“Travel”, they say. “Go abroad, learn the language for a few months and you’ll be fluent in no time”. As foreign language learners, that is what many of you have probably heard at least once in your life.
If what makes us better at a language is simply speaking it, hearing it, reading it, and writing it as much as possible, then there’s no better place to do that than the place where all of those things happen all of the time. This is undoubtedly true. But what if you can’t travel?
Many people believe that moving to a country and being fully immersed in the language is the best way to learn. Some people even believe that it is the only way to learn. But that is not the case at all. In fact, throwing a complete beginner in a foreign country is like throwing a child in the deep end of the pool hoping they will learn how to swim. It likely won’t work. You need to be immersed in the language without drowning in it. You need the progression. You need to start in the shallow end of the pool. That is why as a beginner, it can actually be more effective to create your own immersion in your home country and choose a material that matches your current skill level. You can start with pre-school material and make your way up the chain of difficulty.
In this article, I am going to present you six ways you can create a language immersion without buying a plane ticket.
Attend local events
If your immersion was taking place in an exotic locale you’d probably attend cultural events. There’s nothing stopping you from looking for local events, things like dinners, concerts or dances, and they are organised in every big city weekly.
Look for interest groups (like book clubs, fitness classes, cultural centres) where foreign-language speakers congregate. Join a group and socialize! You can bring your experiences—and new friends—back home with you. If you’re not living in an area that has these kinds of events, you can scout for videos of them online and immerse yourself through your computer screen.
Switch to the language you are learning on social media
Let’s be honest: we’re all too much on social media. So why not make it a learning tool? Social media is a great place for online language immersion. Start following users who speak the foreign language you are learning, so you can start seeing the language in your feeds.
Write your posts in your target language. It is likely that at least one of your Facebook or Instagram friends speaks that language. They may comment in the foreign language you have chosen to write your posts or offer suggestions for improving it.
Find a conversation partner
If you want to dive without leaving the house, you have to find someone to talk to regularly. That’s where a conversation partner comes in. A conversation partner doesn’t need to be a teacher. In fact, sometimes it is better that your conversation partner is not a teacher, because your goal is not to acquire new vocabulary or to work through lessons in a book. It is about having a friendly conversation with a native speaker.
This friendly conversation can help you put into practice what you are learning at home and give you an idea of the flow of the language. You will learn conversational phrases and deepen your understanding of another culture. It can also keep you motivated, as you know you will need to use your language skills at least once every week or two.
To find a partner, start talking to your family or friends who speak the language you are learning and use an online language exchange site like studenz.com. You may be surprised how many people can help you improve your language skills.
Volunteer in your target language
Volunteering helps others and improves your community, but it can also help you.
Look for ways to get involved in organizations that work with people in your community who speak your target language. Schools, nonprofit organizations, libraries, places of worship and medical clinics may need your help. Refugee resettlement agencies may also be looking for help to introduce new refugees to your city.
There is a wide range of things you could do in a volunteer position. You could help by watching children while their parents are busy, helping to translate basic information, acting as a conversation partner in English or accompanying people to medical appointments.
Even if a position requires a job in English, you may meet many people who speak your target language and who can open new doors for you.
Run your errands
You have to buy groceries, drop off your dry cleaning, have your bike fixed and have a cappuccino. Why not do a little language practice at the same time?
Look for a local immigrant community that speaks your target language and find the shops they use. You might find an ethnic food market, a convenience store, laundromat, dry cleaner, cafeteria, bakery and more. Running your errands in these places can open up more opportunities to practice your language skills with the owners and other customers. It can also be a way to meet new friends and conversation partners.
Join a conversation club
As a conversation partner, a club can give you the opportunity to practice your target language and learn new vocabulary.
Although conversation clubs may not give you as many opportunities to speak as an individual conversation, there are many other advantages to a club. It can introduce you to many other people interested in the language you are studying, and these people may be able to provide you with information about new language learning opportunities or resources.
You also have the opportunity to hear many different voices in a conversation club. Experiencing the ways different people use the language and watching other learners use the language can help you experience new ways to express your thoughts.
Another advantage of a conversation club is that it gives you the opportunity to hear a higher level of language than you are comfortable speaking. This is especially useful for beginners, who may not be able to sustain a long conversation but can gain a lot by listening to more advanced speakers.
Many libraries offer conversation clubs, as do some universities and colleges. Another option is to search for clubs through sites such as Meetup. If you can’t find a club in your community, why not create one yourself?
There you have it, six simple methods to immerse yourself without buying a plane ticket. Learning a language is all about making it part of your life in many ways and you can make an incredible amount of progress in no time.
Written by: Martina Sassi, Staff Writer