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Language immersion is the best way to learn any Language, but most people think the only way to be completely immersed in a language is to go to a country where it is the native tongue. That is not only incredibly costly, it isn’t always practical.
Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to pack up and move to another country to be immersed in a language. And you can be immersed without the cost of a class or classes.
It’s important to define the term “immersion” because the definition has changed over time. With the rise of technology, it has become much easier to increase language exposure. Because you can now be exposed to your target language at nearly any time in the day, the definition of being immersed in a language has shifted so that it no longer means having to go to another country. So the best way to learn to speak German may not be living months in Germany .
However, what most people don’t realize is that language immersion was not originally meant to be about going to a different country either. Originally, it simply meant using the language all the time. That means that as long as you are practicing your language often, you don’t need to go abroad to be immersed.
Reaching 10,000 Hours
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the rule that 10,000 hours of exposure allows a person to become knowledgeable about a subject, knowledgeable enough to be considered a professional. While the studies present conflicting results on whether that is true or not, it is a very useful guideline to consider.
The caveat is that those 10,000 hours need to be solidly focused hours on one subject. If you are dividing your attention between the language and other things, it doesn’t really count. You also need to be challenging yourself. If you spend all of your time watching a TV show with subtitles and that is the only time and way you spend with the language, you are not going to master it. Your time needs to be divided between the four primary activities:
You will also need to dedicate time to working on grammar and vocabulary, particularly in the early stages of learning a new language.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology has made it so that no matter where you are in the world, you can talk to nearly anyone. If you are learning Mandarin, the only real problem is the time difference with China. It will be a little more challenging to talk to someone, but not impossible.
You can stream shows and movies in your target language too, something that was unheard of 20 years ago. Music, podcasts, and ebooks are also readily available to anyone who wants to spend more time studying a language.
Perhaps the most entertaining option is the number of games that you can find on mobile devices and your computer. They make it fun to work with the language while making it memorable. They also let you gauge how much you have learned.
The best resource though, is the one that lets you connect with people around the world who speak the language. Speaking is the key to becoming fluent, and without it you are not truly immersed.
Finding People near You
Globalization has made it easy for the people who are more inclined to move abroad to live. That means that people are probably moving from a country where your target language is spoken. If you live in or near a city, you are likely to find a number of them living close to you.
If you find one speaker near you, that person can help you find others who speak the language. You can also connect with cultural centers and learning facilities near you to find a community of people who speak your target language. Don’t forget about local colleges, universities, and international exchange programs. They can help you find people nearby or in the countries where your target language is spoken.
Mental Immersion through Your Mindset
Having the right mindset is essential to learning. Even if you live in a place where a language is spoken natively does not mean that you will learn the language if you don’t have the right mindset. There are plenty of people who leave their native countries to live elsewhere and fail to learn the bare minimum, such as “Hello” and “Nice to meet you.”
If you have the right mindset, it really won’t matter where you are – you can become proficient from anywhere in the world.
One of the best ways to ensure you keep the right mindset is to guarantee some time in which you aren’t allowed to use English. While you probably won’t be able to go the entire day without using English (most of the people around you probably don’t speak the language you are learning), you can dedicate large periods of your day to it.
Ultimately, you have to internalize the language to be able to learn it. They say once you start dreaming in a language, you are well on your way to being fluent. By enforcing a period of time out of every day when you don’t use English (not even reading it), you are helping to force your mind to use the language you want to know.
Finding Immersion near You
If you want more of an authentic immersion but cannot go abroad, you can find more classical courses to help you reach your goal. Some of them may target a younger audience, so you will want to pay attention when you sign up for the class.
Community centers and schools (especially colleges and universities) are ideal for helping you find a language course that will give you much of what you need to know to get the basics. Then you can use the other tools mentioned above to practice what you learn.
Establish Regular Immersion Sessions
This means making sure you have reminders. This can be done through an app, your calendar, or an alarm, but you need to make sure you stay current on language training. Things like Duolingo and FluentU offer a lot of games that help you really practice your skills and see how well you have retained what you learned. FluentU also gives you commercials, movie trailers, and other real world exposure to the language. This is ideal for ensuring that you are keeping yourself immersed even if you can’t live abroad.
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