Total immersion. This is a major part of the strategy used by educators when children enter their schools and speak no English. Of course, they are given supplemental help to learn a language as well. But the research does show that putting these kids in regular classes promotes language proficiency better.
Granted, kids are faster to pick up another language than adults, but the total immersion method is a good one, at least for conversational goals. So, if you are decided that you want to learn a language, go to where it is spoken and immerse yourself. Here are some tips to help you along the way.
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1. Before You Go
Take some lessons. These do not have to be in-person lessons. There are plenty of online courses that focus on conversation, and some in which you can actually practice, via Skype, with a native of the language. It helps if you want to learn a language to be able to at least ask where the bathroom is when you land in that country!
This type of pre-travel practice also lets you get used to the sounds of the language so that your pronunciation will be better.
2. If You Have a Choice of Destinations
If you go to major cities, you will always find those who speak at least a little English. You will be tempted to use them, and they may want to use you to improve their English. This is not a good environment to learn a language. Youth hostels where everyone speaks your language are not good environments either.
Instead, go to the rural areas and small towns. Necessity will force you to converse in the language, even if you do have to do a lot of pointing and arms gesturing! Gradually, you will pick up more and more and really begin to learn a language of your choosing. The more you travel to these less populated areas, the more you will be forced to converse.
In some places, you will be able to find host families rather than hotels or hostels. These are great environments to learn a language if they do not speak English. It’s like having a live-in classroom.
3. Be an Active Listener
It’s hard to focus when you have no idea what is being said. But if you want to learn a language, focus you must. As you focus, you will pick up small pieces of vocabulary that you remember. You will also be able to pick up phrases that use these small pieces of vocabulary and patterns that are repetitious. All of these things will help you learn a language.
The other benefit of active listening is that you can then mimic what has been said, something that cements meaning and pronunciation. It’s easy to zone out when you don’t understand what is being said. Just don’t do it.
4. Be Like a Child
Remember when you were a child? You had very few inhibitions and were not bothered by what you did not know or by mistakes you made. As an adult, you have a tendency to hide your weaknesses and your lack of understanding.
If you are going to learn a language in a foreign land, you have to get rid of your inhibitions and be a little humble. Consider this: would you laugh at or criticize someone who was trying to learn a language or would you be empathetic and helpful? People are the same the world over. No one will think less of your for being a newbie to their language.
So, get out there, make mistakes, learn from them, and move on.
5. Access Local Media
During non-contact time, watch local television, pick up local newspapers and magazines, and listen to music. Of course, you will not understand at first. In the beginning, though, you can find programs with subtitles and focus on active listening.
Non-English speaking students look for the best websites to help them learn a language. You are now a student of a foreign language. Find websites in the local language; read and listen.
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6. Keep it Simple
In your native language, you have an extensive vocabulary. You studied grammar for years, you use the right verb tenses, and you speak and write in complex and compound sentences. When you learn a language for the second time, you must consider your goals.
- If you have as your goal an eventual career position that will require full fluency in the language, then you will far more than learning the language in the environment. You will be in coursework studying grammar.
- If your goal is to learn the language so that you can navigate the country and its society, and converse with natives in an understandable fashion, you work will entail immersion rather than formal study. You can keep is simple. No one will care if you know the future-perfect tense of a verb. You will be understood. And vocabulary depth will be much less than the career aspirant's.
7. Stay Strong
The temptation to use your native language will be very strong, especially if there are locals who want to practice their English or who already know English and are happy to accommodate you. Don’t succumb to this temptation. It will only slow you down when you learn a language. Insist that the locals speak to you in their native language.
8. Socialize with Natives
You may not be on anyone’s invitation list for a social event. But you can find places to be social. Go to a bar and buy a drink. Strike up conversations with those others at the bar. You can perhaps do the same at coffee shops and marketplaces in some countries, but a bar seems to be a good place for informal one-on-one conversations. There's no better way to learn a language than to talk freely to its speakers!
Learn a Language Through Immersion
The overriding concept when you want to learn a language through travel is commitment – commitment to immerse oneself, to listen and focus, to dwell in places where English is not spoken, to take risks, and to keep it simple. The big benefit? Travel!
Kerry Creaswood is a freelance blogger, a regular contributor to the best writing websites page. She is fond of various forms of art and thinks that everything we can imagine is real.ne is real.