Did you know that there’s a wrong way to immerse yourself in a language?

    Posted: January 06 2021

    Learning Spanish on Memrise App

    Immersion seems to be the holy grail of language learning. It’s the one thing everyone says is the key to being successful. “Just jump in and immerse yourself in the language!” Easy, right?

    Not necessarily. For one, we’re unable to travel to another country at the moment to truly get a first-hand experience of a different culture. Add to that the hundreds of different podcasts, apps, youtube videos and books that are thrust at you when you start to learn and immersion becomes more of a confusing pain than a useful concept. 

    Did you know there’s actually a wrong way to immerse yourself, especially if you’re a beginner in the world of language learning? Read on to find out more. 

    gif of a group singing "tell me more" about why there's a wrong way to immerse yourself in a language

    Throwing yourself into grammar with a complicated novel 

    On paper (pardon the pun), reading a novel in your new language seems like a great way to immerse yourself. Yet unless you pick up a child’s picture book, you’re bound to be met with long and winding French phrases in le passé historique or come across some challenging German vocabulary. This would turn even the biggest language enthusiast off of learning a new language. 

    In fact, studies have shown that diving into grammar (and as such, the theoretical reasoning behind why words and sentences are formed the way that they are) too early can actually slow down your progress. We’re not saying that you should never pick up a paperback, but there are better ways to introduce yourself to vocabulary and grammar as a beginner. 

    Setting your gadgets to another language

    Hear us out here. If you’re already familiar with a language then this might be a good extra step to further get used to it. But if you’re just starting out, being faced with “este accesorio puede no ser compatible” and trying to work out what it means will merely waste your time (though, newsflash: you need a new phone charger). 

    In other words, we’re not entirely against changing the language on your phone or laptop, but we are against things that end up wasting our time and unnecessarily complicating our lives. If you want to experience digital immersion, why not find a blog or a podcast on a topic you enjoy, and experience it that way? 

    gif of Homer Simpson being confused by a computer

    Ignoring your interests 

    Leading on nicely from the point above, don’t ignore what you’re interested in in your native language! It might be cooking, Star Wars, powerlifting or skincare routines. If you enjoy the topic, try to seek it out in your new language. It’s much more likely that you’ll remain engaged in a topic that you’re already familiar with. We encourage you to immerse yourself in content you actually enjoy. Don’t force yourself to find an online magazine about the Russian economy if you’re not interested in economics anyway! Save learning about new topics when you’ve got the basics of a language on lock. 

    gif of boy falling asleep at a desk because he's bored of learning a language in a dull way

    So, what’s the right way to immerse yourself? 

    Glad you asked. The key to immersing yourself effectively is surrounding yourself with language content that’s just a touch above your level. Of course, in a world where COVID isn’t a reality, we’d encourage you to travel and experience as much as you can in your country of choice. That’s not possible right now, but that’s okay. We’ve got thousands of videos of native speakers set up to save the day. If you’ve used us before, you’re probably familiar with them, but if you haven’t, let us tell you about why they work best for immersing yourself in a new language!

    Immerse-Screens

    Learn with Locals is crafted to recreate the experience you get when you’re living abroad, immersed in the language you’re trying to learn. It’s made up of thousands of bite-sized clips of people using real language in context, exactly like you’d come across in the country. All our ‘locals’ have variety, personality and fun, again, exactly like you’d meet while living or travelling abroad. 

    Think of these videos as a way of bringing France, Japan, Spain, Russia, or Germany (and the languages and cultures!) to you. It’s the next best thing to hopping on a plane and taking yourself there. It allows you to immerse yourself in the language from your sofa - and while you do this, as if by magic, you’ll find yourself learning.  

    a screenshot of our 'learn with locals' videos

    Okay, sounds great. Why do these videos work? 

    Again, we’re glad you brought it up! 

    Immersion speaks to the heart, not just the brain. 

    Humans are emotional by nature. We’re not robots (not yet, anyway!) and really, we’re all learning languages for the same underlying reason: to connect more deeply with people and their cultures, to be able to understand and be understood by others. 

    With immersion, you learn by directly connecting to people and their culture. Watching them, even virtually, fills you with motivation and the drive to get more meaningful and memorable connections, so you learn faster and with less effort. Compare this with more traditional learning techniques (think textbooks and worksheets) and you can immediately see the difference: zero personality, zero connection and a whole load of robotic processes. 

    Gif of friends laughing

    Gesture, tone and context are all part of the deal

    If you think about it holistically, language isn’t just made up of words. Yeah, it’s deep for a blog post. But gestures, intonation and social context are key to understanding, not to mention facial expressions, emotions and tone of voice. Think back to language lessons at school. Remember the monotonous, crackly-voiced tapes in exams? They strip away all of the important dimensions of communication from the language you were taught. Undoubtedly, this leaves you feeling confused about what you’ve heard and fed up with learning. 

    We wanted to make sure this wasn’t the case. The Learn with Locals videos include clear subtitles, translations, and the ability to like and rewatch each bite-sized clip. We’d even go so far as to say it’s better for your language learning than the real thing: replaying the video as many times as you like is something that real-world immersion lacks.

    Gif of the simpsons characters gesturing and speaking italian

    You learn the language as it’s truly spoken

    This sounds like an obvious statement, but traditional learning methods use simplified and often unrealistic sentences in order to get certain vocabulary or grammatical structures in. Back to the robotic school exam tapes: “the yellow crocodile ate the egg” or “Jack stands in front of the house with six apples”. Honestly, the language teaching you received back then is,, to quote a certain orange US president, fake news. This “fake” teaching leads to skills you can’t use in the real world, and what’s the point in that? 

    Immersing yourself in this way helps you learn your next language like you did your first: with real-world speed, vocabulary, idioms, accents, and more - you’re experiencing the real thing, so you learn how to speak the real language.  gif of Alec Baldwin acting as Donald TrumpYou’ll love learning with locals - we created it to bring all the richness, fun, variety, humour and beauty that you’d otherwise experience living or travelling abroad. We’d love you to get involved and immerse yourself in a new language, and to support you we’ve got a great offer on our app right now! Grab it here