If you’re reading this, we can confidently assume one of two things: 1) You’ve fallen in love with a language or 2) You want to learn a language as quickly and effectively as possible.
There’s a world, of course, where both of those statements may apply to you. Who doesn’t want to learn a language fast? And how could you not fall in love with the way Italian or German or Mandarin sounds? Whichever reason brought you here, know this—you’ve come to the right place.
Language immersion is the holy grail of language learning: It’s the only method that taps into your innate ability to learn language, and it opens the door to culture in a way other methods can’t. Yet, it’s the one method that remains widely misunderstood.
Language immersion is often tied to long periods of travel, big life-changing commitments, and the logistics of living in an entirely different country. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to drop your whole life or your whole life savings to learn a language through immersion. In fact, you can immerse yourself in the language you love right now—no matter where you are, or what budget you’re on.
In this post, we’ll bust long-held immersion myths and provide tips for every kind of immersion learner as we answer the following:
- What is language immersion?
- What does the science say about language immersion?
- How can I find immersive environments abroad?
- How can I learn immersively without traveling?
Let’s get to it.
What is language immersion?
Language immersion surrounds you in the language you’re learning. If you’re learning German for the first time, for example, you’ll pick up every aspect of the language—vocab, verb tenses, sentence structure—in German-only speaking environments.
The most important aspect of immersive learning is that you learn without the aid of your native language and that you have the opportunities to apply what you’ve learned in conversation. While listening to podcasts is a beneficial and immersive learning experience, it doesn’t count as language immersion on its own.
For those new to immersion, here’s what you can expect:
- First, it’s a big shock to the system.
- Then, you’ll undergo an adjustment period while you find your bearings.
- Finally, you’ll get to a point where navigating through the new language feels natural.
It’s a bit like jumping into a cold body of water, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’re able to acclimate! Most learners will feel comfortable using basic words and phrases in conversation within a matter of weeks. How does it take so little time to conquer?
Unlike other learning methods, language immersion doesn’t rely on memorization. While conjugation tables and vocabulary lists are helpful, language immersion allows you to learn intuitively in real-life situations. You get to learn and apply what you know, through trial and error, without skipping a beat. We’ll take a look at the science behind language immersion in the next section.
What does the science say about language immersion?
Language experts love talking up the benefits of learning through immersion. Is it really all that, you ask? Here’s what the science says: It’s all that and then some.
Our ability to learn language through immersion—and we mean any language, even the more difficult ones—is hardwired into our brains at birth. Notice how a parent talks to their toddler. They may introduce new words by pointing to corresponding objects or model sentence structure through repeated conversations.
For adults, learning a new language through immersion taps into that same process. While it’s true that kids pick up languages faster than adults, immersive language learning is like riding a bike: It takes practice, but it’s a skill that’s nearly impossible to forget.
If you struggle more with language than others, consider yourself lucky. Mistakes are an inevitable part of language learning, and pivotal to your success in learning through immersion. There’s a vast body of research, including this article, that supports the link between making mistakes and better retaining new information.
How can I find immersive environments abroad?
Now that we’ve established that language immersion is worth it, it’s time to share insight into how to find the right immersive learning environment for you. If you have the time, budget, and flexibility to travel abroad, you can embrace a wide variety of full immersion experiences, meaning the entirety of your interactions will be conducted in the language you’re learning.
What language do you want to learn?
Sounds obvious, but hear us out. If learning a language abroad is a must for you, then choosing a language is like choosing a life path. There are so many opportunities—so many places to go! Which direction will you choose?
Will you choose a language that helps you get a leg up in your career? Or a language that’s easiest to learn? If you’re committing to a full immersion experience, you’ll want to be sure that you’re wholly invested in your new language.
Where do you want to go?
Most languages aren’t tied to a single locale. Take Spanish, for example. Spanish is spoken in over 20 different countries, giving you an expansive list of destinations to choose from. French, Arabic, and Portuguese offer similar levels of variety.
If you’ve dreamed of learning Spanish in Spain but can’t afford the price tag, don’t let that stop you! Every country that speaks Spanish—including Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and Argentina, to name a few—has its own rich culture and lingual nuances that you might find just as charming.
Here’s a look at the languages that will give you the most choice in where you immerse yourself:
- French: The official language of 29 countries
- Arabic: The official language of 23 countries
- Spanish: The official language of 18 countries
- Portuguese: The official language of 9 countries
- German: The official language of 6 countries
- Mandarin: The official language of 5 countries
What’s the best language immersion program for you?
There are formal language programs that provide options for learners of all ages, including home stay (where you live with a host family) and class-based programs. All options give you the same level of language learning benefits. Your choice really depends on the type of experience you’re looking for.
You can definitely opt into self-guided immersion learning, too. Perhaps you’re planning to relocate for the next step in your career, or you’re taking an extended period of time to visit family and friends. In this case, you’ll want to make sure that you have a platform that can provide structure to your learning as you navigate your new language. Rosetta Stone is a great, app-first option!
How can I learn immersively without traveling?
Full immersion experiences are deeply beneficial, but the merits of partial immersion experiences are just as effective and more easily accessible! Partial immersion experiences are built on the same principles (no using your native language here) and flexible enough to fit your schedule.
Here’s several resources to start with:
|Immersion-focused classes||If you’re interested in learning in a traditional classroom setting, you can easily find courses that focus on immersive learning in any language.|
|Conversation clubs||Get together with native speakers or people just like you! These groups meet regularly to chat about anything and everything, as long as the conversation is in the language you’re learning.|
|Local businesses or cultural events||Practice speaking with members of your local community, like the owners of your favorite restaurant or fellow volunteers at a community organization.|
With learning opportunities like the ones above, you’ll be able to tap into the same innate ability to learn a language while honing your accent, listening skills, and vocabulary. Speaking with native speakers especially is incredibly beneficial and can still expose you to elements of culture that you would encounter in a full immersion setting.
And while they don’t provide a spoken element, think of the media that you love—books, podcasts, music, movies—and seek pieces composed in the language you’re learning. Listen to a foreign language podcast on your way to work, attend a weekly meetup with a local conversation club, supplement with a Rosetta Stone lesson, and watch a foreign language movie before bed. You can easily transform your day into an immersive learning environment!
Dive into language immersion today
The best way to learn a language really is accessible to everyone. We hope this post provided the options you need to choose a method that’s best for you! Whether you’re sticking to your globetrotting dreams or excited to find a new conversation club to join, you’ve got options to lean into for every phase of learning.
There’s one more option, though, that can help you learn even faster. Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion approach to learning combines structured lessons with immersion principles that help learners apply what they know from their very first lesson. And with Rosetta Stone, you can follow personalized plans that help you meet your goals.