- What is Flow?
- ...in everyday life
- Not for students
In an interview with Wired magazine, the psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.
This concept of flow, best known as the presumed source of peak performance in sports and the arts, is almost always discussed in the realm of action. But flow refers to a mental-physical state that we all experience fairly frequently, at least for brief moments, every day.
One of the main sources of flow for most people, though it goes unnoticed, is when we communicate in our native language. When we're listening to someone speak or when we're speaking about something we are 'completely involved in ' the activity (listening or speaking) for it's own sake; meaning and words flow effortlessly into our minds and out of our mouths. Each word and thought 'follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz'. It's so effortless and such a common experience that we're not aware that we're actually using our skills to the utmost.
You can't acquire flow through
Contrast the flow experience that native speakers often have with the experience of a student of Spanish after one year of study. For the most part the feeling of flow is lacking. In its place is the experience of 'effort' or 'trying to remember' of 'thinking in English and then translating into Spanish', of sometimes 'feeling lost' and 'feeling awkward' or 'feeling unskilled'. The process of communication is still very self-conscious and not (yet) automated.
Flow in language can only be acquired through some form of immersion.