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Hacks for Learning a Language Through Immersion Without Breaking the Bank
Localized Immersion Learning
Welcome, aspiring polyglot! For those of you who have been following along on Twitter (2000+!!!) you will have seen me use the term localized immersion. I have never really explained what it means, though, so that is what I will be doing here. Localized immersion learning is the best way to learn one outside of being actually immersed in a country where you don't have the option to default out to your native language.
When approaching a new language, the first thing most people think about is what to do first. What the most natural way of learning a language would be for them. These are good questions, but at the end of the day, it has never been disputed and likely never will be that immersion is the best way to learn a language. But what if you don't have the time or the funds to go live in a foreign country for 6-12 months? That's where Localized Immersion comes in and carries the day.
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How you can make the most of the localized immersion method
First, what is it?
Localized immersion is language immersion that you create. The way I like to think about it is that by replacing one daily activity you do with an activity you do in your target language (this can be the same activity just in the target language), then you will eventually build an environment in which you can only interact with your target language.
What does that look like?
Let's say you are a home chef or even just someone who enjoys cooking, if you're spending time cooking anyway, you should look up some recipes in your target language. This is something I find incredible, you can Google anything in your target language that you can google in your mother tongue.
To get you started you can check out the recipe for this salsa, written in Spanish, here:
For those of you who are working on learning Spanish I am excited to announce our Spanish Resource Newsletter! Every week I will send out an email with resources that cover every topic under the sun. I am also more than happy to take your suggestions if there is anything you would like, please don't hesitate to reach out on Twitter or via email.
If you are working on Spanish and want some resources directly to your inbox, sign up for the Spanish Resource Newsletter! The first week is covering cooking and recipes, but there are many, many more already prepared to go, you may even find something new that you love.
I am working on others for several different languages and will announce when those are available. With that said, what else can you do to build an immersion environment in your home?
Surround yourself with the language
The general issue with learning a foreign language is that there is little to no opportunity to have exposure to it. Limited exposure will delay language learning indefinitely, so the goal is to minimize that. That's where the sticky notes come in, and if you haven't heard about the sticky notes, then you should start here:
Essentially you want to put sticky notes on everything labeling those things in the language you are learning. Force yourself to see the word and begin associating it with that object rather than the word you normally would use. From there start thinking about what you can do with those objects and translate that, write it on another sticky note, keep building from there.
Exposure is the most important thing when building your immersion environment. Again, the toughest part about a foreign language is that it is foreign and therefore not exactly easily accessible. Most immersion programs only work because there is no option to default out. You learn the language because you don't have a choice. So, if you want to create an immersion method unique to you, find ways to force yourself into speaking and using the new language. If you can default out, you will. Do not give yourself the option.
Keep in mind, though, foreign language skills develop over time and even with more than partial immersion, it can take months even a year to learning a language. Be gracious with yourself, language acquisition will come with time and continued effort. That said, here are some of the reasons why immersion programs work and immersion in general work so well.
Immersion: the most natural way to learn a language
Learning to speak a language the way you speak your mother tongue is absolutely vital. It is hard enough to learn a language, there is no reason to learn a new personality as well. That is why immersion is so powerful. When you are living your life in the new language, you will learn to use that language in a way specific to you.
Immersion education focuses, ideally, on learning to do things exclusively in a new language. If you learn something for the first time in a foreign language, you will necessarily have to translate it in your head to understand it, no matter how long it takes. The memory encoding that takes place during this process is important for enhancing language learning.
I always say that the best way to learn a language is by doing things that you enjoy. This is especially true when it comes to immersive learning. You are going to be spending hours and hours during your everyday life exposed to the language, you might as well spend the time doing and learning about things in which you are already interested. Of course, if you are looking to experiment and potentially find a new hobby or interest, you can check here for some ideas:
For some other resources, don't forget to check out the library!
Beyond that, I wanted to discuss a way that many of my German friends immersed themselves in English: Videogames.
Immerse yourself in a digital world!
While videogames in excess are, as with anything, harmful, they also provide a unique opportunity for language learners. Most videogames are available in multiple languages, some PC based games allow for you to play through in multiple languages as well. Personally, I played through the entirety of Skyrim in German when I was learning it. I have German friends who all perfected their English playing League of Legends and watching films in English.
There is no shame in wanting to spend time doing something you enjoy. However, if you're going to spend hours and hours playing videogames, you might as well get some language exposure in at the same time! Doing things you enjoy makes being a language learner more fun and when it's fun it's easy. Not only that, but videogames present an opportunity to develop fluency simply through listening and interacting with new grammar and vocabulary.
The issue many language learners run into is that vocabulary inputs are often limited. By playing through different videogames that take place in different worlds, you will be exposed to all types of vocabulary and grammar combinations.
Learning a foreign language is no easy endeavor. While it can be simple, there are many things that make it complex. That said, all that really matters at the end of the day is consistency. That's why we started the Duolingo movement. It's not the perfect app, but being able to see other people working towards the same goal as you is powerful. Especially when all of those people are rooting for your success, too. There are countless language learning programs, but half an hour on Duolingo, combined with the above second language strategies, will allow the average person to make more progress than most online courses.
It is not impossible to learn a language fast, but if that is the goal it is imperative to understand that it will be difficult. Picking up a foreign language at any speed is going to be challenging. But you can do difficult things and be great. So go do difficult things and become great. I will be here by your side endeavoring to do the same. I'll be here rooting for you and watching out for your successes in the meantime.
For more content find me on Twitter or Instagram. If you are struggling to get speaking in your target language, get up to 55% off a Babbel subscription using this link. I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress in the months and years to come.
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