• Thea Enache (@sheloveslanguages)

How to Immerse Yourself in your Target Language (and not die trying)

Language immersion is a technique used by a large part of the language teaching and learning community. Immersion can be defined as simply surrounding yourself in your target language. However, keep in mind that this method is but a single part of your language learning journey and should not be seen as a goal in and of itself!

Immersion doesn’t necessarily have to be in situ, but rather includes any interaction with the language, such as watching a movie, listening to music or any other fun hobbies you might have. Here we will be outlining a few of the reasons why and ways with which you can use immersion as a powerful tool to improve your language learning capability. Let’s get started!

1. Reading:

Reading is one of the most effective ways to engrave vocabulary in your mind. The way it works is simple - instead of learning vocabulary through repetition in a way that many different apps reinforce, reading  (too far detached from reading to replace with it) contextualizes the content you learn while helping you to remember it easily ( since you have a reference to think back to). Think back to the most vivid memory you have - they (memory singular here) usually have a very clear context in which they occurred and that is exactly what you want to achieve: an anchor for the new content you learn to stay rooted in your memory.

As an example, imagine trying to learn the word feliz in Spanish. While you might be able to retain the term through the use of flashcards that have the word written on one side and the meaning on the back, the provision of an example including contexts in which the term is used makes for easier learning. For example: “Ella estaba muy feliz,” (She was really happy).

Let’s say you want to learn the word for sadness in Spanish, which is tristeza. You can make flashcards by using example sentences highlighting the term, but the more context you have for the word the easier it becomes to recall it. So, instead of memorizing through repetition of definitions, consider finding contexts for the words you would like to learn while reading and underline it when you come across it. That will enable not just the word itself to stick in your brain, but also the situation in which you found the word. In addition, it clarifies any connotations the word might have in a way that a simple flashcard cannot.

2. Music. We all have a genre that we really enjoy listening to. There are so many artists creating content in your target language, so it doesn’t hurt to seek them out, right? After all, listening to music we love while also immersing in a language you are learning feels like hitting the jackpot in a ‘productive but fun’ way. 

To find music within the genre you like in your target language, all you have to do is google the genre accompanied by the name of your target language of choice. An example of this could be: ‘French indie music’. 

Another good way of finding music in your target language is by looking at the top-ranking songs by country instead of looking at an international list, which is usually dominated by English music. This way you can discover new music while also utilizing your TL.

3. Movies and TV series. This one is pretty straightforward. Nowadays, when it comes to TV shows and movies you watch, it’s particularly easy to find dubbed content. Netflix is one of the best places to go to for that since you can combine the use of a VPN and the language learning extension to make your viewing experience as productive as possible.

*Pro-tip - rewatch the series and movies you love in your target language so that during the first run you gain an understanding of the plot and leave time to focus on learning specific terms when you go back to watch once more.

4. Social Media.

Social media is a very powerful tool for language learning. It can inspire you to/ prompt you to/ force you to interact with those you admire, form meaningful connections all while using your target language, all at once! Don’t shy away from following or talking to people who speak the language you are learning. More often than not, the vocabulary being used is pretty simple and the images are of use, especially since they give you a context for the caption itself. The studygram community on Instagram is great for connecting with other learners interested in language learning. That’s a great starting point if you want to get introduced to some people that share your passion for languages!

(Linguistics is not language learning! Please do not confuse the two… You can have a passion for language and learn them without ever touching upon linguistic principles.)

5. Gaming. Games are as interactive as you can get - you make decisions and those are based on the storyline presented to you. Most games have multilingual options and that gives them replayability value. After playing first in your native tongue, it may be advantageous to play once more so that you can better understand and retain the storyline whilst consequently learning about the storyline in your target language 

Some great games to play include ones that are RPG, such as the To the Moon Saga. Many other role-playing games are also great for immersion at a more advanced level, like the Mass Effect Saga, Skyrim, Pillars of Eternity…

Hopefully this article inspired you to integrate immersion within your study routine! Leave a comment down below with names of some of the TV series, movies or games you enjoy watching or playing!

See you again soon and thank you for reading!

So what now?

Let rip and feel free to treat the comments section as a community journal by connecting with fellow language learners down below.

Let us know which tip was your favourite along with any other thoughts you might have on this topic!

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