Learning a language can require both concentration and the ability to focus on aspects of learning that needs improvement. We are not born with wonderful concentration, but it is an area of our thinking that can always be improved. Do not worry if you are daydreaming too often, or your attention span is short. You can improve your focus and concentration with a little practice.


In this article, we will be looking to put you in the present moment so that you do not waste one precious second of your English practice. Learning the English language is not an impossible task, but can be more difficult if your mind is on other issues.


We might first consider, why do we daydream? The two most common subjects of daydreaming are focusing on the past and the future, but it is always better to be in the present moment. We cannot change the past, and the future often turns out differently than we would expect. By focusing on keeping your attention on the present moment, you will cultivate a mind that is able to focus on one specific task and excel at it.


For your first week of brain training, make a note of when your mind switches off and starts daydreaming. Do you lose focus when walking to work, or do you switch off when people are speaking to you? Once you have made a note of when you lose attention during the day, read the exercises below and see if you can implement them into your life.



The number plate game


When walking around in the morning, make a note of a car number plate and practice recalling it throughout the day. When you feel comfortable with one number plate, revise two, then three or as many as you can remember. You’re not in training to become a police officer, but the aim of the exercise is to strengthen your ‘in the moment’ focus and memory recall. Practice this game until you reach your limit. How many number plates can you remember at the end of each day?



The street name game


When you have mastered the number plate game, you can then move on to the street name game. Set aside some time each week to walk along a main road that you know is populated with a lot of side streets.


As you walk down the main road, try to create a map of it in your mind and begin to add the street names to it. Take your time and add one or two side streets at a time. When on the bus, or waiting for a friend - go through the map in your mind and see how many side streets you can remember. If you use a subway, try the same game but with subway station names.



The English word mind map


If you have mastered games one and two, then you can use your new found focus to create English mind maps.


Imagine an English subject as a main road, as an example let’s say your main road is the English word ‘cooking’. Now create a list of English words that are connected to cooking: chef, recipe, pan, kitchen knife, boiling, simmering, bread, pepper, and sugar etc.


Once you have a list, find out the English names for these words. Then create imaginary side streets that are named after these words. You can also visualise them in your mind: imagine walking down your main road and you look left down ‘chef’ street and see a man dressed as a chef cooking dinner.


You can also write down your mind maps so that you have a visual reference in your hands.



Learn everyday English words by being more observant


Buy a small notebook and pen. Try to remember all the things you come into contact with on a daily basis: coffee, milk, the bus, cereal, teachers, colleagues, music, and many other things.


Start to observe the world around you more, and make a list in your notebook of the things that you see. Consider some things we see but take for granted: streetlights, tarmac, concrete, squirrels, different types of birds, and items in a garden. Make your list as long as you can. Then look up your words in an English dictionary.


Continue with this task until you have 50 English words and then memorise those words. Then try expanding your list until you have a 100 English words or more. You should then memorise the new words. The aim of the exercise is to become more observant, but also to build an English vocabulary of everyday items.



Learning English words by remembering people


When you meet someone new, focus your attention on remembering that person. Observe that person’s facial expressions, hair colour, weight, clothing, and movements. The idea is to learn new English words by studying people. Consider the following person I met at a party:


Robert Taylor: Approximately 35 years old, jet black hair, small goatee beard, around five feet eleven inches high, round rimmed spectacles, green eyes, thick greying eyebrows, scar on forehead, earring in left ear, tattoo showing on right hand, wearing a blue shirt, red tie with a dragon pattern, brown leather belt with a ‘Calvin Klein’ buckle, grey cotton trousers, black shoes with laces, and carries a gold Samsung smartphone.


After reading this, you may have a pretty clear imagery of how Robert Taylor looks like as well. There are many English words in that description. Below are just a few:


  • Beard
  • Blue
  • Tattoo
  • Spectacles
  • Tie
  • Pattern
  • Scar
  • Dragon
  • Leather


Imagine if you make a note about a person’s appearance in your own language, you can then learn those words in English. By doing so, you will increase your English vocabulary, and will be learning English words which will help you to describe other people.


If you struggle to remember people’s names, then link their name with their image. We could remember Robert Taylor as ‘Red Dragon Robert Tattoo Taylor’.



Limit daydreaming


Set aside some time each day to daydream. Perhaps you can use 10 to 15 minutes every morning, and be sure to write down what you are thinking about. By limiting your daydreaming to around 10 minutes, you can use the rest of the day to be more positive and focused. You could also learn the English words for what you have written down in your allotted time. Not all daydreaming is unproductive. Try to focus your daydreaming on your plans for the future.



Consider the importance of what you have been thinking about


In conclusion, it is easy to miss opportunities and extraordinary things if we are occupied in our head with daydreaming. By training our mind to be focused on the present, we can learn new English vocabulary, make new friends, be more outgoing, and improve our memory.


With regard to your daydreams - if you are dreaming of success or popularity - what steps are you taking to ensure these dreams come true? If you’ve chosen to speak English, what would you do if you were fluent in English? Focus on seeing yourself as successful with the English language, and your dreams may become reality.


Hero image by Kalen Emsley (CC0 1.0)