15 FREE Ways To Create Language Immersion From Home
Immersion, in the sense of language learning, is generally considered to be the process of learning in the natural environment where the language is used, i.e. living in a country where the language is spoken, and thus being surrounded by it all day, every day.
We’ve all heard the stories about so and so who spent a year in Italy, and was able to speak the language fluently after that. Indeed, being in an immersive environment will cut down on the amount of time it takes to learn a language, as you’ll be forced to speak it all the time.
Not everyone can afford to spend long periods of time abroad. But what if I told you that you could create something close to full immersion from the comfort of your own home, wherever you are in the world, and still reap the same benefits?
Here are the top 15 FREE and EASY ways you can create an immersive environment without leaving your home country.
1) Change your phone and browser language
All phones and Internet browsers come with language settings, and include support for dozens of languages. If your target language is among the selection, use it. As you’re already familiar with the layouts and screen options in your native language, it will be easy for you to navigate in a new language, whilst also getting used to the new words.
2) Watch your favorite shows with target language dubbing or subtitles
I’m a big proponent of consuming plenty of target language media. Whenever you can, you should aim to watch dubbed movies and TV shows in your new language. Even better, alternate between your native and target language for each episode of a series.
If you don’t want to do that, another useful trick is to use target language subtitles whilst you enjoy your native language shows. That way you’ll pick up some vocabulary and your watching won’t be hampered by your lack of comprehension.
3) Think and speak to yourself in your new language
We spend most of our time thinking. If you want to gain fluency fast, you’ll need to do much of that thinking in your target language from now on. You must get used to formulating ideas and thoughts, because by doing so, it will make speaking a lot easier.
Even if you don’t often speak to yourself, as you don’t have the luxury of being surrounded by natives, you should start doing so in your new language. This is the only way to improve your pronunciation and communication skills in the beginning.
4) Play the radio, podcasts and music all the time, even while you sleep
One important aspect of gaining fluency is listening to native speech over and over again ad nauseam. This was how you learned your native tongue, and it will be how you learn your new language.
Playing the radio and listening to music in your target language will familiarize you with pronunciation, idioms, and the overall sound of the language, and is a decent substitute for the lack of native speakers around you.
5) Read articles in the language and about the places where it’s spoken
Immersion isn’t only about speaking the language, it’s about being a part of the culture. Once you feel a connection to the culture and country where your language is spoken, it will strengthen your connection to the language itself, and thus make you want to learn more.
Reading articles online is a great way to immerse yourself in the language’s culture. One of my guilty pleasures is reading the German gossip site PromiFlash! I never read gossip in English, but I’ll happily read about German stars in German. Hehe.
Gossip sites tend to use a lot of modern language and slang, so you’ll pick some of this up to add to your lexicon.
6) Write your shopping lists in the new language
This is a great way to learn the words for popular food items. Whenever you go shopping, write items and ingredients in your target language, and maybe draw a little picture of the items besides the words in case you need to jog your memory.
Engaging with items whilst thinking of them in your new language will make the words stick.
7) Sticky notes all over the house
Put target language sticky notes on all the household goods. Whenever you see one, say it out loud. Once you’ve committed a word to your long term memory, remove the note.
Amazon has a wide selection, in various colors or the regular yellow.
8) Tell the time in the language
Many language learners struggle with things like telling the time in a new language. For this reason, you should regularly tell the time out loud whenever you glance at it. Eventually it will become second nature and you won’t have to do this as often.
9) In your lunch break, have target language audio playing
Nothing will undo your language progress like spending long periods of time speaking your native language. Unfortunately, the workplace isn’t conducive to language learning.
The best thing you can do is, bring headphones with you, and spend the whole time listening to target language content – maybe a podcast or audiobook. Do this as often and as long as you can before you start to feel too antisocial.
Constant, frequent exposure to the language has to take place in order for full immersion to take place.
10) Keep a diary and/or blog
Being able to reproduce the language and express yourself is important for fluency. Learning to write in your target language will improve your speaking skills, as you’ll practice forming sentences and gradually get quicker at it.
Keeping a diary or blog forces you to write regularly. And in the case of a blog, having readers follow your progress will keep you on track as you’ll have them to answer to if you miss a post!
11) Join and take part in target language forums
There are forums on different topics in almost any language you can think of, and they’re filled with native speakers. All of these people can become your unofficial language partners.
Choose a hobby, and go find a forum where people are discussing it in your target language. Read, read, read, and once you feel comfortable, contribute. You can tell them you’re a non-native speaker, but it’s not necessary. People in online forums tend to be very forgiving of spelling and grammar mistakes.
12) Comment on target language YouTube videos
Like 11 above, being a part of your language’s community will expose you to the language in its natural form, and things like the YouTube comments section are overflowing with “community”.
Make comments in the language, even if they’re banal and simplistic, and comment on other people’s comments. Get involved in discussions. The more you do this, the more you’ll get used to using the language fluidly. It will become a part of your everyday life, thus creating an immersive experience.
13) Start your own YouTube channel
Starting a vlog on YouTube solely in your target language, just like blogging, forces you to regularly use the language, as viewers will come to expect regular updates.
Others like to see how you’re progressing, as it inspires them. And because you want to impress people with your burgeoning language prowess, you’ll want to learn more vocabulary.
14) Regular text or phone conversations with a language partner
You should find a language exchange partner with whom you can have consistent, frequent conversations, ideally voice or video chats. It should be someone who shares the same interests as you, and appreciates your need to converse regularly.
Tandem is a great, free resource for this. You can find language partners in over 150 languages, and communicate through the smartphone app whenever you want.
15) Teach people what you know
There is an old saying, “The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else”. Well, this also applies to language learning. You can teach what you know to others who have zero experience in the language, which will help solidify it in your mind.
I do this with the children in my family. As I don’t want to teach them incorrectly, I must strengthen my own language skills in order to teach them effectively.
As you can see, full immersion can be achieved without spending a dime on costly foreign exchange programs, or long vacations abroad. It is quite possible to gain fluency right where you are – spending no money – by altering simple things in your day to day life.
At the end of the day, full immersion no matter where you are isn’t a guarantee that a person will learn a language; they must have a willingness to learn. If you have that, you can gain fluency.