Do I Need Immersion in order to Learn a Language?

There is a common myth I hear that stops people from trying to learn a language. They hear stories about how their friend spent a semester in Costa Rica and think that you need to immerse yourself in the language to learn it.

Let me tell you from experience, you don’t. I’ve learned how to speak 6 languages (and counting) without immersion. Many others have done the same.

Now, is immersion helpful? If you’re a beginner, not really. It’s not like a language is something you magically absorb through the skin. The way you learn a language is when a word or expression is made comprehensible to you either through translation or some other means. You need a way of comprehending.

When you're a beginner, you have little basis for comprehending a new language. It’s like being thrown in an ocean filled with fish without a fishing net. You’re not going to catch much.

If you’re a beginner, your focus needs to be on building that fishing net. You need to master certain skills like the writing system, pronunciation, basic vocabulary and sentence structure before you can really start to absorb things from your environment.

Now, all things being equal, will you learn faster in an immersed environment vs a non-immersed one? Yes, you will definitely have more exposure and you will definitely be more motivated as everyone around you speaks the language. However, that ignores the time and money spent immersing yourself as well as your method of learning.

You don’t need immersion to learn a language and you shouldn’t let the lack of it stop you. What I recommend instead of immersing yourself as a beginner is save it for later. Learn the language first, then travel and immerse yourself. Build your net first, then go fishing. That way you can use impending travel as a motivation for learning the language. Then, once you get there you will experience the fruits of your labour and be able to enjoy your travels far more. That’s what my dad with Spanish. He learned before and then he was able to go to museums where everything was in Spanish. Finally, your ability will improve exponentially as you can now absorb language.

So stay at home and practise a bit every day for a few months. Build your fishing net. Once you have it built, then go out and immerse yourself.

#Immersion #Methodology #Travel

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