Pretty much everyone who has ever studied a foreign language has had that teacher who starts barking at students in said language as soon as they enter the classroom. Aka the “immersion” teaching technique, but it’s never quite the same as real immersion. Using immersion in the classroom depends a lot on the individual learner. Some people simply have a language “chip” – that innate ability to pick up foreign languages with ease, but not everyone is so lucky! That absolutely does not mean that you can’t also master a foreign language – you just need to consider doing immersion the right way!
- Make sure you choose a language that you are genuinely interested in learning. Just because your mom or dad tells you that Spanish will be more useful in the future does not mean that you should give up on your dreams of learning German, or Japanese, or heck, maybe you want to learn Amharic! Or maybe foreign languages just aren’t your thing…yet. Find a language that you actually like, or think would be cool to know, even if you are just choosing one as a requirement for school, and find ways to keep exploring that language out of the classroom. Learning a foreign language as well as the cultures that it is associated with really is something that will help to make you a well-rounded global citizen!
- Make the move to immerse yourself. As awesome as learning a language at school and continuing to pursue it out of the classroom is, most non-language “chip” people will need to experience the language firsthand at some point in their language learning journey. And the best way to do that? By going to the country where it is spoken! I had a participant on my TFT French Language trip last summer who had never studied French before, but she wanted to learn French and experience French culture, so she figured that the best way to do so would be to take some classes in France. And guess what…she was right! By the end of the three weeks she was killing it in class and ordering crêpes like a pro!
- Don’t give up on yourself or the language! I mentioned in my last blog how I cried when learning French. I had never been so frustrated by any of the other languages that I had studied, but French? The way I saw it, French had another thing coming for it from me! No matter how frustrated I got during French class, no matter how much I avoided going to the market so that I wouldn’t have to talk to people, and no matter how annoyed I got when I would have to use a dictionary to construct more than half of all my sentences when speaking to my host mother, I had to keep going. And where did this drive to push through and keep learning come from? Immersion. I had to keep going because I was completely immersed in the language.
- After just ten weeks of intensive French classes paired with immersion, my ability to communicate in French soared high above my ability to speak Spanish, and I had studied Spanish for eight years! Now, we can’t all go away for ten weeks, but even one week immersed in the language will do wonders for your ability to understand and speak. As scary or challenging or even fun as it might sound, full immersion is, in my humble opinion, absolutely the best way to help you reach the language potential that you might have only dreamed of before while learning about a culture that is different to your own.
- At the end of the day remember that no one is judging you. Not the native language speakers, not your peers, not your teachers, and you most certainly not you. So get out there, immerse yourself in a language that you are passionate about learning, even if you have never formally studied it a day in your life, and make connections with its speakers that would otherwise not be possible!