What Are Immersive Language Lessons

You’ve heard the term ‘immersion’ before on your quest to learn a language.

And you think you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it means.

But there’s one big misconception about language immersion that confuses learners.

In this post, we’ll help you get clear on the concept of immersive language lessons and explain their benefits. We’ll also share one way to take immersive classes you’ve never thought of.

First…

What is ‘Language Immersion’?

There are many ways to structure a language-learning program.

But one of the the most effective ways uses immersive language lessons.

Language immersion is typically defined as a “technique used in bilingual language education in which two languages are used for instruction in a variety of topics, including math, science, or social studies” (1).

We call the student’s native tongue the “L1” and their target language the “L2”.

Different programs use varying levels of the L1 and L2 depending on their chosen method of instruction or their goals.

A total immersion or submersion program-also known as a “sink-or-swim” program-for example, throws students into classes taught in their L2. A partial-immersion program offers lessons in both languages.

The Benefits of Language Immersion

More people today are bilingual or multilingual than monolingual. Research shows this offers a slew of benefits to your mental functioning and health, including:

  • Better attention and ability to switch tasks
  • Easier adjustments to new environments
  • Less cognitive decline with aging (2)

Plus, there are benefits to your social life and career opportunities as well.

Language immersion programs help to maximize these advantages.

They also help offer students an opportunity to experience the culture of their target language, develop a foundation for communicating in the L2, and appreciate different languages and cultures.

But visiting a country where the people speak your target language is not the only way to reap these benefits for your brain.

The Big Misconception: Language Immersion and Location

When most people think ‘immersive language lessons’, they assume you must physically go to a foreign country where the locals speak your target language to get the full experience.

While this is one way to immerse yourself in a culture and a language, it’s not always the best way. In fact, researchers suggest study-abroad programs often fail to offer participants enough exposure to their target language, resulting in an undeveloped “language awareness” (3).

But there is another way to take immersive language lessons without leaving the comfort of your home:

Online via Skype.

Language Immersion Online

Remember:

At its core, immersive language lessons are those taught by a native speaker of the target language. It doesn’t matter if you’re physically located in the same place or not.

This means if you’re receiving lessons from an instructor whose native tongue is your target language (your L2), you’ll experience the benefits of immersion.

Your teacher will also expose you to his or her linguistic norms, slang, and culture each time you have class together for a more fully-developed language awareness.

Immersive language lessons.

No plane ticket required.

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