The Language Tutor: Everyday Immersion

Posted by Sarah Woolsey on 11/20/13 8:22 AM

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There are easier ways of doing foreign-language immersion, we promise.

Studying a foreign language can be intimidating, especially looking at advanced or native speakers who seem to find it easy to pick up new grammatical concepts or vocabulary terms. Sitting in class and going through the homework might help you get the minimum grade, but if you put in a bit of extra work you can become even more comfortable in the language you’re learning. 

Yes, it's true, hard work only goes so far. Let's face it: there is only one sure-fire way to learn a language: total immersion. But if you find yourself unable to jet to Paris to work on your French vocab or roadtrip down to Mexico to brush up on your Spanish grammar, have no fear! You can bring in aspects of an immersion program to your daily life in a number of easy ways!

  1. Listen to music. Next time you’re listening to music while you work out, choose a song sung in the language you’re studying. Even if you don’t understand all the words (or even very many of them!), it’ll help you become more familiar with the tones, accents, and basic concepts you’ll need. Parroting sounds is much more useful than you might think.

  2. Watch movies. Whether you’re watching a foreign-language film or an English film that’s dubbed or subtitled, exposing yourself to that language in your down time will only help you in the long run.

  3. Read anything – and everything. Whether it’s a simple children’s book, a newspaper article, or a translation of Harry Potter, exposing yourself to the language outside of your textbook will help you learn the language in a meaningful social context.

  4. Talk to people. If you have a friend studying the same language, make time to chat with each other in your target language. Do you know any native speakers that you can have a conversation with? That’s even better! You need to practice your speaking skills in order to improve, and the more practice you have the more confident you’ll be.

  5. Find local cultural groups. If there is a cultural association or organization in your area dedicated to the culture of your target language, see if they have open events that you can attend. Not only are you likely to meet strong speakers of that language, but you’ll start to learn more about the culture and customs related to the language, which often show up in idioms or common phrases that are spoken.

  6. Learn a word a day. If you commit yourself to learning (and using) new vocabulary, you’ll be able to continue to expand your vocabulary, which will help you be more confident in speaking and more capable of understanding the written or spoken language. Put a whiteboard on your fridge and write a new word and definition each day. Try to use the word of the day as much as possible that day.

  7. Start a journal. At the end of each day, write a few sentences about your day. Whenever you think of a word or phrase you want to use that you haven’t learned yet, look it up!

There are many ways to integrate language learning into your everyday life – from using recipes in the target language when cooking to finding a pen pal in your target language to looking up online language-learning games to using online language learning sites like Duolingo or Babbel to eating at restaurants of your target culture. Find what works for you, and happy learning!


Tags: French, Spanish, German, chinese, Italian, language learning, arabic, ESL