37 comments on “Multi-tasking, unitasking, myths – and language learning?

  1. I’ve recently noticed that if I’m trying to listen to a lecture / webinar etc, I concentrate better if I’m knitting (no seriously – don’t laugh!), as otherwise my mind drifts to other things if I’m just staring at the screen. But if I try to read and do something else at the same time, for example listen to the news, even just in the background, then this is definitely distracting. However, if I listen to classical music or any music with no words, and preferably through headphones, then I think this stops my mind wandering when I’m reading, in the same way that the knitting keeps me focused when I’m listening. So for me, I think it depends what type of things you try to combine, and some are definitely more compatible than others (knitting and reading only ends in tears for me), and combining some things can even be beneficial.

    • Hi Katy,

      I thought I had replied to your comments, but i can’t see my reply….

      Thanks for talking about music. By coincidence yesterday I was talking to my great friend and ‘collaborator’ Steve Bingham (http://stevebingham.co.uk/) about listening to music and he was bemoaning background music because you never really LISTEN. And he’s right. I am typing this while Tchaikovsky’s fantasy overture Romeo and Juliet is playing on the radio and although it is there (and of course I know it well) I am not really listening to it because I can’t answer you and do that at the same time!

      The question then is what CAN students do (more than one thing) at the same time?

      Jeremy

    • It’s funny reading this today because I was actually thinking about this last night… I put on a TED Talk and lied comfortably in bed, the talk ran for 10-15minutes and I realized it was boring so I picked up my book and started to read. Well, I just couldn’t start reading until the talk was over… And I was so comfortable in bed that I didn’t want to get up to turn off the remaining 2 mins of the talk – I reluctantly listened while I pondered my weak abilities for multi-tasking.

      I can drive and listen to a podcast at the same time, but I can’t read and listen to music with lyrics at the same time.

      I can exercise and listen to music, but i can’t do sports and eat.

      I can eat while watch TV, but I can’t have the news on while writing an essay.

      I think it does depend on what you try to mix: my theory is that the mind can probably only (consciously at least) deal with one complex conscious cognitive process at a time (i.e. reading, writing, ballet, surgery…). If you mix in things that are automatic (like eating or knitting) with another thing that requires concentration, you’re probably doing fine. (Although I wouldn’t like my surgeon to knit a sweater while operating on me… classical music on the other hand, would be fine…)

      P

  2. Too simplified!
    (and I’ve written this in a hurry, so I hope it’s not too muddled – rushing things is far more detrimental to efficiency than multitasking – sometimes!)
    We can all multitask, but it depends on the tasks you multi. Obviously. There are different issues, aren’t there? There’s automaticity, control, and similarity of tasks.
    By automaticity, I mean how familiar we are with each task. I’ve just joined a gym and yesterday’s spinning class was a nightmare because I had to try to follow the intructions the monitor was issuing via a voice-distorting Madonna mike, watch what mechanisms he was using to decrease speed, increase resistance etc., stand up, sit down, change hand position and pedal in time to the music. I really struggled, but once certain things become automatic, I’ll be ok – I was trying to juggle too many unfamiliar eggs.. and to music! We can’t do too many new things at the same time efficiently, as none of them are in the ‘automatic’ box yet and all need ‘full’ concentration and processing. You can listen to the news while making an omelette, can’t you? And maybe even tweet as you beat. But the news and Shaun’s talk both imply newness, new – and totally unrelated – information, and the handwriting would’ve been semi-new unless you were copying. Focusing on form and meaning in language is something we do at least since birth, and probably before, as far as suprasegmental pron features are concerned. It’s second nature to us. The actual information may be new, but the processing of both form and meaning at the same time is virtually automatic, particularly where the alphabet used is familiar – pre-writers or learners from a culture with a different writing system will need to separate form at some stage. In any case, in languages where much of the grammar is carried by morphemes, you have to process form and meaning simultaneously. Also, the newness of the form and meaning information is interrelated, you can use the one to support the other via mnemonics or similar. You’d have to do mental acrobatics to link an ELT talk with the news.
    Control is also an issue. I can ponder blog posts, rehearse talks, sing, listen to the radio and hold entire conversations in my mind while driving, but it’s statistically proven that we’re not good at arguing while driving. When I’m holding my internal conversations, I can tell myself to shut up when I need to increase concentration in heavy traffic, bad weather conditions etc. In an argument, you have no control over the other speaker and it takes sang froid to be able to suddenly blank it all out and just drive. When listening to Shaun and the news, you can’t ask either of them to be quiet a mo so you can focus fully on the other, but in processing language, if given enough time-space to process, you can focus on the aspect (form or meaning) you feel you need to focus on, you can note the form first or the meaning or vice versa – it’s in your own mind, you control the focus; of course, if you’re in a class and your teacher is determined to get to the end of his/her plan by the end of the lesson and rushes you…. But that’s another story.
    As for similarity of task, well, I can think about those blog posts while I drive, but obviously I can’t write them while I drive. I have to pull over. Both tasks require the use of both hands. And see if your average teen can watch The Simpsons, do homework and listen to their mum nagging all at the same time efficiently …. Listening to and processing the news and Shaun’s talk both use the same parts of the brain, they’re both about aural input and processing information. Like trying to send a text manually while driving, the two are possible but not ideal. Your writing also requires linguistic processing, like the listening, and is about organising information input via your hands – rather like your tweeting. Try playing two songs simultaneously, at the same volume, and sing along to one (efficiently). Focusing on form and meaning at the same time is a different case: the processing may be similar, but form is either sound or sight, meaning is conceptual, they’re stored in different places in your brain (recall slips would seem to suggest), though if your teacher decided to teach you a word in Japanese and a totally different word in Thai at the same time, you’d probably not be at your most efficient when trying to learn them.
    So. Longer response than post! I reckon we all multitask sometimes, efficiency has to do with the tasks, (not with the gender, despite my teasing you earlier) and tweeting while you write and listen to two different things at the same time has little in common with focusing on form and meaning in SOME classrooms – it’s not THAT simple.
    Fiona (@fionamau)

    • Sorry, there’s a mistake here: “Your writing also requires linguistic processing, like the listening, and is about organising information input via your hands” It should say OUTPUT not input. See what effect rushing has? ;-)

    • Hi Fiona,

      as I said to Katy above, I was sure I had replied to your comments properly on the day you posted them. But I can’t see my reply anywhere. :-(

      So here goes: yes, the gender thing is half funny, but it IS something that people regularly say frequently, half in jest. But as Debbie Cameron suggests the myth of Mars and Venus IS a myth. It’s gender ROLES, not gender itself that organises things.

      But your main point is really challenging and has made me think a lot. If I understand you correctly the issue is what simultaneous tasks we can work on at the same time (Japanese/Thai works well as an example I think). Writing is a form of simultaneous tasking, but we might say, perhaps, that it is uni-focused? So it works. But other mutli-focused tasks don’t because the tasks are too disparate.

      Sorry I am just paraphrasing your more intelligent and elegant musings, I suspect. But thank you, because you remind me of what blogging is for. Whereas good peer observation is about the obserVER not the observED, in blogging it’s the boggER who gets the most benfit!

      Jeremy

  3. Jeremy, I love the way you always leave us so much space to ponder the issue, especially when I know you’re leaving the real pearls of wisdoms (your opinion) for the comments ! ;-)

    UNI-tasking. Con-CENTRation. PRESENce = Being one and centered in the moment.

    Yes, without a doubt I think this is more effective, more efficient and more in-joy-able than being spread too thin over a number of attention-grabbers/activities/tasks. The challenge, as always, is how to translate that into reality within a classroom setting. Hmm… I would also add that I think “uni-tasking” has become more challenging in the past few decades with the rise in “hot mediums”. Thanks as always for thought-provoking post ! Cheers, Brad

    • Hi Brad,

      I think it IS a lot more challenging to unitask now than it ever used to be. There are so many distractions!

      But there always were, perhaps. else why the schoolkid daydreaming, looking sightlessly out of the classroom window!

      The challenge for the teacher than, as now, is how to get that child back on task, how to get them to focus. Or, what’s the difference between a horse and a human? We put blinkers on horses i the past to restrict their multisensory experience. Should we do that to learners?!!

      I agree about ‘in the moment’ focus. But what do we want them to focus on?

      Jeremy

  4. I don’t believe we can multi-task and learn. Simple things like ironing and listening to the radio at the same time, that is not learning, just simple mechanistic behaviour. When we’re driving, we can chat, but at a busy junction, when I really have to concentrate, I can’t get my words out – or rather, I know that the effort required in doing so, would take away from my concentration on the road. Substitution dialogues? If they’ve got language plants to add variety as well, the best of both worlds, definitely!

    • Hi David,

      yes, it IS something like that, isn’t it. We can multi-task only IF some of the things we do do not take up too much brain space? Cognitive overload doesn’t work because ‘learners have a finite channel capacity’ (or ‘room in the mind’, Keith Johnson calls it). That quote is from Graham Hall’s ‘Exploring English Language Teaching’ Routledge 2011, a book I have just been reading!

      Language plants! Only a good gardener couldl say that!!

      Jeremy.

  5. Oh no, You’re not alone! (in wondering about this) I’ve been struggling with this all day (interspersed with about 15 other chores), reading stuff like this ‘investigators such as Skehan (1998) and Tomasello (1998) have presented findings indicating that language learners cannot process target language input for both meaning and form at the same time’* trying to get together a session for my MA students on grammar teaching – should we/ shouldn’t we?, if so how?

    I’ve been multitasking all day, by the way, (I have just removed the list of 10 things I hoped to do today because it’s not very interesting, even to me – combination of domestic stuff and work stuff). Result nothing finished, nothing done properly. People who multi-task are people who have too much to do, that’s all (or too much to distract them in the case of teenagers).
    This is often, but not exclusively, a woman’s lot. I’m sure we’re only (supposed to be) good at it because life forces us to do it so much. Before I had children and when I was comparatively better paid and less overloaded than I am now I did things one at a time and I did them better.

    But away from the whingeing (how do you spell that?) and back to the teaching. I fear we confuse and muddle our students if we give them too much to think about. ‘Focus on form’, if it derives from language students have produced seems to inevitably become focus on loads of forms. Can they do that and take it all in? Over the last 20 years as a CELTA tutor I’ve found I focus on fewer and fewer items in TP feedback. Why tell them everything they did wrong or could have done better? What use is a list of 15 things to improve on in time for your next TP lesson?

    I think if focussing on things one at a time (teaching technique, grammar form, whatever) even it’s a random choice which thing you choose, makes whatever it is you’re trying to achieve more manageable. So when it’s grammar, I suspect it’s not very important which form we teach our students (as long as it’s not too difficult for their level) it helps them understand the things they need to know about a piece of language: form, function, meaning – maybe giving them a framework for examining other bits of language on their own, and helps them with metalanguage – so who knows, maybe we’re teaching them some useful study skills. We all know they’re not going to be able to use modal verbs of deduction or whatever it is by the end of the lesson. But if you do it reasonably well, they enjoy the lesson, get lots of comprehensible input and feel they’ve learnt something useful, which I hope makes them more optimistic about what they can achieve and increases motivation. That’s what really counts, isn’t it – feeling that you can do it? – perhaps that’s our main role as teachers, convincing them they can do it and the methods are immaterial?
    *Hossein Nassaji and Sandra Fotos, Current Developments in Research on the Teaching of Grammar, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, (2004) 24, 126-145.

    • Hi Jenny,

      thank you so much for coming along and commenting.

      Thank you so much for bringing training into it. I have exactly the same ?instinct as you: that generalised, all-purpose feedback after observation is useless. or rather ‘humankind cannot deal with too much reality’! One or two points maximum. Which is why those long lists of expected qualities seem counter-productive to me.

      The result (for me) of posting this blog and reading the comments has been to start planning a talk/training session which I want to call ‘the myth of multitasking and the force of focus’. The questions which interest me (following on from Fiona’s comments above) are what kind of multi-tasking IS effective, and how do we make focus ost effective.

      Jeremy

  6. Thank you for this post, Jeremy. I’ve been more and more occupied with questions of focus, quality and the impact on these that multi-tasking has: and basically I agree with Turkle and others (such as Leo Babauta over at ZenHabits.net, who incidentally has compiled a fun little book called Focus which is free to download there) that multi tasking always leads to degraded performance – its only a question of degree, and this can be significant or not depending on the level of automaticity of the task and the necessity for high performance.

    So the point above, about simplifying requests to trainee teachers in terms of what they focus on in class while learning to teach, struck a chord. I just finished a CELTA course where the final lessons I watched both had good hearts but were compromised by the teachers attempting to do too much, which drove them, quite literally, to distraction.

    In feedback, I wrote the word “simplify” on the board and handed over to them. They knew that they were distracting themselves from the real work but still found themselves doing it anyway. It’s this, in part, which keeps me thinking that all these wonderful resources and techniques (and I love them too!) are a bit of a siren song. Or at least, that because the time available on initial training courses in many cases is not adequate for a truly considered exploration of them, they can innocently place too much demand on becoming teachers to multi-task above and beyond the already high demands of the live classroom.

    I mean, doing simple things well (as Hugh Dellar once put

  7. …it (curses on touchscreen sensitivity! Apologies for “Comment/Interrupted”) is often what teaching is all about. But just because something is simple doesn’t make it easy, and certainly not when it’s new.

    So I see a case for focus (rather than restriction, limitation or other delimiting words that could be sued instead.) Focus on something essential and get better at that. As NFL coach Vince Lombardi said: Success demands singleness of purpose.

    Now, how to do that while the world and all its activities keep whirling round? That is the question ;-)

    Thanks again, and sorry for the clumsy comment (shouldn’t try to type and drink tea at the same time…)

    • Hi Anthony,

      I see no clumsiness!!

      Yes, that’s it. It’s the FOCUS that matters (see my comment to jenny above). But Fiona (above) is right: we do learn languages while concentrating on something else, don’t we? Unless the salience argument is right. That we only notice things that we need/are ready for. In which case, ZPDs & scaffolding really make sense.

      Except that in a group-based environment, trying to get everyone into the same ZPD at the same time…trying to ensure ‘group salience’? Not an easy thing to do.

      And what about reformulation as a useful feedback device? Does that really ‘focus’ in the correct way?

      God, why are there SO MANY QUESTIONS?

      Jeremy

      • Why are there so many questions? Easy: because without them, all the answers in the world would have to go home by themselves ;-)

        In reality, we always do anything while doing something else (as a recent tweet to you about running a training session while ignoring being trampled by your unborn progeny being a case of multi-tasking suggests, at least, that was my interpretation!)

        That said, Krashen et al would contend that we don’t learn language while concentrating on something else (though we may acquire it). We learn language while concentrating on learning language, not while concentrating on something else.

        Now, this is more than a nice distinction: multi-tasking suggests parallel concentration on two or more targets of effort; unconscious processes (such as acquisition, as I understand the use of the term) would seem not to count as “concentration” by dint of its lack of CONsciousness.

        What significance this has, I don’t know, but perhaps you (being a bear of greater brain than I) might?

        But none of this changes the fact that you are right in suggesting that getting a group of people primed to learn the same thing at the same time is unlikely. However, if we accept the maxim that teaching does not equal learning anyway, perhaps this is a question which is in a very real sense beside the point?

        Of course, this has all kinds of implications for the place of syllabuses, testing, and the notion of “level”, as well as proficiency streaming and the role of the teacher, but that is probably too much for a comment ;-)

        As for reformulation, I recall research presented by Penny Ur that claimed recasting/reformulation alone did very little good (do you know the research I mean? Would love the reference).

        But if we are looking for something to focus the mind on salience and encourage critical reflection on the task at hand, perhaps the old Green Cross Code (you remember?) would not be a bad thing to write on the walls of every classroom:

        “STOP – LOOK – LISTEN – THINK”

        (PS: sorry for referring to you jovially as a bear – albeit one of greater brain. it just came to me and I hope you don’t mind!)

  8. Hi,Jermey
    I think it really depends on the types of tasks that can allow to multitask successfully. Some task are compatible while others are not. I can drive and listening to the radio at the same time, read and listen to music, writing and article and listening to music. However, for better efficiency unitasking is better. For, specialisation and more focus and concentration I prefer unitasking.
    Saeed Mubarak

  9. Interesting points to consider!

    I think it’s a bit simplistic to chalk multitasking-proficiency up to gender. I think what really happens is that some activities are just better suited to be carried out simultaneously than others and, like someone said above, the level of command we have of said activities plays a role. For instance: I’m making lunch, ‘unitasking’ simply takes too much time – I’d never finish! So I set the soup on a pot, get rice going on another one and stick the meat in the oven all the while listening to music or singing. However, if I am trying a new recipe then I want to focus on it and not get distracted.

    Now, should we retrain as ‘unitaskers’?

    Many, many times I’ve caught myself telling my YLs to just do ‘one a thing at a time’, to ‘finish before (they) move on to the next activity’, and when questioned I do explain to them that they will make fewer mistakes if they do so. However, very rarely do I follow my own advice and more often than not I “work” on my computer, three different documents open, on top of twitter, e-mail and I just hop from one thing to the next. What I tell myself is that when I get ‘blocked’ at one thing I can just keep move on to the next thing and return to the first one when I’m ready. iAm I productive when I do that? That’s the question! Which, after all this discussion, makes me thing that perhaps I need to walk the walk before I go talking the talk with my students!

    • Thanks Gloria for coming along and commenting.

      Of course multitasking = gender etc is frankly rubbish I reckon. It IS true that many women have to do do a whole range of simultaneous tasks that men don’t or won’t!! But it’s not gender, it’s gender roles, isn’t it?

      I rather agree that we need to practise what we preach re multi/unitasking. All of us multitask in front of the computer yet we don’t want our students too. But are we right when we are dping or when we are telling?

      Hmm. It’s all a question of focus I reckon!

      Jeremy

  10. Anthony Gaughan :

    Why are there so many questions? Easy: because without them, all the answers in the world would have to go home by themselves ;-)

    In reality, we always do anything while doing something else (as a recent tweet to you about running a training session while ignoring being trampled by your unborn progeny being a case of multi-tasking suggests, at least, that was my interpretation!)

    That said, Krashen et al would contend that we don’t learn language while concentrating on something else (though we may acquire it). We learn language while concentrating on learning language, not while concentrating on something else.

    Now, this is more than a nice distinction: multi-tasking suggests parallel concentration on two or more targets of effort; unconscious processes (such as acquisition, as I understand the use of the term) would seem not to count as “concentration” by dint of its lack of CONsciousness.

    What significance this has, I don’t know, but perhaps you (being a bear of greater brain than I) might?

    But none of this changes the fact that you are right in suggesting that getting a group of people primed to learn the same thing at the same time is unlikely. However, if we accept the maxim that teaching does not equal learning anyway, perhaps this is a question which is in a very real sense beside the point?

    Of course, this has all kinds of implications for the place of syllabuses, testing, and the notion of “level”, as well as proficiency streaming and the role of the teacher, but that is probably too much for a comment ;-)

    As for reformulation, I recall research presented by Penny Ur that claimed recasting/reformulation alone did very little good (do you know the research I mean? Would love the reference).

    But if we are looking for something to focus the mind on salience and encourage critical reflection on the task at hand, perhaps the old Green Cross Code (you remember?) would not be a bad thing to write on the walls of every classroom:

    “STOP – LOOK – LISTEN – THINK”

    (PS: sorry for referring to you jovially as a bear – albeit one of greater brain. it just came to me and I hope you don’t mind!)

    I’m quite happy to be a bear because, on the whole, they seem to get a fairly good press and people try to protect them!!

    And the Green cross Code is quite a good analogy, I think. But, to follow up your point about where students’ focus goes (i.e. not necessarily in the direction we want it to), even Stop-loook-listen-think may not be sufficient?

    It’s all very puzzling for me. A good task, for example (I have little videos of teachers talking about success and describing very task-based webquests) is very focused and if you work at it with your full attention, then you can’t focus on anything else. And maybe you can learn key language as you go along. But your focus maybe be distorted and degraded by what else you find in the task.

    Which suggests that we should simplify right down and be language-focused only. Except that the brain demands something ‘richer’ than that? In which case we will be paying attention to more than one thing at once?

    Boy it’s a mystery. See I stopped typing for a second to hear something about Smetana which they were talking about on the radio. Then I started up again. one task, then another, but will I remEMBER what I just heard about Smetana. Perhaps if I tweet it I will…a way of fixing stuff? Swain’s Output Hypothesis? Oh dear I think I am going crazy!

    Jeremy

  11. I think, Jeremy, having read quickly through this thread with a film on in the background and unanswered emails awaiting me while enjoying an Argentine Bonarda, that your last utterance holds the key. I think I’m going crazy. All through this thread I’ve been lead back to your talk at the IHWO DoS conference 2010 on HMS Belfast about the need to get our students to think.
    I really like the idea of focus and am thinking we should rename controlled practice activities as focused practice activities (would freer practice then become the more honest unfocused practice activities?). I’ve just spent the last month with a fabulous group of Celta trainees who had real challenges describing what kind of controlled practice they were providing. They struggled to see the distinction between an activity designed to focus on spoken practice of question forms or written practice of negatives and short answers…it was all just practice to them.
    Perhaps our students need more focused focus? An activity on spoken positive statements, then negatives, then questions, then written questions, negatives, positives or more likely the complete reverse? Either way, more focused focus. And most of all they probably need to be provided with the opportunity for focused thinking rather than speaking or writing.
    The reason you think you’re probably going crazy is because focusing someone else’s thinking is a near impossible challenge, or perhaps the world’s great political leaders (and some of the shabbier purveyors of the cult of personality) would have made great language teachers?

  12. I pride myself on being able to multitask, but I’ve also heard that the more things you do at the same time, the worse you’ll do them. I’ve got mixed feelings about that. Though I believe that technology forces us to multitask our concentration suffers. Nothing seems to get our undivided attention anymore.

    • Hi Sharon,

      thank you so much for coming along and commenting about multi-tasking.

      I think you state a fear which we all have – namely that in the fast paced IT world w live in we can’t concentrate for long enough on any one thing. Perhaps that’s why some American companies have instituted ‘topless’ meetings (I came across this while doing a Google search. Honestly!) – that is meetings where participants cannot have laptops, iPads, blackberries etc, but have to concentrate on the matter in hand!

      Perhaps we just need to get used to things, and then everything will be ‘all right’?

      No, I’m not sure I believe it either!

      Jeremy

  13. Pingback: On the value of doing one task at a time | efl-resource.com

  14. I personally have never been able to multitask. I cannot even listen to music while doing any kind of higher brain function task. I do though listen to BBC radio 4 plays whilst doing housework.
    As far as students go I for some time have felt that I overload mine expecting them to do too much and too fast. Therefore impeding their ability too absorb and experiment with ideas,material,skills,grammar etc and leaving them feeling overloaded.

    • Hi Annsbelle,

      thanks for your comment.

      I have music on all day while I am working. I know that for some that is a nightmare, but for me, silence is unattractive!

      And you are right. Sometimes the music is like wallpaper, but at other times when I LISTEN I have to stop writing. Right now they’re playing the Karelia Suite (Sibelius) and there’s some very good bass playing going on. Hmm. I am still typing. But that’s because we are talking about what I’m listening to, perhaps. When I try to go back to the writing I am SUPPOSED to be doing, maybe it won’t be so easy!

      This blog has developed into a talk which I will be doing for the first time in Thailand next week. It addresses exactly the kind of issue you mention, namely what should we get students to focus on, and how broad that focus should be.

      Jeremy

  15. As I typed my last comment I was doing something else at the same time and even managed to misspell my own name It is AnnA not S.OOPS!

  16. Thought about your multi-tasking theories today as I was ironing and trying to watch the Nadal / Djokovic stand off at the Australian Open- impossible !!! Which is interesting cos I could do it when I was watching the women’s final – so its not just being able to do more than one thing at a time it’s the calibre of the other ‘task’ – there are some things that just need your full attention! So from a teaching point of view – when SS are fully engaged in completing task then the second (or third) tasks of accuracy (and complexity) often take a back seat. Much the way we native speakers get into a mess with our words when we’re engaged in a heated discussion.

    • Hi Ginny,

      thanks for coming along to the blog and I’m sorry it’s taken me a bit of time to reply – it’s hectic getting back.

      I love your tennis example. It makes issues about multi-tasking incredibly clear!

      For me, though, the real question is whether that full engagement (of students) in a task – so that they are not paying attention to accuracy etc – helps them to process language or ‘get’ it through osmosis etc.

      Jeremy

  17. Hello Jeremy,
    I saw and enjoyed your presentation on multi-tasking at the IH Conference in Barcelona at the weekend. At the swimming pool on Sunday (where incidentally I can write articles in my head that I’d been sweating over for hours), I had a thought about multi-tasking that might interest you.

    I go to yoga classes here in Barcelona. I’m no yoga expert but I find it helps me relax, even if I can’t do half the extraordinary things the instructor can do. The class is in Spanish. I’ve been here long enough to have few problems understanding Spanish but I often come across words or phrases that I don’t know.

    As any yogi will tell you, in yoga you need to focus on the breathing and getting the posture right so that you don’t do yourself a nasty injury. I find that when I’ve actually managed to get the breathing right and I’m very relaxed and then she says a word I don’t know, I’m screwed. It’s as if I’m in world where the words are floating around in front of me but they make no sense at all. Embarrassingly, once, with a different instructor, I was obviously so oblivious to what she was saying that she actually asked me if I understood Spanish. When I already know the posture (like I already know how to swim) I can concentrate on the posture, the breathing and what she’s saying. But when the posture is new or she talks a lot (as she does if somebody new joins the group), I find it insanely difficult. It’s as if the language is just one task to many. Either that or I’m rubbish at yoga.

    • Hello Natasha,

      thanks so much for commenting and for being there in Barcelona (wasn’t that a great conference?!)

      The more I think about it, the more i like Katy’s comment about this post (the 1st one) about things being compatible! I wonder whether trying to concentrate on new and unfamiliar language is incompatible with the kind of zoned breathing etc you do in yoga?

      My Spanish-language class nerves happened when I went as a husband to pre-natal classes with my wife. I was nervous about the topic and the language together. At one stage the woman said ‘Señor es usted el hombre menos ralajado que he encontrado en todos los años en que yo ofresco estas clases..’ or something like that!

      Yes, swimming and thinking, driving and thinking,, running and thinking, having a shower and thinking…that kind of thing. Compatible?

      Jeremy

    • Hi Mike,

      I enjoyed your post very much. Good thought-provoking stuff! Of course I didn’t exactly advocate what you think I did (my fault for not being clear). I merely asked the questions. For example, IS there such a thing as overload?Or is Underload the problem?

      I think you are onto something when you talk about what kind of activities are combined. I am gettingmore interested in the idea of ‘compatability’ (see above).

      I will reply to your blog if/when I have a moment!

      Jeremy

  18. Hi Jeremy,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts at TESOL Arabia, sadly we couldn’t hear you present the summary of your impressions on this discussion. A beautiful discussion indeed.
    Well, when thinking of mulit-tasking, I often think of this analogy…
    – a single word
    – a pictures speaks a thousand words
    – a video speaks a million
    – 3d environments a billion
    How much multi-tasking does our brain, when it watches a movie?
    Another thought comes to my mind, the very mind that apparently according to research wanders off about 20.000 times a day.
    Our mind is on the go, 20.000 times a day, WHILST we cook, iron, watch movies, read facebook and do all sorts.
    We are made to think by some magic creator out there who seem to have created us with a mind that wonders off 20.000 times a day. It wonders into the past, whilst we drive and it wonders into the future, whilst we think about the day when we eat breakfast. The mind can take us traveling to Siberia and back to Africa in an instance.
    Additionally, our mind can not distinguish between real and virtual. To us a film is just as real and we even cry with the actors when they are unhappily in love. Kinnect and the Wii board demonstrate clearly that our mind can not distinguish between real and virtual. We even think that we talk to a person on the phone, whilst we only hear a digital representation of his or her voice. I even think I saw you at TESOL Arabia, whilst I only saw your video on ustream.
    Bizar mind.
    Why do we talk about multi-tasking if our mind does it all the time?
    rgds Heike

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s