First things first, what exactly is immersion-based learning? Immersion-based learning means learning a language in the most authentic and natural way possible. It’s a great way to learn because it allows you to truly experience almost all aspects of life in the language you’re learning.
Talk to almost any language learning expert, and they’ll probably tell you that immersion is essentially the holy grail of language learning. It’s the key to being successful. “Just jump in and immerse yourself in the language!” Easy, right?
Not necessarily. For one, since the start of the pandemic it’s become more difficult to experience total immersion by travelling to other countries. This means fewer chances to truly get a first hand experience of authentic language and culture (Thanks, COVID). Add to that the hundreds of different podcasts, apps, youtube videos and books that are thrust at you when you start to learn a new language and immersion becomes more of a confusing pain than a useful concept.
Read on to find out our top language immersion tips and how NOT to immerse yourself in a new language!). They’re useful if you’re looking to learn Spanish, French, German... or any other language.
How to immerse yourself in a language most effectively
We’ve established that immersive language learning usually means learning a new language in the most natural way possible. In practice, it would mean living in the country where the language is spoken. However, as this isn’t currently an option, it’s necessary to find other ways to immerse yourself. For example, it’s good to know that interacting with the world through the language you’re learning can also be considered as immersion.
What are the benefits of immersive learning?
There are several benefits to learning a language through immersion. When you learn a new language, you can interact with native speakers and constantly develop proficiency by adding new vocabulary and contexts to your understanding. With immersion, you have access to an authentic version of the language, because you’re exposed to native speakers and different contexts (just like with Memrise!)
Immersion vs Submersion: The immersion approach is a far better way of learning when compared with the submersion approach. Immersing yourself into a language means that you’ve got tools, tips and tricks to support you when it comes to learning the language and culture. Submersion, on the other hand, would plunge you in at the deep end with no resources or support.
How NOT to immerse yourself
Did you know there’s actually a wrong way to immerse yourself, especially if you’re a beginner in the world of language learning?
Throwing yourself into language 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 phrases in the past tense or come across some challenging vocabulary. This would turn even the biggest language enthusiast off of learning a 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 language vocabulary and grammar as a beginner.
Setting your gadgets to another language
Hear us out. 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 with a language, 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 full digital immersion, why not find a blog or a podcast on a topic you enjoy, and experience learning a language that way?
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 strongly encourage you to immerse yourself in content you actually enjoy.
Top 5 language immersion tips
Don’t ignore your interests!
We know, we basically said the same thing just a second ago, but THAT’S HOW IMPORTANT IT IS! You’re never going to stay motivated to learn if you immerse yourself in content that doesn’t interest you. Don’t force yourself to find an online magazine about the French 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.
Surround yourself with content that’s just a touch above your language 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.
Learn with Locals is crafted to recreate the experience you get when you’re living in your target language country, instantly immersing you 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. Think of these videos as a way of bringing Spain (or, Japan, France, 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 language learning from your sofa.
Let’s get physical, physical! (And emotional, actually):
When learning a new language, gestures, body language and context are all part of the deal when it comes to immersing yourself. If you think about it, languages aren’t just made up of words. Yeah, it’s deep for a blog post. But at the heart of language learning, we rely heavily on people’s body language in order to connect with them and understand them better. Obviously, right now, we’re all socially distancing, but when it’s safe, there’s a lot to be said for paying attention to someone’s gestures when you’re trying to understand them.
It’s a similar situation with emotions. When trying to immerse yourself, you should pay attention to them! 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. Immersion language learning helps you because it speaks to the heart, not just the brain - things like noticing someone’s facial expressions and tone of voice can also be essential to your understanding.
Be aware of language “pain points”
When you’re immersing yourself completely into a language, there’s bound to be a couple of tricky words or phrases that can make learning a little more difficult. Now, with our positive pants on, we’d say that these unique features bring beauty to different languages. But IRL, we know it can get annoying when words catch you out.
For example, it can be easy to get confused between your native language and your new one. If you’re learning French, you might have come across a few false friends in your time. Or you could be caught out by different variations of the same language, such as Mexican Spanish and Castilian Spanish. Making mistakes with these things isn’t the end of the world, but it’s good to keep an eye out for them while you’re immersing yourself in a new language.
Practice little and often.
The final point we have to help immerse yourself in a new language is to keep practicing, little and often. Those small sessions add up over time to great success, and as you probably know already, learning a new language is a marathon, not a sprint. Did you know that Memrise lets you set daily goals and learning reminders to keep you motivated and on-track? Plus, there’s plenty of helpful online resources and language learning immersion software available to help you out (like us, actually 👀).
Overall, learning a language through immersion allows you to directly connect to people and their culture. Learning language with Memrise is crafted to bring all the richness, fun, variety, humour and beauty that you’d experience living or travelling abroad. Memrise is an immersive learning app, and we’d love you to get involved and start learning a new language. Want more info on learning a new language ? Head to our language learning homepage or