I have a problem.
And I think you do too.
If you’re like me, you are learning a foreign language in a country where that language isn’t spoken. You may or may not have taken language classes and struggled to learn on your own. You’re studying vocabulary flashcards and doing grammar drills, but you’re still grasping for words that you have studied hundreds of times. They just won’t stick.
I have a solution, but it requires hard work.
It is THE magical trick that helps you express yourself and become fluent in another language, regardless of where you live.
So what is it?
Language immersion is the process of surrounding yourself with the target language. Often, the term is used to explain why living in the target country is the best way to learn, because you would hear it being spoken, see newspapers and television shows with the written and spoken language, and be forced to interact in the language to live (ie grocery shopping, ordering food in restaurants, driving), thereby speeding up your language learning.
The problem with this theory is most people lack the funds or the resources to be able to move for a year. I don’t have the resources to pack up and move to Germany at this point in my life.
What can we do?
Immerse ourselves in the language within our own home, while we are out, and while we work.
There are four necessary skills in language learning: speaking, reading, writing, and listening. The objective of immersion is to incorporate each of these skills into your everyday life using your own typical daily activities. Instead of talking to yourself in your native language, try your target language. Change the language on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to the new language and still get your social media fix. I spend at least one hour a day scrolling through Facebook; in the process, I absorb new vocabulary without consciously realizing it. Try writing your grocery list in your new language and listening to music, podcasts, or even the radio in the new language. Bonus points if you recognize a cover song like this one!
But remember, it is NOT enough to merely read this information and say, okay, yeah I get it. I know, because I’ve been there. I read article after article to figure out how I can improve my German. I found I needed ACTION and ACCOUNTABILITY. This blog keeps me active in this language learning journey and I would like to ask you to help me stay accountable.
Each week, I will post a different activity in each of the four language skill categories so that you can be inspired by my efforts at German language immersion, and I can, in turn, be inspired by your efforts. In the meantime, check out these posts about cooking in a second language: Rohe Bete und Apfel Salat (Language Integration) and Baking in German (Backen auf Deutsch).
To hold myself and you accountable, I am starting a series where I post my language immersion attempts and tag them with #TowardCreativity. I invite you to follow along and tag your attempts on Instagram or submit your picture and hashtag in the comments!
If you are looking for another read about language immersion with actionable steps, check out this article from Babbel.