Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Does your mind wander when you read or listen in English or even in your native language?

In today’s episode, Lindsay and Michelle answer a question from a student who is having a hard time focusing.

Listen in and learn five tips you can use to stay focused when you are reading or listening in English.

Have You Been Reading Lately?

Lindsay asked Michelle if she has been reading any books lately?

Michelle shared that she has started reading again.

She had a bad experience with a book she didn’t enjoy.

It threw her off a bit and she is recently recovering from it and slowly getting back into the rhythm of reading.

She picked up a new book and so far it’s going well.

She is hopeful she can finish it soon. Lindsay struggles to read books and she is more drawn to reading the New York Times on her phone.

She loves to get back into reading books especially now that it’s getting colder and it would be fun to cozy up in a corner with a good book in the morning.

Distractions When Reading a Book

Both Lindsay and Michelle have a hard time staying focused on reading.

They do want to get into the habit of reading books but their mobile phones can be a distraction.

Lindsay mentions that having any kind of technology near your bedside is not healthy.

In a way, you get addicted and immediately opt to browse through your phone or laptop rather than opening the book you have on your nightstand.

Michelle and Lindsay agree to do their best to keep their phones, as far away as possible more often when they intend to read books.

The Struggle of Concentrating When Learning a New Language

A viewer from the All Ears English YouTube channel has sent a question through the comments.

Here is the comment:

“Hello. Thank you very much. Could you make a video about how to keep concentration while doing reading and listening? Please? Thank you in advance. I am really struggling.”

Lindsay agrees that it is double hard to learn a second language.

There are instances that we even struggle to understand our own language.

To start overcoming hardship in learning English, you have to nail down the entire process.

Mostly we look forward to the output which is speaking and writing. But in order to do that well, you should equally put effort into the input too, which is reading and listening.

This can be very tricky because your next obstacle is staying focused.

Michelle shares that there are times that she would read but only using her eyes. Her mind would be wandering somewhere else and she wouldn’t be absorbing the information she is reading.

Lindsay had the same experience when she was in school.

Their teacher would require them to read something and she would but she would just breeze through the words in the book and not fully understand what she was reading.

5 Tips to Stay Focused When Reading and Listening

Michelle says this can happen to everyone so don’t worry about it.

As an example, she mentions that some would put on a podcast and keep it laying as background noise while they would do something else.

She also says that she knows the All Ears English listeners don’t do that and is sure that they are all “hanging on every word” during the podcast.

Lindsay likes this expression and asks Michelle what “hanging on every word” means.

This means, as per Michelle, you are listening so carefully that every word is important.

With that said, here are the 5 tips to stay focused when reading and listening:

  1. Put a time cap and have a goal. It can be 10 minutes or 30 minutes. Set a timer which will set a limit to reach a certain goal. You can gamify it and extend the time on the next round. An example would be to read and learn five words interesting words in 10 minutes or read 2 paragraphs in 30 minutes. Lindsay mentions this is similar to the Pomodoro method. This is a concept where a person can only focus on 1 task for 30 – 40 minutes. So to make big chunks of information easily digestible you break it up into smaller portions to be completed within a certain amount of time.
  2. Make a reward system. We believe in rewards as per Lindsay. It’s okay to take a day off. Sometimes, taking a step back and recuperating is what you need to really maximize your time to learn new things. And it can be very rewarding too. Another reward idea is to make the process or experience of learning pretty. Create a nice reading nook that would make you feel comfortable when reading and a place you look forward to spending time in. This will inspire you to read. Lindsay believes this works. She applies this in her home where she made her own meditation space. She decorated it herself and she is excited to meditate whenever she thinks about her own space.
  3. Tie in reading and listening with another skill or activity you enjoy doing. Maybe you are more interested in discussing a topic but not so much reading about it. Let your output be a motivator. You can have your study buddies read a book or an article and later on you can talk about it together. This is using the connection as motivation in learning a language.
  4. Choose things that you like. Choose something that will lead you to connect with other people so you will be motivated. Think of the ways you can fill your brain box with topics you can exchange with other people. Strategically choose the material you consume. It’s like hitting two goals in this. You get to read and listen then apply it at the same time.
  5. Make reading and listening to a game. Read or listen to something and have a challenge with your buddies at the end. See who gets to explain the book you just read or the podcast you just listened to. Lindsay has done this with a couple of friends she met in a café. They read a similar book and they bonded over a meal while discussing their opinions and views on what they read.


Learning a language is ultimately about connection and filling your brain box.

This means that it’s about putting a lot of information into your mind which will spark conversation and will help you build a richer exchange with someone.

It doesn’t have to be dull and tedious.

If you are struggling to keep focused when reading and listening, try to apply one of the five tips shared by Lindsay and Michelle.

Make the conscious decision to keep yourself motivated and on the right track to speaking English fluently.

What do you do to stop yourself from getting distracted when learning English?

Share on the comments down below and help out our listeners that are having a hard time staying focused.

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