Sometimes I use guided meditation to relax or to help me fall asleep. Because I enjoy it and in order to get a bit more out of life, I usually listen in a language other than English. (My wife recently said to me that the fact that I use even sleep meditation to get more input in a target language is “the most you thing ever.”)
Guided meditation has many features that make it especially suitable for language learners, both at home and in the classroom, beyond the simple fact of being extra input:
5 great things about guided meditation in the TL
- Most of the language tends to be concrete: body parts and basic movements and adverbs when the meditation focuses on relaxing specific parts of the body, tangible scenes for narrative types of meditation. Much of the language consists of coveted high frequency vocabulary and constructions.
- Whether the language featured is “high frequency” or not, the repetition inherent in the genre (both within a single meditation and from one to another) creates many encounters with the same language without becoming painfully repetitive.
- The speech tends to be slow and steady. It is meant to be calming, after all. The slow, gentle instructions and visualizations make it easier for even inexperienced listeners to track with the speech. And remember that, if you are using the desktop version of YouTube to play a meditation or if you have turned on into an audiobook, you can manually slow it down even more.
- It is pleasant. People tend to like doing pleasant things, which makes it more likely that you or your students will want to listen. And boosting moods is good in and of itself!
- For learners using guided meditation in the TL to help with sleep, it’s the ultimate win-win: you either get input or get sleep!
Guided meditation in the classroom
If you are a teacher, how might your students benefit from guided meditation in the TL?
- Students can benefit from all the features listed above (though you might not want them actually to fall asleep).
- Guided meditation can act as a general brain break or to create calm at the beginning of class or after a high-energy interaction.
- If you want or need to mass repetitions of words for body parts, direct objects, direct and indirect object pronouns, adverbs of time or manner (quickly, slowly, gently, now, again, next), imperatives, or any of several other types of language, the repetitive, procedural nature of guided meditation makes it easy to do so. In a way, it is the ultimate TPR! You can using existing meditations (see below) or script your own, recording it or reading it live, with or without music.
- If you use an existing meditation, the above features may make it an ideal early “authentic resource” (#authres), as guided meditations tend to be slower, more concrete, and more repetitive than many other #authres, while possibly providing a higher volume of input than other content that would be simple enough for the same learners.
CAVEAT: In some schools or communities, something called “meditation” could be construed as a religious activity. If this is a concern, you can brand the activity as Mindful TPR, mindfulness, visualization, Modified Suggestopedia, Guided Imagery (h/t Stephen Cole Farrand), or something else school-sounding, and you may want to create your own text or have a copy of an existing text handy so that you can easily show what it is students are hearing. You might even want to show it to an administrator preemptively. As always, protect your job by erring on the safe side!
Where to find guided meditations
There are tons of free guided meditations out there to use directly or as models for creating your own. I get most of mine from YouTube. You can cover the screen or convert a video to audio if you want. If you create your own to read live in class, you can play suitable music, such as this, in the background. There are also meditation apps in many languages.
Here are some meditation lists in a few languages: Spanish, French, German, English. Below are a French one and a Spanish one that I like. (In the Spanish one, the focus on different body parts starts at 7:12.)