Think about how you learned how to ride a bike, swim at the pool or play hoops in your backyard.
Nobody told you to look in a book when you learned to ride a bicycle.
You learned these things through immersion. In other words, you learned by jumping in and just doing that activity, and sure enough, this is the best way to learn.
This idea applies to almost everything we want to learn, from riding a bike to learning how to cook. The fundamental concept of immersion is obvious. Learning by immersion is something we do naturally without much thought. Most of learned how to speak our native language because grew up with people speaking all around us. We didn’t make an effort to sit and study grammar in a book.
Make it a NEED and not a WANT
There is a big difference between need and want. While “want” is something that is great to have, a “need” is something you cannot live without.
“Want” is often confused for external needs, such as impressing those around you, sounding smart or feeling better about yourself. Meanwhile, a “need” comes from within and serves as motivation that is long-lasting.
This is important to immersion. Think about how it feels (or how it might feel, if you have not yet had this experience) to be in a foreign country, completely surrounded by a foreign language you do not know. You need to start learning quickly, or you will not be able to eat, find a bathroom, locate your hotel or direct a taxi driver to your destination. To get immersion at home, you need to simulate this level of urgency and importance.
Take in all information in your target language
Start by making a list of all the information you absorb throughout the day, from the moment you wake up to hitting the sheets for bed time.
Here’s what this might look like:
- You wake up, turn off the alarm on your phone and quickly check up on messages.
- You turn on your computer and read emails or open up your social media profiles to see what’s happening.
- You read a printed (or digital) newspaper over breakfast, on your commute or at work.
- You listen to radio in the car or a podcase while you walk around town.
Start a Journal
This may seem to be mainly beneficial for your writing skills, but improving your writing skills (in any language) will help you become a more effective communicator in both written and oral forms.
If you already have a daily or weekly journal you write in, continue to write with the same frequency, but do it in your target foreign language.
If you do not keep a journal, then buy a blank one and start writing. You can write about anything, including how you feel, what you are most excited about, what you plan to do today and what you have learned.
Language is learned with people and used with people. That is its main purpose. This means that immersion in language learning does not happen alone.
For most of us who are not living in a foreign country, this leaves us with two options:
- Find someone who speaks the foreign language (and wants to learn your native language) and try to help each other out by spending half the time speaking one language and the other half speaking the other. This is known as a conversation exchange and it can be highly beneficial.