Language immersion is the best way to learn a foreign language, but what is, and how can you do it?
The term language immersion, often shortened to just "immersion," is used interchangeably for various situations. In the youth educational arena it often refers to a child taking courses in fields like science, math, history, etc. in a foreign language. We use the term in a more broad sense though:
Language immersion means surrounding yourself, using, and hearing a language as much as possible
Right now, you are likely immersed in English. You're reading a blog post in English, the people around you are speaking English, and when you read a book tonight it will likely be written in English. You're immersed!
Why should you immerse yourself in the language you want to learn?
It may seem a bit obvious, but very simply: the more frequently you hear, read, write, and speak a language, the faster you will learn it. You learned your native language simply by being immersed in that language; your parents, their friends and family spoke that language around you as a child, and you learned it out of necessity!
One of the best ways to learn a language is to travel to a country where that language is spoken by the majority of the population, and force yourself to not use your native language while there. Obviously we can't always do that!
How you can immerse yourself (without long term travel)
Travelling to a country where a language is spoken by the majority of the population is, in our experience, the best way to immerse yourself in the language. But how can accomplish immersion while at home?
First, consider taking language lessons with a native speaker 😉, we hear LanguageConvo is a great place to do that! Whomever your teacher is, insist that they speak very little of your native language. Think about it: you have a limited amount of time with your teacher. If you hear 1,000 words of the language you're learning, you'll absorb more than if you only hear 500 words of the language you're learning. You probably won't understand all 1,000 words...but that's ok! Immersion does not mean "only hear words that you understand." It means "completely immerse yourself in the language, even if you don't understand 95% of what is being said." Over time, instead of having to memorize words with flash cards, you will really get to know the words you are hearing. That's the power of immersion, it beats flash cards, forced memorization, or writing exercises in a book, by leaps and bounds.
What else can you do to immerse yourself, outside of travel and lessons? Tons! Watch a TV show in the language you're learning. Listen to music in the language you're learning. Read some news articles online in the language you're learning.
We know, we know, you are thinking this
But I won't understand ANYTHING they are saying in the tv show, movie, music, or news I'm reading
You might not. Did you understand anything your parents said to you when you were 6 weeks old? Probably not.
Over time, you will start learning what you hear. Your brain will do this automatically, it is a hardwired ability humans have. And the best part is that when you learn something through immersion you really learn it. You can of course memorize verb conjugations, vocabulary, and grammar – and this is necessary – but as you learn more and more via immersion, it will really stick in your brain. Over time you'll simply start enjoying the tv shows you watch, you'll simply understand the newspaper you're reading; your brain won't have to work overtime thinking "what is that word...oh yes I remember it's a conjugation of the verb 'to go'." You'll simply understand it.
This can be difficult and frustrating, but stick with it
We know immersion can be frustrating. If you've ever sat with a group of people who were speaking a language you do not know, you'll remember that it was at least a bit frustrating on some level.
Stick with it. Tell yourself it's OK to be a bit frustrated, that this isn't easy. The rewards you get from immersing yourself will be worth it!
The image at the top of this post is from Santiago, Chile! Visit our log in page to see images from every country on the planet.