Oftentimes when people endeavour to learn a new language, their first port of call is to buy a grammar and vocabulary book and to study it de cabo a rabo (from beginning to end) in the hopes of being fluent by the end of it. However, while a strong grammatical basis to language learning most certainly comes in handy and often makes it easier to progress with the language learning process, perhaps the most effective part of language learning is immersion. Immersion can mean mixing and communicating with natives, but it also includes watching películas (films), reading libros (books), listening to native canciones (songs), and consuming the target language in the most natural and organic way possible.
Everyone’s language learning process is slightly different. For me personally, I find revising grammar and some vocabulario (vocabulary) in the ‘traditional’ way (written notes, grammar books, flashcards, etc.) really helps me to form a solid foundation in my target language. However, I most certainly would not be able to progress on the path towards fluency if I did not simultaneously engage in immersion. This is because language is a fluid, living thing. Language is constantly changing over time, based on place and social context. While learning a language solely based on the ‘traditional’ model might provide you with a good basis of the language, immersion is key to understanding the specific nuances and colloquialisms used by natives. Because language is a static, fluid, living thing, it is only through examining how natives use the language in different contexts that you will be able to truly understand and utilise the language to its full capacity and reach key fluency.
Not only is immersion the most effective way to understand the intricacies and nuances of your target language through examining how natives use it, it is also a more fun and often more passive way of language learning. I often find that immersing myself in my target language feels less taxing than sitting down to study grammar for an hour, as I can tailor the media in my target language to my gustos (tastes) and it often doesn’t even feel like ‘real’ study. This means that we are oftentimes more likely to participate in immersive language learning than traditional methods of study. Additionally, immersion makes language learning enjoyable, which means we are more likely to continue learning our target language over time and often leads to more effective language learning.
You may be wondering how exactly you can adopt an immersive approach to your language learning?
- For a complete beginner, our books are a great way to encounter new vocabulary in a gentle, organic way without completely overwhelming yourself. You could also try to watch films or TV series in your target language with English subtítulos (subtitles).
- For a more advanced learner, watching local television, such as news reports, can be a great way to immerse yourself in the language and stay up to date with current affairs. However, if the news isn’t for you, you could always challenge yourself to read that book you always wanted to read in your target language or try to watch a native film or series with subtitles in the target language (or none at all if you’re feeling brave!).
To summarise, immersing yourself in your target language through films, TV series, music and books is a very effective way of understanding how the language is used by natives in different contexts and is a great way of keeping language learning as fun and as lively as possible!
This blog was written by Caoimhe O’Neill. Caoimhe has just completed her second year of her History and Spanish degree in Trinity College Dublin.