Do you have a language immersion strategy?
I think we all know that language immersion is an ideal way to improve in a language. What do we mean by language immersion strategy? Obviously, it means being immersed in the language. In other words, hearing the language, reading the language, speaking the language, being covered head to foot, so to speak. Normally, this can be the situation if you live where the language is spoken. If you live surrounded by the language, you’re immersed in the language.
Being where the language is spoken is no guarantee. In other words, you may in fact be immersed in the language, but don’t take advantage of it. We have many examples here in Canada of immigrants who live here for many years and don’t improve in English because they don’t take advantage of that environment. Part of the reason why they don’t is because, let’s face it, it’s not that easy. You have to have a language immersion strategy. You have to prepare yourself. You can’t just go there and expect somehow by magic that you’re going to pick up the language. When I went to Japan I didn’t go to school, but I learned Japanese. I spent a lot of time listening, reading and building up my vocabulary so I could understand what people were saying so I could interact with them. So you still have to have a strategy, even if you are immersed in the language.
If you are not where the language is spoken, then I think you could have kind of a related strategy, which is what I do. Right now I’m working on Polish, and I would like one day to go to Poland. I hope I do go. I don’t know when I will go, but I have that as a goal – to eventually put myself in a situation where I will be immersed and experiencing language immersion. So I spend a lot of time reading on the internet. At LingQ I use our Chrome extension to quickly import articles from Polish newspapers, while maintaining my Ukrainian and Russian.
So I listen and once a week or so I may speak. In other words, I’m preparing myself with the thought that one day I will be in that language immersion environment and I’ll be ready to hit the ground running. So you do need to have a strategy, whether you’re in the immersion environment or whether you’re trying to create an artificial immersion environment and, of course, that’s much easier to do today than it ever was in the past.
Also, when I think of a language immersion strategy I think of French immersion. Here in Canada, Anglophone students do all of their schooling for the first seven, eight, nine years in French. By Grade 10 and 11 it tapers off a bit, but at least half their subjects are in French, even in those final years. Apparently – I know because I have three grandchildren who went through the program – the first six-seven years or so the kids speak to each other in French and then they are less and less inclined to do so, so the immersion experience becomes less of a full language immersion experience. Also, they read in class, but they don’t have any handy tools to make that reading easier for them, and it is hard to read on science, history, math, whatever it might be, in another language.
I think that LingQ, including the Chrome Extension, would be very useful in this immersion environment because it adds another dimension. So they’re not just reading, they can listen to the text, they can save words and phrases. Also, I think the audio helps give some momentum. Reading in French as a 17-year-old was difficult for me. But if you have the audio, if you can easily look up new words and see the words you previously looked up and so forth, it just gives you more momentum and makes it a more complete language immersion experience.