An experience in flipping everything you know on its head.
As readers of this blog and as language learners in general you will all likely be familiar with the idea of ‘Immersion’, maybe some of you have tried it, with varying levels of success. Well regardless of how much faith you have in the process of immersion, I am going to lay out my first-hand experience and successes that are as a result of making the full switch to a world of unknown noises and strange written gibberish.
In the unlikely case that you are unaware as to what ‘Immersion’ means in the context of language learning (you’re one of today’s lucky 10,000) then let me give you a brief explanation:
Immersion is the 2-part act of surrounding yourself in the target language (L2), the first part consists of simply listening to your L2 all day everyday, be it podcasts, audiobooks or even the audio ripped from a TV show (Matt’s favourite). Yes, you might get annoyed with the constant nattering in your ear, or want to listen to some relaxing-classical-punk-jazz but if you don’t make a solid 24/7 dedication then you’re just reducing the effectiveness and increasing the time to fluency.
The second piece of the immersion puzzle is changing the language of all of your entertainment, devices and lifestyle to your L2. This is the hardest part which is why I’ll be explaining it carefully in the rest of this post.
Utilizing immersion and SRS has been proven as the fastest and most natural language learning method, if you don’t believe me just look around the web at the successes spawned of AJATT. Learning a language grammar-first just doesn’t make any sense, people 100’s of years ago didn’t do it like that and they got by just fine.
Now we’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to talk about how I tackled flipping the switch.
Assuming you are a bog-standard language learning individual, with plenty of free time like myself, you’ll have attempted the immersion method in one of two ways:
- Brute force/cold turkey/everything in L2 henceforth!
- Piece by piece/gradually over a short period/sensibly
I’m not going to advocate for a particular path, although I would recommend starting ASAP, but I am going to discuss some of the ways you can prepare for a new L2 existence. First and foremost you should find content that interests you, this blog has plenty of posts and comments for Japanese/German so if your L2 is not one of those then I heartily recommend you scour the internet for goodies.
Secondary to content is finding a way to integrate it into your life, maybe you walk on your own to school or university? That’s a perfect time to plug-in to your L2 world. Do you play a lot of video games? Do you shower in silence? Do you get dragged to boring group meetups? Plug-in! These are all times where you could be soaking up the essence of a language through immersion. Of course the more you immerse the better, which is why I suggest you listen 24/7, remember 10,000 hours likely means fluency!
An issue I ran into in the beginning stages of immersion was that people would think I was ignoring them or just disinterested in what they had to say, and perhaps you may face this same dilemma. In my experience, simply explaining why I had an earphone in at all times worked for 90% of people and eventually everyone got used to it.
Done all of the above? Congrats! You’re now halfway to success-town. The next step is to hunt down the language settings on whatever devices you use daily. If you own a smartphone/tablet then the language options can be found quite easily, set it all to your L2. Don’t think your PC/laptop gets to stay in English either, Windows supports over a bajillion languages and I assume MacOS does too.
Now you might be thinking “Damn, how do I find program x?” or “I just need to change one setting in Word, but it’s all nonesense!” well the most important thing for you to do is Don’t Panic. Preparation is key here, but not essential, if you already have a physical bilingual dictionary or access to Google Translate then you just punch in the gibberish and you’re back on track. In the case that you cannot access either of these things and you don’t have anyone to hand who can, you’re either living in some remote, deserted location or trapped in a well, regardless you can figure it out with some careful prodding.
After a few weeks you might find, like I did, that you rarely need to look-up or translate anything because the things you did before on these devices are engrained in your head and don’t require further investigation. In the few occasions where I strayed off the beaten path, either the UI designs made it clear what was happening, or Google came to the rescue. In both cases you are learning new words.
You may, for a short while, feel lost in this newfound world of things you don’t understand. You might feel like a kid lost in a mall, looking for your mother (language). This is all perfectly normal (I’m sure if babies could convey this feeling they’d be in the same situation), just keep at it. The wonderful thing about the human brain is that it’s built for learning, you can’t go one day without learning something new; whether it be something inane like how to more efficiently pour milk on your cereal, or something useful like how to fix a flat tire. You might not even be aware of this learning but it’s happening all the time.
You will learn the language if you keep interacting with it, that’s a fact.
And that’s all for my take on immersion, if you have anything to add or complain about just throw me a comment.
Bis zum nächsten mal!
[Another wonderful post by Khatz covers this topic here.]
Yes I am the same writer of the previous guest posts, Matt has kindly added me to the authors list on the blog and as such you’ll be seeing me around more often ;D.