Have you ever thought about how babies learn their mother-tongue? How is it that we can acquire perfect mastery of a language and learn English speaking from scratch? And a perfect accent as well? The answer is simple, and it’s what linguists call immersion.
While it may be easy to think that language immersion is all about moving to a foreign country; the truth is that it is more about creating an environment around you. Consequently, your success will depend on your willingness to create opportunities to bring English in your everyday life.
Over the years, research has shown the positive outcomes of immersion on our ability to acquire a new language. Today, we are taking a deeper look at why immersion is your best bet to learn English quickly.
Learn English speaking by immersion to get out of your comfort zone!
Travelling taught me that getting out of your comfort zone was always for the best. Well, you know what? Same thing goes for language learning!
While it’s easy and comfy to surround yourself with people speaking the same language as you, it takes a lot of courage to immerse yourself in a foreign language environment. And it’s what immersion is all about: courage and (at least at first) discomfort.
Simple but true: when you don’t have another choice but to be understood, you force yourself to communicate. Therefore, you can’t avoid practicing.
Most language learners are scared they will sound funny, and that’s the main thing that’ll keep people from speaking and practicing. It seems even truer when you are trying to learn English speaking and it feels like everybody around you already knows it. But don’t worry: immersion will rapidly make your self-consciousness melt away. When you think about it, what’s the most important? Being able to communicate? Or saying complete sentences with a perfect accent?
Putting away your mother tongue forces you to be resourceful, often using communication and funny vocabulary gymnastics. So much that, you will become open to making mistakes, and the satisfaction of making yourself understood will quickly take over the futile fear of ‘sounding funny’ (I mean: at least you try, right?).
Losing inhibition and gaining confidence while learning to speak English is key. Thus, it’s where immersion will help you learn English speaking more than any other method. It might not be easy at first, but the more you’ll practice, the more you’ll get comfortable. The one sentence you weren’t feeling confident saying the first time, will just add to your memory-phrasebook the next time.
Learn English speaking by immersion is more successful than achieving fluency than (only) classroom study
Wait wait wait, don’t get me wrong here: classroom study DOES work, and it’s an important first step to any language learning. As long as you make the most of it.
As a matter of fact, it appears that even with the best English teacher in the world, you can decide not to speak. Therefore, you don’t acquire the conversation experience necessary for you to understand spoken English. Same goes for its dialect, idioms or colloquialisms.
With the advent of immersion as a learning practice, research has been broadly studying its difference with regular classroom education. Kara Morgan-Short, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago used neuronal electrophysiology technologies to compare the effect of the two different methods on learners’ brains. In this study, one group was taught an artificial language through a theoretical explanation of its rules. At the same time, a second group learned the same language through immersion.
At the end of the experiment, guess what? Immersed students were the ones with brain processes most like those of native speakers. Even better, they still scored better on tests, six months later.
While classroom study can give you the grammar and basics, you will always need to practice English to be successful. For that purpose, immersion is just what you need. For it’s an ongoing practice that doesn’t stop at the end of the lesson.
Acquiring English ‘in action’ through everyday immersion with native speakers and one-to-one lessons will improve your chance to learn English speaking quickly and efficiently. Simply because you are ‘forced’ to learn, and can’t escape practicing English.
Learn English speaking by immersion and force your brain to practice all the time
Your brain is a muscle; it needs a workout to develop! By surrounding yourself with English conversation opportunities and material, immersion will force your brain to practice all the time, even when you don’t realise it anymore.
But wait, we have even better news: forcing your brain into these language gymnastics will also make it last longer!
Even if you might not be able to remember all of the complicated English lessons you attended in high school, you’ll remember the sentences you used while ordering your first Pavlova in Auckland. Even if it wasn’t grammatically perfect, next time you’ll imitate how you heard natives kiwis order theirs. Soon enough, your accent will improve and sound better at each new Pavlova you’ll be ordering (unlike your diet, unfortunately).
The secret to learn English speaking by immersion is that it works because it’s the way you are learning your own language. Babies don’t attend classrooms but listen and observe their parents and people in their environment speaking the language. Later on, they try to reproduce it to communicate.
While you might not be a baby anymore (or your reading interests seem rather advanced for your age), surrounding yourself with English material isn’t as hard as you can imagine.
English is the easiest language in which to immerse oneself
Broad use of the English language around the world makes it both very valuable and easier to learn. And once again, this concerns your immersion environment.
First, creating an English speaking immersion environment is today one of the easiest things to do. Internet, cinema, music, and TV make it easier every day to give your brain its daily English workout. Change your phone’s and Facebook account’s parameters to English, listen to BBC radio on your way to work, and watch the last episode of Game of Thrones in VO. Congratulations, you are already training your brain!
Also, part of a successful immersion is to speak from day one. You, therefore, might want to take up all the occasions you have to talk to a native speaker. Good news: English is the primary language in more than 70 different countries. Which makes as many new cultures to uncover! Currently in New Zealand? Why not try an adventurous discovery of New Zealand and grab a chance to pump up your English conversation experience and practise English speaking ‘in action’?
In short, English speaking immersion is within your reach! All you have to do is burst your comfort bubble and… talk! It won’t be long before you stop trying to direct-translate everything and start thinking and dreaming in English instead!