Guided Meditation in the TL

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 partner 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 one into an audiobook, you can manually slow it down even more.
  4. 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!
  5. 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?

  1. Students can benefit from all the features listed above (though you might not want them actually to fall asleep).
  2. Guided meditation can act as a general brain break or to create calm at the beginning of class or after a high-energy interaction.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

UPDATE 24 January, 2018: Check out this post and video in which Erica Peplinski (@ProfePeplinski) shares how she does deep breathing in the TL with her elementary students!

Where to find guided meditations

UPDATE 27 March 2020: I have begun to publish calming audio in simple Spanish (recorded with Abigail López in Mexico City) and Latin!

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 speaking begins at 1:08.)

Happy meditating!
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  1. What a beautiful article to find this morning, Justin! You present the idea effectively, and I suspect that the very fact of doing this work in the TL would help overcome one of the deepest barriers that I encountered over years of trying to incorporate meditation into my stressed-out classroom: there were always one or more students who did not want to try this and whose disdain tended to poison the well.

    Many years ago a parent complained about me doing this worked, although students generally loved it, so I backed away, but came back gently with ‘relaxation.’ It really never occurred to me that this could be done in the TL, but students begged for it more and more over the years, and it may have been a hidden part of my success.

    One small piece of glory is that, at their request, I used my recorded piece in a class with members of the girls’ basketball team during their playoff run: “We get so nervous, Señor Wass!” Then we downloaded it to one of their phones. In the state final, they got way behind in the first half, but came out incredibly relaxed in the second half and blew away the other team; they had meditated to a six-minute recording during halftime.

    I believe that stress is now even deeper and more ubiquitous in the lives of students, and that you have opened a powerful path to something they all crave. Mindfulness is more acceptable now and we can reference it as an important Army technique. But teachers, take it slowly and carefully. Till the ground gently before planting a seed. When we lead with concern about their stress levels and health, then adding the opportunity to learn the TL while merely listening to slow and gentle words, it is hard to resist the offer. They will appreciate the opportunity to give their permission beforehand, and even if there are objections, the seed will be planted, and the disappointment of the rest of the class will bring it back again.

  2. What a great idea! I often use TL pop music for similar access to extra input, but pop music is such a flurry of words—often in non-conversational syntax. I love this idea for calm, concrete, and repetitive input. I’ll be giving it a try for sure!

  3. Love the idea. Have you been able to find any meditation videos in other languages where someone acts out what they have to do (ie comprehensible input)? All the videos I find are just blank pictures that language learners couldn’t necessarily follow along with.

  4. Salve, Iuste! I would love for you to make a meditation video in Latin! You’re voice is awesome. How about creating a super short one to start with. My upper level students and I started FVR today. Even I had a tough time shutting everything out so that nothing else exists but what I was reading. A two minute inhale / exhale, nothing else exists video in Latin would be great! My kids love you! – Luna

  5. O, Iuste! I really can spell. YOUR voice is awesome. I saw the Spanish deep breathing video. I’d like one in Latin. It’s much more novel coming from you than me! Gratias! – Tammy

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