Language Learning Tip #08

Problem

“I get lost in class, and I find it hard to pay attention.”

Idea

This problem can have many causes — some of which I will list. But the good news is that the solution could be very simple for you.

First, let’s list some of the possible causes.

  • Boredom or lack of interest
  • Anxiety or racing thoughts
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Chemical imbalances or dependencies (caffeine for example)
  • Lack of sleep
  • Empty stomach
  • Full stomach
  • Alienation from the group
  • Pessimistic attitude or discouragement
  • Restlessness
  • Self-consciousness

Whew! How could one idea possibly be the solution for all of those problems? Well, maybe it can’t, BUT maybe I can make you aware of something. Each of those possible causes are internal. And, each of them becomes less significant internally IF something more significant is on your mental radar. In other words, finding something that attracts your thoughts automatically gets rid of distractions. So, mental static can be overcome if you are tuned in to mental music. That’s why physical hunger is not a problem as long as other stimuli are active. And lots of ADD kids can play video games for hours without once losing concentration. There is no room for anything else in the mind because they are fully engaged in something. As the frog said, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”

On the other hand, people who are self-conscious in class are not being language-conscious. People who have other things they would rather be doing, will be thinking of those things instead of Arabic. People who are frustrated with their lack of progress are not fully engaged in the learning process of the moment. Students who are comparing themselves to others are just looking in the mirror. And those who are fretting about the degree of difficulty are missing the point altogether. All these things can be mental static that make it hard to hear the music.

As a high school basketball player, I sat on the bench and watched a lot of games from courtside. I greatly preferred practice to the games, because in practice I got to play. But those games seemed to take forever. I would mentally coach, I would cheer, I would grumble, I would protest, I would do everything except play. I always noticed how uncomfortable the bench was. I thought about what I would eat later after the game. But when I did get a chance to play, it seemed to last only seconds. I couldn’t understand how some players could be on court and lose concentration by hearing something in the crowd. When I was in the game, I never even noticed there was a crowd. The coach would sometimes yell at a player, “Hey, John! Get your head in the game! Where are you?” I couldn’t understand any of that. How could any player lose their focus for even a second. I loved the game of basketball, but it was obvious to me that some of the taller and more talented players didn’t share my passion. Oh, they loved to be on the team. They liked to win. They liked the cheers of the crowd and the cheerleaders. None of that meant anything to me. I just loved the game.

What about your Arabic? Do you love the game? If you don’t, you will not reach your potential. No matter if you have strong motivations to learn and be good, if you don’t love the game itself, you will struggle with your wandering attention. Basketball was not love at first sight for me. But I hung out with people who loved it. By practice, my skills improved. I began to find beauty in it. I felt the magic of the human body performing the skills. The patterns of movement began to make sense to me. I loved the sound of the ball bouncing or swishing through the net, the squeak of shoes on the court.

Think about an activity you love to do. Why do you love it? How did your love develop? Hang out with people who love the game. Don’t be a spectator in class. Don’t just get your head in the game; get your heart in it. Find joy in the game of Arabic and many of your concentration problems will disappear.

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