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My Tried and Tested Techniques for Immersion

When you think of immersion, you might think of being fully immersed in an experience. This could mean being completely submerged in water, where the sounds of the outside world are muffled and your senses are heightened. Or it could mean being immersed in a virtual reality (VR) world, where you can explore new places and interact with new objects in a completely immersive environment.



But when it comes to language learning, immersion takes on a different meaning. It's about surrounding ourselves with the language and culture we're learning, and allowing ourselves to become fully absorbed in it.


Language immersion is all about creating an environment where the language becomes a part of our daily life, rather than something we only study in a classroom or on our own.


In this blog, we'll explore four different ways I immersed myself in Spanish to reach fluency.

 

Imagine walking down a bustling street in a foreign country, surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells. You hear people speaking in a language that sounds like gibberish to you, and you feel lost and out of place. This was my experience when I first travelled to Spain. I had studied Spanish in secondary school, but I soon realised that my classroom (and duolingo) knowledge was not enough to communicate with native speakers.


I knew I needed to find a way to immerse myself in the language if I wanted to become fluent. Through trial and error, I discovered several effective immersion techniques that helped me accelerate my language learning journey. These techniques have helped me and countless others learn a new language efficiently and effectively. So if you're ready to take your language skills to the next level, keep reading and discover the power of immersion.


Cultural Immersion: Understanding a Language Through Its Culture

One day, I was invited to a Latin dance party. My initial thought was that everyone would be dancing how I saw on TV, in competitions like Strictly Come Dancing. I felt so nervous but something inside urged me to give it a try. I nervously walked into the crowded room and felt a rush of excitement as I heard the rhythms of salsa, bachata and merengue and saw girls being spun around. At first, it was challenging to get the steps right, I know I looked a hot mess. But after much practice I began to improve. As I started attending more dance events, I met more native Spanish speakers who shared my new found love of latin music and dance. We bonded over our mutual passion and conversed in Spanish.


Through dancing and socialising, I was able to immerse myself in the Latin American/Caribbean culture in a way that textbooks and classes never could. Thanks to this immersive experience as well as many others I was able to break through the language barrier and achieve fluency in Spanish. I had discovered the power of immersion, and it had transformed my language learning journey forever.


I am happy to say that my dancing has improved a lot since then. Here I am dancing salsa cubana with an Italian friend in Pescara!

Learning a language is not just about learning the vocabulary and grammar rules. It’s also about understanding the culture and the context behind the language. Here are some suggestions on how you can immerse yourself in the culture:

  • Attending local events. This could be anything from festivals and fairs to concerts and exhibitions. By attending these events, you'll not only learn more about the culture, but you'll also have the opportunity to practise your language skills with native speakers.

  • Trying traditional foods. Food is an integral part of many cultures, and trying local dishes can give you insights into the history and customs of the people who eat them. You can even take cooking classes to learn how to prepare traditional dishes yourself.

  • Joining a community or group that shares your interests. Whether it's a sports team, a book club, or a hobby group, joining a local organisation will give you the chance to interact with native speakers who share your interests.

  • Learning the local dances. For example, if you're learning Spanish, you can learn Salsa. More specifically, if you're learning the Cuban dialect, you can learn Cuban Salsa, and if you're learning the Colombian dialect, you can learn Colombian Salsa. This way, when you go to practice dancing, you will more likely be around natives from your chosen dialect.

By immersing yourself in the culture, you'll gain insights into the nuances of the language, such as its slang, idioms, and colloquial expressions. You'll also learn the appropriate ways to address people, and the customs and traditions that influence social behaviour.


Language Exchange: Practising Your Skills with Native Speakers

As someone who has been learning a new language for a while, I highly recommend italki as a method for language exchange. In my experience, it's the most efficient way to reach language fluency.


I started by booking daily 30-minute conversation practice session with a Colombian guy on italki. We would chat about everything from our favourite foods, music and telenovelas, to our travel experiences, and I would practice speaking Spanish in a comfortable, low-pressure environment. This was a game-changer for me. Having someone to practice with regularly made all the difference, and I began to feel more confident in my ability to communicate.


But I didn't stop there. I also started messaging my Spanish-speaking friends in Spanish. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but I soon found that the more I practiced, the easier it became. I was able to apply the grammar and vocabulary I had learned in a real-world context, and my writing skills improved significantly.


And then there were the weekly meetings in a Spanish congregation. At first, I was hesitant, thinking I wouldn't be able to keep up. But I decided to take the plunge, and move there, from it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did I have the opportunity to practice listening skills, but I was also able to speak to those in attendance and get immediate feedback on my speaking skills. Plus, I learned so much about the culture and traditions of Spanish-speaking countries.

Speaking with humans is the best way to learn a new language, and italki provides a platform for language learners to connect with native speakers and practise their conversational skills. This is a great way to learn how to communicate in a new language in a natural and authentic way.


When you learn through language exchange, you'll not only gain confidence in your ability to communicate with native speakers, but you'll also get a chance to make new friends and learn more about the culture and customs of the people who speak the language you're learning.


If you're looking to take your language learning journey to the next level, give italki a try! I highly recommend italki as a method for language exchange. It provides a fun, efficient, and personalised way to learn a new language and reach language fluency. You can get $10 USD off when you sign up via this link.


Travel Immersion: Learning a Language While Travelling Abroad

Since I found out my great-grandfather was Cuban, it became a goal of mine to learn Spanish and a dream to visit the county. So when the opportunity arose to travel to Cuba with some friends, I jumped at the chance. I was eager to put my language skills to the test in an immersive setting.

In preparation for the trip, I did everything I could to virtually immerse myself in the language and culture. I spent hours watching vlogs from native speakers who walked around different towns, talking about the country, the people, and the culture. I spent more time dancing Cuban Salsa and even learnt a variation called Rueda de Casino. Check it out in this video.


When I finally arrived in Cuba, I was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and smells of the city. It was a bustling, vibrant place, and I felt like I had stepped into a completely different world. I was determined to make the most of my time there and to immerse myself in the language and culture as much as possible.

Over the next three weeks, I had countless opportunities to practise my Spanish skills. Every day, I would speak with our hosts, neighbours, taxi drivers, waiters, bartenders, and other locals. I even struck up conversations with the people I met at concerts and events.

I also found myself eavesdropping on conversations and paying close attention to how people spoke and the words they used. I was constantly picking up new Cuban phrases and expressions, and it was amazing to see how quickly my language skills improved.

Looking back on my trip , I realise that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only did I get to immerse myself in a new culture and language, but I also made lifelong friends and memories. It was an experience that I will never forget. How can you benefit from this type of immersion?

  • Helps you to improve your language skills quickly. You’ll be constantly exposed to the language through conversations with locals, reading signs, ordering food, and navigating your way around the country. This constant exposure to the language will help you to improve your listening and comprehension skills, and you’ll start to pick up new vocabulary and grammar structures almost without realising it.

  • Develops your confidence in speaking the language. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to practise speaking with locals, and you’ll quickly become more comfortable with using the language in real-life situations. This can be especially helpful for those who are shy or self-conscious about speaking in a new language.

  • Helps you to gain a deeper understanding of the culture and customs of the people who speak the language. You’ll be able to explore the country’s history, traditions, and way of life, and you’ll gain a greater appreciation for the people who live there. This cultural understanding can help you to communicate more effectively with locals and avoid cultural faux pas.

  • You get to explore new places, try new foods, and make new friends from around the world. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about different cultures, try new activities, and make memories that will last a lifetime.


Media Immersion: Using Movies, TV Shows, and Music to Learn a Language

From the very beginning, I was captivated by the rhythms and melodies of salsa, bachata, merengue, and reggaeton. I would listen to these genres of music every day and try to pick up the words and phrases used in the songs. I would often imitate what I heard, singing along with the lyrics, and trying to replicate the intonation and pronunciation of the singers.


Watching telenovelas and other Spanish speaking dramas was another way that I immersed myself in the language. I would watch these shows with Spanish subtitles, paying close attention to the dialogue and the expressions used by the characters. I would take notes of new words and phrases that I envisioned myself using in my own conversations, and then practice using them in context.


For me this was an amazing way to learn Spanish whilst having fun. How can you benefit from using media to immerse yourself in your target language?

  • Access a wide range of content in the target language. You can find different types of media from all over the world, giving you exposure to different accents, dialects, and cultural perspectives.

  • Improve your pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation. You can also learn new vocabulary and phrases that you can use in everyday conversation. Try listening to the lyrics and translating them to help improve your comprehension.

In addition to movies, TV shows, and music, there are many other forms of media that can be used for language learning. Podcasts, audiobooks, and online videos are all great resources that can help you improve your language skills. Many language learning apps also incorporate media into their programs to provide a well-rounded learning experience.

 

As someone who has been on a language learning journey, I can tell you that immersion is one of the most effective ways to learn a new language. Whether it's through cultural experiences, language exchange, travel immersion, or media immersion, there are many techniques that you can use to immerse yourself in the language.


But regardless of which immersion technique you choose, the benefits are clear. By immersing yourself in the language, you'll not only learn the language more efficiently, but you'll also gain a better understanding of the culture and customs of the people who speak it. And as someone who has experienced the many joys of speaking multiple languages, I can tell you that the journey is worth it. So don't be afraid to dive into a new language and start immersing yourself in your target language today!

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