Multi-tasking in language learning

Hi everyone,

I’ve been studying Italian for about a month now, and recently have found that I have trouble concentrating on it for any more than 30 minutes at a time. In the past week or so, I have began to multi-task while studying Italian to help me keep focus. So, what I will do is read/listen to something on Lingq for maybe 15 minutes, and then do something else for maybe 15 minutes, then come back to do some more Italian for a few minutes, then something else, so on and so forth.

In terms of how much I’m getting done, nothing has changed. My daily average statistics (words read, lingqs created, etc.) has not changed noticeably since I have started studying like this.

My question is as follows: is this rather “patchy” method of studying in any way detrimental to my learning? Will it slow down my learning? Speed it up?

Thank you in advance.

No, it’s how I get my learning in. 10 minutes of natives-speaking podcast, 10 minutes of native language audiobook, an episode of TV (or half an episode), one newspaper article on my phone app, writing a long text message to a tutor, conversing with native speakers, etc.

I read a full book in my target language two months ago. It was in 2 page chunks, then a walk around break, then 2 more pages. I could understand it all, my mind just doesn’t stay entertained for more than 10 minutes.

So yeah, fill your day with 10 minute activities, lots of them. And stop and start them, add more activities, all you can do to keep yourself occupied. A single study session can teach you a lot more words and give you a lot more exposure. And you might find time to fit in 4 or 5 or 6 of these 15 minutes sessions in a day, during lunch, on your commute (audio), with your tv watching, news consumption, music listening. But yeah, 15 minutes is impressive - I can only focus for 10!

It could be worse, I tend to lose focus probably 5 or 6 times during 10 minutes of audio, I end up skipping back and re-listening to the last 30 seconds when I realise I’ve just zoned out again and missed it, haha,


You actually get the same amount of practice in regardless of your approach, so if it works…it works. A recent study (i heard it on a podcast, so hard for me to verify, I haven’t personally read it nor should I act as if it is gold) stated that 3-10 minute workouts at the same intensity of a 1-30 minute work out gave the same physical benefits. Neither was better than the other and in both cases, your body/brain interpreted and reacted to it the same way. It could even be argued that you might do more with a 3-10 minute workouts throughout the day as your body has more time to feel recovered and you might be able to put more of a strenuous workout for each segment of 10 minutes.

I would assume the brain works in the same way the body does. 3-10 minute workouts (or however long you do your routine) is equally as good as 1-30 minute session. Except the fact of the matter is like you mentioned you likely have more focus on your material. This is a method that is highly recommended when studying for a test (in any subject) as our brains’ typically only can handle about 15-20 minutes of clear focus before it naturally begins to wander. So, In my opinion, you are probably approaching this in a more sophisticated manner than you realize. So long as you aren’t being lazy with it, your brain tends to not steer you wrong in most areas. If you are hungry, it means you need to eat (as long as you aren’t abusing it), if you feel thirsty the same applies. Anyways, keep up the good work, and I am sure you will continue to see results.
-Cody C.

do as much as you can for me when ever i have studied a language fromscratch it’s very difficult in the beginning to intensely focus on listening and reading for 30 minutes .gradually that number improves as i go along i take a break when i start zoning out liaten to some music in that laanguage and come back to it later

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Well, I don’t think it will be detrimental, but i don’t think it will speed it up too. Thirty minutes is not a longtime: I mean, if you only have this time to study it is okay, but if you have the time but cannot concentrate, i think something is off. As you know more and more you concentration goes up, but there are other factors that can undermine your concentration and you ability to endure more time:
Maybe you’re reading something too much harder for your own level → Every time I have to make a translation of a poem (by Horace, maybe or any other great poet) in Latin it takes me ages and it’s so hard, even if the poem has less than 100 words.
Maybe what you’re reading doesn’t fit your taste. The first time I read a book in french, it was a YA book, LGBT themed, that I longed to read for quite a while, I wasn’t really using lingq, I read it on kindle. And when I was really studying english, Percy Jackson books were being released and even though it was hard I could not stop reading it.
Concentration seems such a vague word to me, I don’t know if you’ve already evaluated these points and even so you can’t concentrate… But I used you strategy or things alike (pomodoro technique for exemple) when i HAD to study things that I had if not only disliked, but also pretty much hated (physics, math…).
Anyway, I wish you luck with Italian.

I also think that Mateoc maybe takes too difficult texts and that;'s why he loses his concentration so quickly.
As a language teacher, I know that the most learners are very impatient and they go right away to the Intermediate level where there are too many new words and difficult constructions and finally instead of speeding they are forced to be slower and slower or even to give up.

However, if you have enough time and choose correctly your level, you can keep your attention for several hours only changing your tasks and making little breaks.

I give my students 3-4 lessons a day and mostly they can follow me because I change the tasks every 20-30 minutes to motivate my students being creative by solving new problems and finding new methods and new ways for studying and remembering new words, new constructions and new topics for some small talks in a new language.

But having said it, I strongly believe that everyone can choose such a method which is the most proper for a concrete learner. If you can’t keep your concentration for a long time, let it be so, but try to enjoy your learning even for a short time and go ahead - just go step by step ahead and soon or late but you can reach your goal and will be able to read and to speak your target language.

Just not to stop and not to complain!
Everything depends only on us!

Nox and Evgueny,

I don’t think my inability to concentrate for long periods of time has anything to do with the difficulty of lessons I choose to study, because

  1. I study from a wide-range of difficulty-levels. I like to alternate between studying easy, moderate and difficult lessons. I have found that regardless of difficulty of a lesson, my (in)ability to concentrate remains the same
  2. I demonstrate this same inability to concentrate in other areas of my life as well.

I’m no longer worried about my concentration as I believe that I have simply found a study method that works for me, and I continue to make steady progress.

Thank you both for your replies, and valued opinions! Good luck with your language learning journeys

If it’s working for you like that, that’s what matters. We all have our particularities and all, I hope you keep going and find even better ways if possible. Besides, I had not really noticed that you have been studying for only a month. It’s normal to have a low endurance in the early stage.
Good luck with you journey too.