Create a Foreign Language Immersion Environment (Step 5)
As most people say, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it.
To immerse yourself in a language is to be in an environment where you're constantly exposed to the language.
How does this exposure contribute to language learning?
Well, it forces you to practice the language all the time, and, as a result, you just keep improving.
Now, traveling abroad is an option, but it's not without its complications and financial costs.
But luckily for us, there's a much simpler way which requires absolutely nothing but an Internet connection and a device to access it.
And on this page, I'll walk you through, step by step, the entire process of creating a foreign language immersion environment so that you can constantly improve your language skills from the comfort of your home.
At the end, I'll even show you the exact way you can teach yourself a language.
How Do You Create a Foreign Language Immersion Environment at Home?
If you've followed Steps 1 through 4, here's what you should already be able to accomplish:
And now, you're ready for the final step:
Here's how you can do this final step, in a nutshell:
- Watch movies and TV shows with subtitles
- Change the language of your apps, programs and devices to the target language
- Follow people (on social networks) who post in the target language
- Dedicate 1 hour or more per day to practice with language partners
I'm going to explain each of these in details on this page so that you can successfully make them a part of your environment.
Learn From Watching Movies and TV Shows with Subtitles
A great way to learn a language is to watch movies and TV shows with subtitles.
And the good news is that this can easily be a part of your immersion environment.
From now on, every time you want to watch a movie or a TV show, try to watch it with subtitles.
Now, that could be one of three options:
- Watch it in a language you understand with subtitles in the target language
- Watch it in the target language with subtitles in a language you understand
- Watch it in the target language with subtitles in the target language
The First Option
The first option is good because you get to learn the grammar and how to write in the target language. However, it's lacking in that you don't actually hear any of the pronunciation of the target language.
I strongly suggest you watch The Shawshank Redemption in the original language (English) with subtitles in the language you're learning. You can't go wrong with a movie that's rated 9.3/10 on IMDb (November 04 2016).
(image source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111161/)
The Second Option
Now, the second option, in my opinion, is the best. As you read and understand the subtitles, you can listen to the spoken language. It actually teaches you how to say the things you're reading, in the target language.
If you're learning Spanish, don't mind violence, drugs and swearing, then Narcos (TV series) is definitely up there in terms of quality. The actor playing Pablo Escobar is actually Brazilian, but his Spanish is so well-articulated that it got me fooled into thinking he's a native speaker.
(image source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2707408/)
The Third Option
The third option can be used to learn how the written language is pronounced, but it's also some good exposure if you already understand the target language to some extent.
If you want to watch a really good movie in Spanish and you're willing to try this option, I suggest you watch Amores Perros in the original language with subtitles in Spanish. You won't regret it.
(image source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245712/)
In the end, though, it goes according to your needs.
So, perhaps for someone who finds exposure to the written portion of the language more valuable, then the first and third options might be best for them.
One last thing...
Don't hesitate to pause the movie/show if there's something you absolutely don't understand; quickly translate it to know what it means and then unpause the movie/show when you're done.
Watching movies and TV shows to learn a language is both effective and, at the same time, it can be fun IF you're watching something of quality.
Change the Language of Your Operating Systems (Computer, Tablet, Phone), Apps and Programs
Changing the language of my operating systems is a technique I tried several years ago when I was learning Norwegian.
It helped me learn the language by getting some much needed exposure to it. Now, let me start with a word of caution.
Changing the language of your operating systems has both benefits and drawbacks.
The main benefit is that it allows you to immerse yourself further and learn the language.
And a major drawback is that, at the beginning, you'll be slower at performing tasks on your devices.
I'm going to tell you about my experience so that you know what to expect:
Years ago, I installed Windows in Norwegian on my computer. As a result, for every operation I performed on my computer, the text accompanying these operations was in Norwegian.
Sometimes, I didn't need to read the Norwegian text because I already knew what it meant from memory of having performed that operation in Windows in English.
However, I still read the Norwegian text in order to learn from it and associate it with a meaning (a meaning which I knew from Windows in English).
So, just as with movies with subtitles, a connection in my brain was being made between the text in Norwegian I was reading and my memory of what that text meant in English.
And, some other times, I was dealing with less familiar operations.
I actually had to pick up a translator or a dictionary to figure out what the text meant, because I didn't want to do operations that would cause unwanted results.
As a downside result, switching the language of the operating system in the beginning made tasks on the computer more time-consuming, because I had to take the time to understand what the text meant.
So, again, be careful when using this technique; make sure you have enough time to do the tasks you intend to do on your computer.
Also, note that you can change the language of the operating system of your mobile devices (cell phone and tablet) and of the programs and apps you install for extra exposure to the target language.
Follow People on Social Networks - Getting Even More Exposure
The following technique is no less important because I'm sure that most of you use some kind of social network, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, etc.
(image source: http://www.quantummarketer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Follow-Us.jpg)
Why do social networks matter in language learning?
Because these social networks that you use on a daily basis are an important source of language; the flow of information on these networks is immense and it is easily accessible.
You can access this valuable source by following people on Facebook, Twitter and G+ who regularly post in the language you are learning.
In practically no time, your news feed will be bombarded with material in the language you are learning which contributes to the immersion environment.
How can you actually do this?
The procedure is slightly different on every social network, but the principles are the same.
Here's how you can do it on Facebook:
Step 1: Type a subject you're interested in Facebook's search field up top.
In this example, let's say we like dogs and we want to learn German. So, we'll type the German word for dog: Hunde.
Step 2: Click on the People tab and look at the results.
Step 3: Click on someone in the list who might post about dogs in German.
I chose this one:
Step 4: Scroll down and look at what kind of posts she makes.
As you can see, this lady regularly posts about something we're interested in and she does so in the language we want to be exposed to. So, we can have our cake and eat it too.
Step 5: Just click the Follow button and you're set.
Now, repeat these steps until your news feed shows a fair amount of posts in the language you're learning.
Remember that you can also follow pages:
If you check the first result, it's a page that actively posts about dogs:
All you need to do is click Like and make sure you click "See First" under "IN YOUR NEWS FEED".
That's all there is to it.
In addition to following people and pages, don't be afraid to change the language of the interface of your Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus to expose yourself even more to the language.
Dedicating 1 Hour Per Day to Practice with Language Partners
This last technique is the most essential of them all and is what'll make your language immersion environment whole.
As we saw at Step #1, allocating a time slot for practice every single day is both beneficial in terms of motivation and in terms of improving your language skills.
And at Step #3, we saw where to find language partners and how to maintain a healthy relationship with them.
That's all you need to start practicing. Really.
But you might be wondering:
"How am I expected to practice a language if I don't speak it yet?"
Well, in the following subsection, I'll show you how that's possible and that anyone can pull it off (I actually learned Portuguese from scratch this way):
Putting Everything into Practice
So, from that point on, if you've followed the method offered on this website, you should be well on your way to success.
All you need to do now is to put in the hours of your free time and keep practicing.
Your skill level in a language just ought to increase toward your desired level.
However, you might want to take a look at this extra section of this website before practicing.
In this extra section, I am doing part of the work for you, which you can consider a bonus: I'm taking the method that I explained on this website and I'm applying it to individual languages.
I won't go very deep in each language, however; I'll leave that for you to do.
What I'm mainly doing is outlining several important aspects of the language in the hope that you become aware of them and be able to recognize other important aspects that you come across while you're learning the language.
Here is the list of languages to which I applied the method so far: