Language Immersion: How It Helps to Learn a Language
There are many approaches to language learning that promise great results without boring vocabulary and grammar drills. One such approach is called immersive language learning, and there’s a chance that it’s already helping you achieve your learning goals without you even knowing about it.
In this article, we’re going to explain what immersive language learning is and how you can supercharge your target language acquisition by downloading a language immersion app to your mobile device and using it to practice at home, while driving to work or school, or whenever you have a few minutes of spare time.
What Is Language Immersion?
Language immersion is defined as the process of learning a language by using nothing else but that language.
Sounds daunting? Not really! It’s very likely that you already benefit from language immersion at home when watching movies, listening to music, browsing the internet, or playing video games. During all of these activities, you immerse yourself in the target language and figure out the meaning of individual words and grammar constructions by subconsciously analyzing the context in which they are used.
The first formal language immersion programs were used in the 1960s in Canada. Back then, English-speaking parents wanted their children to be equally proficient in English and French, so they started enrolling them in classes where the target language was taught as an instructional language.
Over the years, a wide variety of language immersion programs have been used around the world, some of which strive to ensure that students spent 100% of the school day in their target language. Dual language immersion takes the concept a bit further by putting language learnings in a group with native speakers and using the target language to teach subjects such as social studies, math, or science.
Today, you don’t even need to enroll in a class to methodically apply the principles of foreign language immersion to achieve your goals. All you need is a language immersion app such as Encore!!! (more about it later in this article).
How Long Does It Take to Learn a Language Through Immersion?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. The amount of time it takes to learn through immersion depends on several different factors, including:
- Your target: Some languages will naturally be more difficult to learn for you than others because they will have less in common with your mother tongue. As a member of the West Germanic language family, English is the easiest to learn for native Dutch, German, Norwegian, and Swedish speakers, among others.
- Learning intensity: How much time you’re willing to spend immersed in your target language every day? If several hours, then you’re guaranteed to achieve the desired level of proficiency much faster than someone who can dedicate only a few hours every week.
- Existing skills: It’s always easier to build on an existing foundation than to start from scratch. Immersive language learning is effective the most when you already have a solid grasp of basic grammar and vocabulary because you can then understand instructions in the target language without much struggle.
If you’re a native Dutch speaker and your goal is to improve your knowledge of English, then you can achieve fantastic results in just a few weeks. On the other hand, native English speakers interested in learning, let’s say, Japanese will likely take months to achieve basic proficiency.
Does Language Immersion Work for Adults?
Yes, all language immersion benefits are available even to adults—not just school-age children. One team of scientists used an artificial language of 13 words to study whether immersive language learning would lead to improved outcomes compared with traditional classroom methods.
The two groups of study participants retained the language even though they had not used it at all, and both displayed brain processing similar to that of a native speaker. However, only the immersion group displayed the full brain patterns of a native speaker.
“This should help us understand how foreign-language learners can achieve native-like processing with increased practice. It makes sense that you’d want to have your brain process like a foreign speaker,” said Dr. Ullman, the lead author of the study and a neuroscientist at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Clearly, immersive learning works wonderfully for adults, which is why many leading experts now recommend the use of language immersion apps like Encore!!! in addition to traditional learning classes.
Can You Become Fluent in a Language without Immersion?
That depends on your definition of fluency. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as the ability to speak or write a language easily, well, and quickly. Based on this definition, fluency can be achieved even without immersion, but the road to it is guaranteed to be long and winding.
That’s because a huge chunk of learning happens at the subconscious level. Your brain needs to be exposed to authentic language material to develop the neural paths required for its quick processing. Traditional grammar and vocabulary drills don’t reflect the way native speakers process the language you’re trying to master, so that’s why many people don’t achieve great results with them.
How Do I Immerse Myself in a Foreign Language?
To reap the wonderful language immersion benefits, you don’t have to sign up for an expensive class and make your already busy schedule even busier. You can simply download a language immersion app like Encore!!! to your mobile device and study at your own pace anywhere and at any time.
Encore!!! comes with a large content library that can bring its user to an intermediate fluency level. To get started, you simply pick one of the 15 available language pairs (you can learn Italian, Arabic, French, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, Turkish, Dutch, Indonesian, Russian, learn German or Portuguese), select a lesson plan based on your proficiency, and let the app immerse you in authentic learning material.
Each pair offers about 25,000 words in English and the corresponding 25,000 words in the second language, and Encore’s!!! lesson plans cover everything from vocabulary to grammar phrases to casual conversations.
Because Encore!!! supports convenient playlists that let you keep your device pocket as you listen to native speakers and repeat after them, you can study while driving to work or school, cooking, or exercising.
A few 10-minute immersion sessions with Encore!!! every day can greatly accelerate your learning progress and help you achieve fluency much sooner than you could by relying on traditional grammar and vocabulary drills alone.
Encore!!! is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store, and the free version comes with full text content for all 15 language pairs. Unlocking full audio content, customizable playlists, and a function called My Entries, which lets you add your own study material, costs just $2.99 per language per month.
Immersive language learning is a tried-and-tested method that has been in use since the 1960s, helping millions of learners from across the globe improve their skills. Today, this innovative method is more accessible than ever thanks to language immersion apps like Encore!!!, which let you surround yourself with authentic material regardless of what you’re currently doing.