A language learning session for self-love

Since I started practising yoga, my creativity has grown to unexpected levels.

Being the over-thinker that I am, I’m used to thoughts running through my mind the whole time. But now it’s a bit different. I have less recurring negative ruminations and more good ideas.

For example, now you can even find out what your language learner’s Hogwarts house is. Just saying. 😉

 

I had no idea yoga and language learning could work that well together, but they do.

Today’s post was inspired by Adriene Mishler, the wonderful woman behind the YouTube channel Yoga with Adriene. She’s the only person you need to know if you want to start a yoga practice in your house. And if you’re an introvert, I don’t think I have to explain to you why at-home yoga is the best yoga.

So here is my personal little homage to Adriene: a language learning session for self-love.

Of course, following her most important message: Find What Feels Good.

Let’s get started!

language learning self-love

 

Getting ready

You should have about an hour for the session. I know it can be hard to have one full hour to dedicate only to yourself, but you deserve one hour a week, don’t you?

Make sure you turn off all the devices you don’t use, or at least set them to silent mode and switch off all notifications. For this time you take for yourself try to avoid distractions as much as possible.

Things you need:
  • Comfy clothes, because self-love needs cosiness;
  • Your notebook, a pen or pencil, colours to add some extra love;
  • 1 hour for yourself;
  • Optional: a yoga mat.

 

Settling in

First, take a few minutes to relax. You need to disconnect from the frantic activity of the day and be able to focus on your study session.

 

Here are some video recommendations to set the tone for your hour of learning.

5-minute morning yoga: When you don’t have a lot of time, but want to wake up your body and mind with a quick and easy yoga session, this is a good one.

 

10-minute yoga for self-care: When you want to tell your body and brain that you’re going to take some time for yourself, try this soft and gentle session.

 

14-minute meditation for anxiety: This is perfect for when you’re having a bad day and you want to leave that nagging feeling behind. You’ll be able to find balance again through a truly refreshing breath technique.

 

Yoga and meditation aren’t your thing? That’s fine!

Be sure that you still move your body a bit before you start to study. You can take a short run or a walk. You can also just get up from your chair, get a glass of water and stretch a bit your neck and shoulders. A little goes a long way.

 

Time: 5-15 minutes

 

Focus on language learning

Alright, time to get to some language learning work.

We are going to start slowly and gradually, before pushing to something juicy.

Start with one activity that will help you focus, but won’t take a lot of your energy.
Some language learning activities can be almost therapeutic because they take your mind off your worries, but without leaving you drained.

 

Here are some ideas:

  • Sort your notes, using different colours to mark vocabulary, grammar, idioms and so on. Write a few sentences with the vocabulary you’re still insecure about or a grammar topic you studied recently.
  • If you’re learning a language with a different script, practice writing it by hand. It’s both relaxing and a great way to remember letters and characters directly with the muscles of your hand.
  • Do some grammar exercises like drills or fill in the blanks. For grammar geeks, this is a relaxing activity par excellence. Don’t check the solutions straight away, but wait until the end of your self-love learning session.
  • Review vocabulary with flashcards. You can use apps like Anki or Memrise to create your own decks or to download the ones created by other users.
  • Do a couple of sessions with your favourite app. Duolingo is good if you’re starting from scratch, Clozemaster is ideal from upper beginner level onwards, while Memrise has courses for several levels. For learners of Japanese, Korean and Mandarin Chinese, Lingodeer is my top recommendation.

 

Time: 10 minutes

 

Do one difficult thing

After a soft and easy warm-up, it’s time to push a bit harder.

Self-love isn’t just about doing some effortless activity that leaves you right where you started. It’s also about going past your safe zone, one tiny step at a time, to improve yourself day after day.

 

Find the balance between being comfortable and doing something that requires some effort. Pick an activity slightly out of your comfort zone, but don’t push yourself too hard.

Depending on your personality and on your strengths and weaknesses, what is difficult for you can change a lot.

 

Here are some examples of activities that could prove a bit more challenging.

1. Record yourself speaking

Even if you’re just recording this for yourself and you don’t plan to share it ever, starting can be stressful. This is because deep down, we fear our own judgement much more than the others’.

You don’t need to start with a 15-minutes monologue. Try recording one sentence at a time, after writing it down and rehearsing a couple of times. Afterwards, the dopamine release might even give you the courage to post it on Instagram or Facebook and find support in the language learning community.

 

2. Have a conversation exchange

For shy learners, this can be one of the most dreaded ways to practice. After you’ve been learning for a while and you feel more confident about your skills, though, you might feel just one step away from it. When you get there, give it a try.

You can start with a 20-minute session, or with sending vocal messages to your exchange partner instead of talking on Skype in real time.

 

3. Write one page of a journal

Writing might not be your forte. For some people, speaking just feels like the most natural way to communicate. This can be true especially if you have dyslexia or other learning differences.

But even if you normally love to write in your own language, doing so in a target language can feel like you’re losing “the magic” of it, because you can’t let the words flow as you’d like.

Chose a topic you’re passionate about to keep your interest high. This will also help you remember vocabulary and expressions that are relevant to you.

 

4. Read one article or one page of a book

Just like writing, reading can be the most pleasant activity in your native language, but it gets tough in a foreign one. Looking up words and taking time understanding each sentence is frustrating.

That’s why it’s important to pick something at the right level – you don’t have to understand every word, but it shouldn’t be much above your level.

By reading authentic materials you assimilate natural, everyday sentence structures and grammar patterns, so it’s a valuable practice.

 

5. Practice listening to a dialogue or a spoken text

When you study a language with unfamiliar sounds, listening can become a nightmare. But being able to understand the spoken language is necessary to speak yourself.

Pick something that has a transcript and then listen to it a few times without reading anything. Try to mentally summarise what it’s about and only at the end check the transcript and research the new words.

In your next study session, you can use a part of the same text for a dictation exercise.

 

6. Study a new grammar topic

I’m a huge grammar geek, but I know grammar is a torture for many learners. You still need to grasp the basics of it, so from time to time, you have to pick your textbook and see how rules work.

The most effective way is to read a lot of examples and then create your own, making sentences that you are likely to use in real life.

 

Every learner is unique, so are the things they like and don’t like doing. Usually, you’ll be uncomfortable with things that feel a bit complicated. Those are also the ones you need to practice the most and that give you the biggest boost of confidence when you accomplish them.

 

Time: 20-30 minutes

 

Do one comfortable thing

I’m not going to make you end your self-love session with a demanding task, am I?

Now it’s time to pick your favourite, cosiest language learning activity and to indulge in it. It can be anything from the list above – what scares someone energises someone else. Or it can be any other thing, be creative!

 

Some extra tips for activities to do in your target language:

  • Watch a video from an entertaining YouTuber;
  • Write  a language-related Instagram post or check the ones from teachers and native speakers;
  • Listen to your favourite song and translate the lyrics;
  • Call or send a message to a friend who speaks the language;
  • Do some creative writing.

The list is infinite and I invite you to find the one thing that is absolutely delightful for you.

 

Time: 15-20 minutes.

 

Give yourself a reward

Well done! You did it!

You spent about one hour learning a language in a way that is caring and loving to yourself. How does it feel?

Now it’s time to give yourself a little reward. You decide what you want to give yourself, it doesn’t have to be language related. Just don’t skip this part, it’s important!

 

Repeat!

I hope trying this little experiment will leave you brimming with energy by the end.

Of course, repeat this as many times as you wish. Once a week would be perfect.

 

What are the activities that feel relaxing for you? Which feel difficult and which are pleasant?

Let me know in the comments!

language learning self-love

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Elena

I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I’m on my way to start a slow learning revolution to help introverts keep anxiety out of language learning.

10 Comments

  1. 23rd February 2018 / 4:20 am

    So many great ideas Elena! Gentle exercise, yoga or breathing before learning is indeed proven to boost memory and increase focus.
    A few years back, when I was teaching children in a classroom, we were starting most days with some moments of breathing and balance exercise. They knew it was helping them and I loved how they were intuitively into it.
    As adults, I think we’re often harsh on ourselves, let alone always busy, so I like how you made this a gentle plan to fit weekends or some quieter evenings too.
    I also loved the “one difficult thing” intro about self-love. Extremely to the point and very well said.
    Thank you for another beautiful post 🙂

    • Elena
      Author
      23rd February 2018 / 10:50 am

      You’re always so kind, Danae!
      I find it very useful to move around a bit before studying, especially because I already work at my desk all day. I need a way to tell my brain “OK, we’re going to do something different now”. I remember that, as I kid, I loved the very rare times when we would do some sort of stretching or breathing exercise in class, I wished they’d let us do it more often.
      It’s also important to do something slightly out of our comfort zone because self-love doesn’t have to become an excuse to never improve.
      Thank you, as always 🙂

  2. 23rd February 2018 / 10:32 am

    Love this post Elena. I will be trying this routine at the weekend… even if I have to do the grammar

    • Elena
      Author
      23rd February 2018 / 10:51 am

      Thank you, Kathryn! I hope you’ll find it useful.
      Good luck with the grammar part!

  3. 23rd February 2018 / 4:11 pm

    As you know at Language Learners Journal we are all about promoting a holistic approach to learning. I think this blog post is wonderful. It is very important for one’s wellbeing to take some time out and of our busy lives to invest in ourselves.

    • Elena
      Author
      23rd February 2018 / 4:53 pm

      Thank you, Trisha! I believe it’s important to remember to be kind to ourselves while we learn a language. No good results can come if we use an approach that makes us miserable. And you’re absolutely right, we need to remember to take the time for ourselves, no matter how busy we are.

  4. 24th February 2018 / 2:01 pm

    Great advice! I absolutely adore Adriene! She has changed my life with her videos. I am more focused and not to mention I feel stronger both mentally and physically! And it’s true, yoga and meditation have made a huge difference in my ability to come up with more ideas to write about. It allows you to open up and look at things in a different light! 🙂

    • Elena
      Author
      26th February 2018 / 10:22 am

      Hello LuLu, thank you for your comment!
      Yes, it’s incredible how much Adriene changed my life for the best. And it’s so nice to feel part of a big, loving community and to virtually meet many other fans of Adriene.
      I feel I still have a long way to go, but I’m on the right track now. More aware, taking more care of my body and mind and definitely more creative. 🙂

  5. 7th March 2018 / 2:23 pm

    Oh Elena, this is so GREAT!! I absolutely love this idea. I am a yoga teacher and languages have been my passion forever, and I’m also an introvert so this is just… such a beautiful idea. I just launched my website with these three core interests in mind. It makes me so excited to know there are people out there sharing the same passions and learning desires. I’m so happy I found you (from Twitter hehe)! I’ll be coming back here! Thank you for sharing what you really care about and for inspiring others to find what works for them. Big hug! Ely

    • Elena
      Author
      7th March 2018 / 5:22 pm

      Hello Ely, thank you for your comment and your kind words.
      It’s so nice and inspiring to virtually meet people with similar feelings, learning styles and passions – it makes me feel part of a big, kind community.
      I’ll go and check your blog right away because it sounds amazing.
      Thank you again, big hugs to you! Elena