Language Immersion: Does It Work?

Language Immersion: Does It Work?

If you ever want to learn something, sometimes the best way to do it is to fully immerse yourself into it. This type of thinking is what the concept of language immersion is built around, and just as the name suggests it’s a more comprehensive way of immersing yourself into the language in the hopes that you will learn it faster.

Dual language immersion can happen when someone who speaks a language moves to a home where another is spoken, a child is raised with two languages being used, or someone attends Spanish language immersion programs that fully submerge you in speaking this way.

There have been numerous studies on the concept of language immersion and why it works so well, and those interested in learning another language may find it helpful. For those interested in becoming bilingual or bicultural, this is a common method for learning a language that can have great results when done correctly.

What Is Language Immersion?

Language Immersion

Language immersion is sometimes also known as immersion, and it’s a special teaching technique where two languages are used to teach a second language. This type of education will commonly refer to the native tongue as L1 and the second language being learned as L2, and it will switch between the two at varying levels.

The goal of language immersion is to try and remain in the second language for all parts of instruction, rather than switching constantly between the two. There are varying degrees in which the languages are used, with some referring to it as the ‘sink or swim method’ when full immersion is achieved, meaning there will be no familiar native tongue being spoken.

How Do Babies Pick Up Language So Fast?

If you’ve ever known a family where a child was born into a home where two languages were spoken, you might have marveled at how well the child could pick up both ways of speaking. Studies have shown that early childhood is an ideal time to learn a second language and those who do so when they’re younger end up becoming native speakers of both.

Looking at babies specifically, they are especially adept at learning languages. All of the languages in the world are made up or around 800 different sound and each language has about 40 of its own. When a baby is born, it was a special gift of being able to determine the difference between all 800 of them.

Therefore, a baby living in a home where two languages are spoken will be able to pick up whatever is used at home. For babies living in a home with just one language, they’ll be able to figure out which sounds they’re hearing the most and will then adapt to learn that one.

By the time they’re 12 months old, a monolingual baby will lose their understanding of the other sounds and become a native speaker of their own language.

This type of situation would be full immersion and not just in an educational setting like a Spanish language immersion program. Being exposed to own or two types of languages enables babies and kids to learn what’s being said and gives them a grasp on how to communicate in that native tongue.

Spanish Immersion Programs For Adults

Adult Spanish Immersion Class

Although it’s common to have these classes for children, Spanish language immersion programs for adults are also available. Usually, you can find a program defined by the age of the student wishing to learn, as this will help determine how it’s delivered:

  • Early immersion: Anyone learning another language from age five or six
  • Middle immersion: Students who begin learning language around nine years of age
  • Late immersion: Anyone over the age of 11 who wants to start learning a second language

It’s thought that this type of learning is more beneficial for younger students, but there’s no reason why adults can’t attempt it as well. Late immersion programs are readily available and may offer a specific style of learning that suits some people more than direct instruction using their native language and another to be learned.

Research has shown that people who study in this style may gain a greater appreciation for the culture of the language being spoken, which can also assist with learning. Depending on the style of immersion you want to learn in and in what setting, there are plenty of adult options available out there.

Types Of Language Immersions

The most common way to categorize these types of learning programs is by how long the lesson is spent using the second language. Here are the most common types of language immersions:

  • Total: A full 100 percent of the lesson is spent in L2, which means that students never hear any instruction or speech in their native language. This can be hard to achieve as without an understanding of the basics they might not be able to grasp more complex concepts
  • Partial: Class time is usually evenly split between both languages, though there may be favor of one more than the other. This is the most common approach as it helps to grasp concepts but also immerse completely in another language​​​​
  • Two Way Immersion: Sometimes referred to as bilingual immersion, this means students that are native speakers of both languages work together to speak proficiently. The instructional language is two different languages but they only speak with one at a time so that everyone can follow and interact with each other​​​​
Group Of People On Spanish Immersion Program

Achieving Total Language Immersion

Being able to jump straight into an immersive language classroom can be hugely beneficial for students, so long as it’s done the right way. Total immersion has the possibility of being confusing and daunting for students, and when learning Spanish, it’s ideal to go for a partial approach that offers the best of both worlds.


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