There are various ways of studying a language and, as many people have unfortunately experienced in the past, sitting in a classroom might not have been the most rewarding or efficient process. This shouldn’t, however, put you off in the future, especially in a new and different context. Language immersion programs, typically abroad in the host language country, can be a very efficient method of learning.
The advantages of a language immersion program are numerous:
- You are focussing almost purely on language acquisition.
- You will be spending time learning with equally committed learners who are there to learn.
- You have perfect opportunities to ‘get out there’ and start putting your learning into practice immediately.
- You are in a new country and hopefully in a good state of mind, thus willing to learn
Aside from the learning, you’ll probably meet some interesting, like-minded people and have a great time.
Despite these positive aspects there are a few constraints.
Money constraints of immersion programs
Immersion courses can be quite expensive as a one-off cost. Naturally they will be expensive due to the high overheads.
Some courses, particularly targeted towards business needs, can be very expensive.
Time constraints immersion programs
For many people who are employed full-time, taking a few weeks out to learn a language is unfortunately out of the question. Shorter week-long courses and, increasingly, weekend courses are available to suit these needs.
Suggestions when choosing language immersion programs
So let’s say you have decided to take an immersion program. Here are a few things to bear in mind when selecting an immersion course:
- What approach will the program be using?
It is best to know exactly what the learning outcomes are and what you hope to achieve. This is also to ensure that you have no false expectations. You will also want to know if the lessons are focussed on grammar or communicative skills. Or is there a mix?
- Do they specify the materials that will be used?
Some schools have their own materials whereas others use a coursebook from an established publisher. Alternatively, some teachers prefer to use their own resources and you could end up with hundreds of seemingly random photocopies.
- The teacher’s backgrounds
Some teachers might be qualified but are, however, unaware of the language learning styles that you are used to. This is particularly prevalent, for example, in the Middle-East. Or you might have only native speakers with limited teaching experience – which is fine but only for higher levels of language learning and conversation practice.
The language school could be located in a touristic area where everyone speaks your language (particularly problematic for English speakers!) Equally, you could be in the middle of nowhere with few opportunities to get ‘stuck in’. You need to find somewhere where you will be almost forced to interact in that language.
If you find a suitable immersion program, you can certainly condense a lot of learning into a short period of time and this can be very rewarding. The other benefit is having a productive time abroad and boosting your language confidence.