Trouble Concentrating when listening to audio? tips?

So like the title says I’m having difficulties concentrating and staying focus when I’m listening to something in my target language sometime especially when it’s just the audio. Normally I like to listen while I read, which is why I like LingQ but there’s still times where I find a podcast or something where I don’t have to luxury of having a text in front of me. I think my problem when I’m just sitting there listening is it’s not enough to grab my attention completely unless it’s just very interesting and it’s not that I choose boring dry content it’s just that I become easily distracted and my mind wanders easily.

Somethings I’ve tried to do to help with this issue is: listening somewhere with less distractions, wearing headphones so no outside noises come in, visualizing the phrase like subtitles after they’re spoken(sometimes), listening to more audio with a dialogue rather than narrative, listening to audio where I’m familiar with the content.

These are just some little things I’ve implemented that have helped slightly but still not a whole lot. What I find that helps me the most with listening is have some kind of other mental stimuli that doesn’t distract me from the audio but keeps me less likely to get distracted. For instance when I’m driving it’s really easy to listen to audio when it’s a route I know and not much traffic because driving requires that mental stimuli but not so much to where you can’t focus on a podcast at the same time. Something that also helps is watching videos or movies in the target language. I have the visual stimuli there and I can also focus on the audio no problem.

My main purpose of posting this thread though was to see if anyone else struggles with this concentration problem and any tips any of you might have to improve concentration or any other things you might do to bring in this extra mental stimuli that you can do at home like wash dishes or something for example.

I do think when it comes to concentration it takes practice to get better at it, so I’m still trying to build that skill as well but I find it very difficult at certain times of the day. Any help or insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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In my opinion, this question comes up when you forget to account for all the time you do really pay attention to the audio; instead getting annoyed when you notice you have not been focussing. In other words it is a glass half-empty attitude, as opposed to a glass half-full. This may turn someone off listening if they fall into a negative self-appraisal loop.

Another factor may be a mistaken expectation that truly paying attention is always an immersion, as it can be ideally, rather than an on-again, off-again experience. Maybe try noticing how you pay attention to audio in your native language, and you’ll likely see the sporadic nature of most day=to-day listening.

Repeat, in your mind, the sounds you are hearing (ie repeat, in your head what you are listening to – with a half second, or so, delay).

Also, as you allude to - build up your attention skills. “Attention to your attention”, in particular, is a hugely under-rated life skill. Where is your mind now? Is it focused on what’s happening, now? Is it drifting to the past or future? Each time you notice your attention wandering, and each time you bring your attention back to the present, is like lifting a dumbbell, the more you do it the better you get at it.

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Hi Logan, I can tell you that I’ve made the same experience. I do most of my listening while I’m commuting and that works well. Also listening works well when I’m going for a walk. It is much more difficult to listen only doing nothing else.

Another imporant thing is that the content I’m listening too is a not to difficult. It must be on my level or a little above that I can follow. If I get not enough out of it, I’m getting distracted. If it is to easy I get bored too and I catch myself thinking about other things.

What you are telling is absolutely normal in my opinion.

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First of all, I would like to say that listening in your target language is always profitable even if you can’t concentrate and are able to understand only a part of it.
Secondly, if I think about the loss of concentration, it often happens with me when I’m anxcious about something, for examjple, my son came too late home and I worry about where he was and what he could do, or I gave not a very good lesson and I concider about the reasons of it and possible way to improve it during the next lesson.
Besides, it can be if the text is too difficult. The most students are always in a hurry to listen to the advanced texts while they are only in the low intermediate or even elementary level.
Our concentration can be reduced drastically when we are in low spirits, in a bad mood.
Finally, we can lose the concentrtation if the texts, which we’re listening to, are completely boring for us.
What I do - sometimes I just stop listening, but sometimes I keep on listening only as a noise, not making any efforts to understand because as I said before - every listening of a target language can be profirable for our miind even if we don’t realize it.


We all can have troubles concentrating when listening something boring in our own native language. Have you ever had such experience at school or university?

Yes I see what you mean. Personally I don’t really worry if I don’t understand every single word or phrase becuase I know at my level that’s just not going to happen with the podcasts that I’m listening to but when I don’t understand little to nothing about what they’re talking about that bothers me. I do tell myself whether I can understand only a little or a lot that it’s still practice with the language and that in itself is good.
You make an interesting point re how we pay attention to our native language. On that I can say just like everyone else, it’s not just with my target language but I find myself all the time not paying attention to what someones saying. Obviously it’s a lot easier to concentrate on what someone’s saying in my native tongue but that’s probably because its so much easier to understand and the fact that I don’t feel like I have to focus on every other word in my native tongue like I do with my target language. I think there also lies a problem because I want to know everything that is being said but you aren’t going to know every single word all the time so it’s good to try and grasp the picture of what is being said and not necessarily every little detail.

Yeah I actually already do this and it helps. This works best when listening to slower audios or just normal pace but when someone speaks very fast like more than an average native speaker than it can be a bit trickier to keep up.
You are right about building attention skills, that’s basically what I meant in my post about trying to build my concentration skills and I have actually noticed over the year I’ve been learning German my concentration has gone up, but just not by a lot. I try to catch myself when I’m doing this though when my mind is wandering, not even with language practice but say I’m at a meeting or something, I want to be there in the present and not thinking about the past and the future or just day dreaming.

Hey thanks for the tips Veral. I think that is an important point about listening to something not to difficult. The more I learn German the more I realize I need to stay in my own level but that of course changes as I progress but I try to constantly be aware of where I’m at and unfortunately that means sometimes getting audiobooks or books and realizing it’s too advanced and deciding to read/ listen to it later which is a bit annoying because I get excited to get into it but if it’s too difficult it’s going to discourage me therefore not allowing me to remember it as good. I think sometimes when I have this mental stimuli like driving, or walking I tend to listen to more newer content, perhaps even riskier as far as difficulty because I know I can concentrate better but then at times when my concentration might not be so good I listen to easier content or listening to something I’ve already listened to before and that seems to help keep a good balance. This all kind of reminds me about this book I read about Meditation and they describe those with low concentration skills who are just starting to meditate “monkey minds,” or something like that because their mind wanders like a monkey jumping through trees in the Forrest, I thought that describes my mind pretty well sometimes xD

Thank you, you bring some very important points Evgueny. Boring content and difficult content should be avoided if possible and any language practice is good whether you understood or not and I heartily agree with that. I think there’s a lot of things going on in the background of our brains that we aren’t even conscious of that are “in the works.” So I try to tell myself when I can’t concentrate well because it can be discouraging when you want to understand something but can’t.

At school or university? on a daily basis haha. Yeah I know what you mean, I just wish I could tune in better when I wanted to but it’s not always that simple. I think it is important like I stated above to be selective with the material you decided to study and try to avoid that boring stuff that puts us to sleep :slight_smile:

Fabulous question. four points

  1. coffee
  2. get big earphones to completely cover your ears so you can…
  3. jog/walk while listening. this gets more oxygen to your brain so it works better, exercise has been scientifically proven to increase intelligence. get lost in the woods, feel that adventurous spirit that whisked you away into foreign language land, you’ll feel happier about everything you are and will do.
  4. visualize the words like a movie in your brain, but visualize them as pictures and feel abstract words as feelings. you must get creative with the process, this was how you were as an itty bitty kiddy learning your native tongue, rote is a sinking boat.

I do have this problem. What helped me was to just jot down a word or two every few sentences. Not so much for the word, but to keep my attention. After, it is nice to see how the words sort of add up and make you review what was said.

This might work not with you, I notice you seem to do your listening while doing other activities.

Choosing material that is not too easy or too hard is important too. In both cases, we tend to tune out, at least, I do.

The time of day when you listen does make a difference, our brain tends to have a harder time focusing when we are tired.

Personally, I prefer to move on to videos as soon as possible.

Anyway, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are hearing more than you realize, even if just the rythm of your target language.
Consider that nobody pays attention to every single word in their native language.

Ha yeah coffee should have two numbers… Thanks for the tips though, that is good advice, I especially liked the tip number 4. I already do this to some extent like I mentioned in the initial post. I try to visualize the words as I’m listening to them like reading a script of a play or something like that. I think the more connections and senses you try to bring to the process the better you’ll remember it and the easier it is to concentrate. It takes a lot to do all of this visualizing sometimes so I think that’s probably why I don’t do it that much but creativity in my opinion is just like any other skill, the more you work on it the better you get and the quicker it comes.

I think it is important to note that some people say your native language is “yours” mainly because there is a complex web of linguistic schemata that native speakers have absorbed about how a given interaction will go given a set of circumstances. This allows native speakers to focus a lot more sporadically on their native language interactions and “fill in the blanks” with schematic knowledge.

Maybe when listening to hard material in a second language you can just try to guess at the circumstances and keep in mind schemata (ie likely words and expressions, cliches, tones of voice, etc) while guessing at the meaning, safe in the knowledge that by thinking in these ways you are engaging with the material even though you are not nailing down anything. I think elfgal’s advice below about writing a random word here and there is also excellent.

I agree that listening hard material is not advisable during just listening. I tried listening Austen-Pride and Prejudice, although i understand word by word what is said, it is hard for me to keep my mind on listening.

And even in my native tongue, turkish , i had difficulty understanding some songs and very hard material.

Thank you for the comment, that is good advice. It’s really a win win in any case as long as I’m finding practice in the language so I try to stay positive :slight_smile:

Pick a nice accent, find a news station or, better yet, a children’s story time station.
When you sit for a long time you literally kill yourself, even with good posture it is slow suicide, I don’t even sit when I read, so that is one great reason I say to stand, walk, or pace while listening to radio. I would swim with headphones on if technology allowed, how awesome would that be?

It is important issue while learning language. I had same problem and I really felt myself that i could not focus on audio which i was listening to. By reading and listening namely as i continue to study, the problem was solved automatically. i believe that the problem is not a consantration matter. It is just related to getting used to the language that we want to learn. While listening when you hear a word you cannot visualize immediately even if you know word.