Why a Full Immersion Experience is Essential for Language Mastery

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My internet connection is acting up, been unable to do just about anything for nearly three hours, so here’s a cheat, another one of those articles I wrote for that content farm. It probably needs a good edit or two, but what it says is still of value. Sorry for the horrible style (again, standards of the former platform), will have to make it sound friendlier once the internet starts behaving as it should.

Full immersion in a language program can have different definitions. Being able to identify what is meant by immersion is important before choosing to participate in a program that promises this aspect of language learning.

Academic immersion

Academic immersion is the type of immersion referred to when speaking about school learning. It is broken down into several different categories, based on the objectives of the school system and the make-up of the student population.

Full immersion

In Full immersion, students are given their regular class lessons in the dominant language spoken by the community. Though students will also have specific language classes to help in improving, all of the remaining classes will be taught in a language that is not their native tongue.

Partial immersion

In Partial immersion, part of the material taught is in the students’ minority language and part in the community’s majority language.
The immersion referred to in Academic immersion is limited to the classroom in most cases, though support activities such as clubs or excursions are often available. This type of immersion has been available in many school systems since the early 1970’s. As with all areas of language learning, it is constantly being evaluated, discussed and renewed by professionals in the field.

Target language only

In learning a new language, there is a general assumption that ignoring, or not using the native language will accelerate and improve the acquisition of the second language. This attitude has sociological and historical roots that at times confuse actual language study. Using the native language from time to time is not only relaxing but also quite useful.

In most language classes the use of a common native language between the teacher and the student to explain material or concepts is accepted. In ESL classes, on the other hand, teachers often avoid using anything but English. Sometimes this arises from teachers not speaking the native language of the students. Other times it comes from mixed-language groups. In general, though, it is based on concepts that are always being actively debated.

Cultural immersion

For the general public, immersion is often associated with jumping into the language through inserting themselves into the country, the culture and the life-style where the language is used. This is a stimulating, highly motivating and satisfying way to learn a new language. However, careful planning must be done in order to carry out a cultural immersion. Some things to take into consideration:

Time

In order to benefit from cultural immersion, you must have a large block of time to dedicate to it. Educating yourself about the culture that speaks the target language will help you to better understand what to expect. Making short visits to the country before finally moving there for a prolonged period of time will make the choice easier but will also add time to the final goal of learning the language.

Money

Moving to a different country involves an investment. Besides the travel and living expenses, there may be legal restrictions to earning money while living in the country. Both having savings and respecting limited visa stays or looking for long-term residency and work permits are important considerations before packing the bags.

Home

You might just miss your home a lot. It is sometimes helpful to establish your home in the new country right away. This does not mean cutting off all ties with your native land. It does mean creating the support of friends and new family in your new country during your stay. Language is a tool used to communicate. Having people around you during your sabbatical from home will help you adjust and will accelerate your learning.

Culture shock

Culture shock will happen. You won’t be able to find peanut butter anywhere. The shops are all closed at mid-day. The landlady thinks you are like all the rest from your country and stereotypes you and your behavior. Friends will get angry because you have tried to explain something that you just don’t have the fluency to explain in your new language.

These things happen in our homelands: the shop is out of peanut butter, you’re running late and the shop closes, your landlady thinks you are strange and treats you that way, your friends get angry. Coping with these situations is a part of learning about the culture and contributes to understanding and growing.

It is often said that we must think in the language that we are trying to learn. Through Cultural Immersion, we begin to think like they do first then think in the language second, a more pleasant and natural approach. Language always reflects thought. By thinking the way the natives do, we are finding the basis of the language we want to learn.

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