Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Language Learning Methods: Immersion

In our first post in our series on language learning methods, we will be looking at immersion, the method in which students are taught entirely in the target language. This method comes highly recommended within the language learning community.

Being forced to speak, listen and interact only in the target language can certainly sound daunting at first. However, from personal experience we can vouch for the method of immersion, having both taught and been taught using this method. Though we do agree that immersion isn't for everyone.

Tony has clearly misunderstood "immersion".
Language immersion certainly has been shown to improve the level of students learning a foreign language, and most also display a higher level of confidence when it comes to speaking the language. Tests have shown that these students achieve higher scores in standardised tests when compared with students that have been taught using "traditional" methods.

While we could just sing the praises of the immersion method, it should be noted that some students will struggle with it and could actually learn less than they would using traditional methods. It is not advised for students who are scared to speak in the target language or are nervous about their language abilities. They may feel uncomfortable asking questions in the target language and even more uncomfortable reverting back to their mother tongue to ask for clarification, especially if it appears that all the other students are having no difficulty whatsoever.

It's important that teachers using the immersion method remain vigilant to spot students who are often silent in class. There are often two types of silent students: those who are unchallenged and have no problems learning languages, and those who are struggling but too shy or embarrassed to ask for help. Teachers need to find out which type of student they're dealing with, because if the their difficulties go unnoticed, language immersion will be all for nought.

Have you learned a foreign language through the immersion method, or used it to teach your students? We'd love to hear about your experiences and opinions on it in the comments below.