up a peaceful, distraction-free “study bubble”
Creating a calm, distraction-free environment is very important for learning a language, because you have to immerse yourself in it from A to Z. Nothing should distract or unfocus you, that’s why we recommend you do several things:
- Have all the necessary items ready, including office supplies, Diet Coke, and everything else you’ll need to study. Once you start studying, you won’t have a chance to take something else.
- Talk to your family, roommates, pet, parrot, houseplants, or anyone else you think might distract you. Simply explain that you are studying and would like to spend time in peace and quiet with as no interruption as possible.
- Clear your inbox of all messages. If you’re expecting important emails that require you to take action, put them on your to-do list so you don’t forget to take care of them later. Remember that multitasking, according to science, keeps you from working at your best.
- Remove all notifications from your phone, then put it on silent mode so it doesn’t distract you. Better yet, leave it in another room.
- If you’re working from a mobile device, close all apps and social media accounts that might bother you while you’re working.
- Make your body and mind as concentrated as possible for studying. Go to the bathroom, fill your water bottle, make a cup of coffee or tea, grab a snack and get a good night’s sleep.
- Do all the necessary chores before studying (paying bills, feeding the cat).
Of course, you don’t have to do all of the above, but if you are easily distracted and tend to procrastinate, you better find some time for it. It can be extremely helpful in improving your concentration.
Tip 2: Sometimes music can help you concentrate better while studying
Both yes and no. Using music can help with concentration and attention, but it can also interfere with your ability to remember the material you are learning.
In general, whether you are concentrating on memorization or learning, the louder and more challenging the music, the more it can draw you away from the material. When it comes to studying, white noise at a low volume would be a great choice.
It’s important to realize that every person is unique. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying while listening to whale tunes, in complete silence, or amidst the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood coffee shop. If the noise or music affects your brain, allowing you to concentrate better while you study, then listen to music!
Tip 3: Absorb information in doses and intervals so as not to become unfocused
Even the most experienced polyglots have had difficulty with their language and vocabulary at one time or another. Inborn talent is not born, it is attained.
Mastering any skill requires constant learning and continuous practice. To achieve mastery, it is very important to constantly take the time to study, whether it is 10 minutes or two hours a day.
You also need to break down the information into easily digestible, small pieces. Let’s imagine that you are studying Chinese. You don’t need to open your first student book and declare: “Well, it’s time to learn how to compose compound sentences in Cantonese and rhyme them with sentences in Mandarin at the same time.”.
So setting goals or learning milestones is the next step in developing the ability to sharpen your concentration.
Tip 4: Before you take an exam, take a quick look at all the information
Reread your lecture notes and textbooks to remind yourself of everything you studied.
If you don’t have a course outline handy, you can make one from scratch.
Since you are not required to learn the material from scratch, a quick read is the easiest way to recall the information.
Tip 5: Recognize your personal talents and weaknesses and use them
It is very important to recognize your strengths and weaknesses throughout your study. This will help you identify those sections and chapters that need more time to pass successfully. To avoid being caught off guard when your least favorite topic comes up on the exam, it is best to be prepared.
Tip 6: Break up your studies into segments of time
Once you have found out the amount of work to be done and realized your personal limitations in memorizing new information, you can begin to break it up into individual study sessions. This is not an exact science, so don’t be too strict with yourself. Don’t forget to set aside extra time to explore your weaknesses!
Tip 7: A good start is half the battle won
To just get started on something you’re not happy about, you have to force yourself. That’s not even touching the issue that you need to stay focused.
How can all this preparation help you concentrate better while studying? Here are some key points that will help you to succeed:
- Refreshing your memory. A quick review of your study notes helps refresh your memory and make connections between everything you’ve studied during the course.
- The importance of a healthy attitude. By developing the correct study strategy, you are likely to feel less overwhelmed while studying. Simply following your study plan ensures that you will be well prepared when the exam day is going to come.
- Motivation. By dividing learning material into smaller, achievable goals, you are going to experience that good feeling of “reward” on a regular basis. Also, when you have results in front of you, the process of getting started isn’t that intimidating and daunting.
These tips are easy to implement because they don’t require much memory or concentration, even if you have a short memory.
How to maintain focus when studying a foreign language
Staying focused on your work with languages is very difficult because of outside distractions (such as a cat, a loud roommate, or a simple email). Here are tips to make it easier for you.
Tip 1: Set study goals appropriate to your mental gear
Our minds work in several gears, like a car, depending on the situation. Our ability to shift smoothly into fourth or fifth gear and stay focused on our studies for long periods of time changes based on different days and situations.
Some days we feel like we’re racing down a pothole-covered country road in an old pickup truck that screams in protest every time you try to shift into first gear. Whatever you’re doing, every 5-10 minutes you’re unwittingly distracted by literally anything possible.
Think about the following questions: Is my mental capacity okay today? Do I have enough strength today? Can I successfully spend time studying today? If so, plan a long study session and think about dealing with the topics that are causing you problems.
For those who are fidgety and easily distracted, slow down the pace and organize a series of small 5-10 minute flashcards sessions. Take regular breaks in between and get some kind of reward at the end, like candy… If you’re on a roll, you may study a bit longer.
With this approach, you can make the most of the energy you have and still complete your studies productively on days when your energy is waning. Never forget that the most productive and successful people are those who know how to manage their energy and attention, not just their time.
Tip 2: Vary your study methods to improve concentration
After a certain amount of time, everyone burns out. Bringing a little variety into your environment, as well as your study strategy, can be very helpful in regaining your focus.
The next 3 tips will be about shaking things up.
Tip 3: Change the scenery
Try taking a walk or doing an exercise where you can practice “free recall” of the information you need. This is basically when you silently repeat what you know about a given topic, even if you don’t have the written information in front of you. You can even hum it to the tune of your favorite music if you think it’d help. The goal is to actively recall what you have been learning. This is a very effective repetition technique.
Tip 4: Study without studying with Pomodoro technique
Some students use the “Pomodoro” technique, which requires practicing for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break and repeating the process five times. Others like an hour-long class with 30-minute breaks, and still others prefer 15-minute classes with 10-minute breaks. If you’re working with a language student book, it’s usually better to just take natural breaks, between chapters or parts of an exercise, than to just set a timer that can stop you when you’re in the middle of something important.
Every person is unique, so don’t limit yourself too much to one way of thinking. Find your perfect balance between time spent working and time spent relaxing. One more benefit of this strategy is that it allows you to highlight the time to study even when you’re not feeling particularly focused.
Tip 5: Find a study partner
Prepare to study with a group of classmates, a buddy, or a colleague in a group. This should not be your primary method of study, but it can be a useful supplementary method because it will add motivation. Your friends or classmates can help you address your weaknesses, so you could have the opportunity to revise your own knowledge.
Tip 6: Set automated study reminders
By installing “study alerts” on your phone, you’ll eliminate the need to guess when you should start. It can also be helpful to provide specific information, such as where you left off in the course, what topics you think you should review before continuing, and how much time you want to devote to studying.
Tip 7: Gamify your productivity
In exchange for rewarding yourself with treats, you can train your brain to concentrate better while you study.
Reward yourself every time you finish a study task.
A bar of chocolate? A 15-minute walk? A “Friends” episode that lasts 20 minutes? Find something you can use as a reward to complete the lesson, and then set a goal for yourself. Such as, “Once I answer 100 flashcards in a row, I’ll go for a 15-minute walk” to keep you motivated.
To successfully increase your productivity, it’s important to create a system of rewards that makes learning enjoyable for your brain.
Tip 8: Give yourself a chance to reflect
You don’t have to go outside your mental comfort zone to learn how to improve your concentration. Sometimes you do need a break from studying to think about it and what distracts you from it. In fact, if you’re having trouble concentrating, you may not have given yourself enough “pause for thought” to process the thoughts that are racing through your head.
Every time something happens to you that makes you feel bad, your brain creates a task that you can set aside for later. Each such task requires a small amount of processing time. Tasks will build up if you don’t take the time to complete them. Eventually, it will grow into something huge.
Finally, when you focus on your studies, these “pyramids” of tasks begin to weigh on you. Long walks, meditation, running, swimming, yoga, watching paint dry… Any activity that allows your brain to relax and digest all these tasks is considered an opportunity for reflection.
Taking a short break from studying to reflect on what you’ve learned and what’s going on in your life is essential to your overall well-being and success. It will help you improve your concentration, and you are likely to sleep better as a result.
Tip 9: Use Langavia to improve concentration and focus for language learning
Langavia Personal Dictionary combines all of these methods into a single, surprisingly attractive and easy-to-use flashcard-based learning tool.
So, you set yourself a goal: “Until I work through 5 new dictionary cards and do all the remaining exercises to reinforce the words I was working on earlier, I won’t get up from the table”.
Here are some key points of using the service:
- This is a great opportunity to practice your diligence and concentration on the study.
- The whole process of learning words takes only 15-30 minutes, so it is an achievable task for any student.
- Extra: if you do this kind of task every day, as a bonus, you’ll also improve your general discipline in learning the language (not to mention the fact that your vocabulary will quickly increase).
In addition, Langavia is completely online, the functionality is natively clear and pleasant to work with. It reduces the amount of difficulty associated with studying.
Set yourself a goal to learn new words every day
How to become a more focused person while learning a language
Studying is a mentally demanding activity, so it’s not surprising that it causes progress in those who do it. Maintaining concentration while studying can seem like a never-ending struggle. Living in the digital age, with its incessant entertainment only makes matters worse.
Nevertheless, after reading all this, you should have a well-stocked set of mental tools at your disposal. Now you understand how to strengthen your attention, how to focus, and how to remember what you’ve learned throughout the day.
Take advantage of these study hacks. All you have to do is figure out which ones are right for you.
One last thing worth mentioning. You really can train your attention to become stronger. With proper training and frequent exercise, you can achieve levels of attention and concentration that far exceed your current goals.
Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with your concentration; it is simply the result of how you have trained yourself in the past, which you can completely change if you want to. Keep putting in the effort, just as you would in any other endeavor.
1. Determine the best environment to help you concentrate.
2. Keep distractions to a minimum.
3. Make a to-do list.
4. Schedule study time.
5. Choose healthy snacks.
6. Take breaks.
1. Close your eyes for a few seconds and take a deep breath in and a slow exhale.
2. Listen to music to help you relax.
3. Go outside and pay attention to your surroundings.
4. Get some sleep to get rid of any negative thoughts that are bothering you.
5. Have a conversation with a friend.