Good language learning methods require learners to immerse themselves into the language both culturally and psychologically. In this guest post, I will share with you five tips that will help you immerse yourself in your target language.
1. Go to the country
First things first, if you have the opportunity to go to the country of your target language, I suggest that you to grab the opportunity enthusiastically. Leaving your comfort zone is a great way to improve your skill set, broader your mind and expand your social circle.
But even if you can’t go to the country itself, fortunately, we now live in an era when socializing has become much easier than before. It is getting easier and easier to learn the languages you want even without leaving your home country.
2. Participate in gatherings
Your work or study may occupy so much of your time and perhaps may drag your attention away from language learning. However, you need to go out, breathe some fresh air and hang out with friends. You may find any international gatherings from local newspapers, news portals, or social networking websites, such as couchsurfing and meetup.
Participating in such gatherings, especially those involving foreigners, will be beneficial in terms of language learning. You will have the chance to put what you have learned from books into real life practice. If finding such gatherings is not possible in your area, you can find them online. There are many communities taking place in Skype, Google Hangout, and Facebook. For instance, just type a keyword, such as “Spanish language group” or “Language exchange” in Facebook to search for the groups.
Conor Clyne (left), creator of Language Tsar, with Benny Lewis & Jan van der Aa
3. Think in the foreign language
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do”
This idiom also plays a major role in languages. You need to speak in the manner of the native speakers when you speak their language. For instance, Mandarin speakers address old people as “grandpa” and “grandma”, even though they do not relate biologically. Imagine an English speaker calling in such way. It would sound creepy!
Did you know that the Mandarin word for “computer” is 電腦 (“electric brain”), “cellphone” is 手機 (“hand machine”) and “television” is 電視 (“electric vision”)? You also need to think in the foreign language. When Spanish speakers are hungry, they say “Tengo hambre”, which literally translates as “I have hunger” in English. It does not make any sense if you think in English and then translate.
4. Use the language frequently
It is still fine if you spend only one hour a day with your foreign language as long as you do it frequently. Our brains tend to forget things. Therefore, you need to exercise the habit of using the foreign language.
You may find the same word occurs repeatedly as you are reading or listening. This is one way for our brain to store it into the long-term memory. It would be better if there were any emotion attached to the situation. For example, you meet a French girl and are intrigued by her and now want to learn her language. You might want to impress her by asking her out in French. This situation involves strong emotion and you will remember the phrases that you learn to impress her for a long time.
Use the language frequently, no matter what. Reading, speaking, writing, or listening are all necessary. Perhaps, the easiest would be listening to online radio stations or streaming TV online. You can listen to radio while doing other tasks, such as cleaning your room, cooking, or commuting to work. Listening will let you pick up accents, rhythm, and stresses of the native speakers.
5. Change your gadgets’ user language
All electronic devices and numerous websites offer multilingual features. You can use foreign languages on the websites that you visit frequently and on your gadgets. For example, you can set the language of your smartphone to Spanish, the language of Facebook to Esperanto, language of computer to Mandarin and your language in YouTube to French.
If you are learning more than one language at the same time, you need to exercise the habit of using different languages as frequent as possible. The more you are accustomed to it, the easier you will distinguish them.
Language is living object so you need to live in it in order to master it. Immersion is very important in language learning. Your first language is called your “native language” because you live in that language – surrounded by it and using it – from the very beginning. With language immersion you can mimic some of the learning process that you used to learn your native language and use it to help you with your new languages.
Written by Teddy Nee of Nee’s Language Blog (www.neeslanguageblog.com)
Teddy is a native of Medan city, Indonesia, who loves writing as much as language learning. He is also a website developer, language tutor and language enthusiast. He speaks the Fujianese/Minnan language and Indonesian as native languages. In addition, he also speaks English and Chinese Mandarin as his first and second foreign language. He is currently learning Spanish and Esperanto.