Language immersion is an approach to foreign language learning, in which the new language is both the object and medium of instruction. You’re getting instructions in the foreign language, and you’re learning it by minimizing the need for someone to translate terms for you.
When you go on vacation to Cuba, for example, you get immersed in the Cuban culture and Cuban Spanish. At first, you may need some translations. If you stay long enough, however, you’ll start understanding some terms by intuition. That’s immersion – possibly the most effective technique of language learning.
Researchers from York University compared the metalinguistic awareness in children becoming bilingual in a language immersion program with those of children in a regular English program. They found that the students in the immersion program outperformed their counterparts in the morphological awareness tasks.
The only question is: how do you get immersed? We’ll suggest language immersion techniques that can definitely take place in your learning practice.
#1 Engage in Full Absorption
When trying to shift to a foreign language, you should start seeing it everywhere around you. There are practical things you can do:
- Change the language on your phone, tablet, and computer. You’ll intuitively understand the options as you experiment, and you’ll remember the words that represent those options.
- Read books, magazines, and even essays in your targeted language.
- Write to-do lists and shopping lists in the language you’re learning.
- Put name tags on all things you see in your room.
#2 Involve the People around You
Why don’t you try practicing the language in dialogues with your friends, parents, or roommate? Real-life discussions are crucially important for mastering a second language. If you’re not able to travel, you need to find someone to talk to.
Involving the people around you will give you all an interesting activity to engage in.
#3 Train Your Ears
Watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts in the language you’re learning! Many language learners find this activity challenging, since they think they won’t understand anything. After all, they just started learning this language. You’re wrong!
Even if you know only few words in your targeted language, listening is still an important part of the practice. That’s what immersion is all about: listening to the authentic speech. Traditional language learning lessons don’t give you that opportunity. You only listen to proper sentences, which don’t have much to do with the language you’ll hear on the streets of this country. Podcasts, TV shows, and YouTube videos give you that opportunity.
Writing is part of the practice that most language learners like to ignore. Don’t ignore it! According to Marissa Rogers, a language tutor at Superior Papers, writing has an important advantage over speaking: “You have more time to think about the words you use,” – she says. “You can think about the grammar and correct it when necessary. You can proofread and improve your sentences. With time and practice, you’ll notice huge improvements, which you’ll translate to your speaking skills.”
If writing is an uninspiring practice for you, there are ways to make it more interesting:
- Write your diary in the foreign language;
- Write shopping lists and daily goals;
- Connect with a native speaker and send emails in your target language;
- Write a personal essay on a topic you really like.
You’ll be making mistakes, but don’t be disappointed. The point is to keep getting better.
#5 Talk to Native Speakers
Thanks to modern technology, it’s pretty easy to start talking to native speakers without traveling to another country. Bilingua is one of the best language learning tools that connects you with fluent speakers of the language you’re trying to learn.
Use the opportunities that technology provides! You can connect with people who not only speak the foreign language, but also have similar interests to yours. You’ll have many things in common, so you’ll never run out of conversation topics. This approach helps you learn the language in the most natural way possible.
#6 Consider a Language Immersion Program
When you take part in a specialized language immersion program, you’ll have no other choice but to engage in intensive learning. This approach may cost some money, but it’s highly effective and fun at the same time. You’ll meet great people and you’ll definitely get outside your comfort zone.
Plus, you’ll be going abroad, and that’s always a memorable experience. If you have an opportunity to invest in a language immersion program, you should definitely do it.
#7 Keep Searching for Opportunities
You can certainly look for tips that will make you a more effective foreign language learner. However, you can’t expect for someone to tell you everything you’re supposed to do. You’re an individual with specific interests and capacity. Search for unique opportunities that will meet your needs!
Are there speaking clubs or events based on your targeted language in your area? If not, would you start one? Can you attend a conference? Start a foreign movie event? How about being a tour guide to foreigners in your country, so you’ll get to practice the language with them? Search for such opportunities! If you can’t find them, create them for yourself!
Foreign languages are challenging. No one denies that. However, language immersion makes the learning process more fun and effective. Try the methods we described above and share your experience!
About the Author
Sophia Anderson is an associate educator, language tutor and freelance writer from Australia. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experience with her students. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter.