John Jang

John Jang

· 3 mn to read

Immersion without being Overwhelmed

Immersion is the most authentic and natural way to learn a language. However, immersion somehow carries the connotation of being an all-or-nothing experience. It’s either flying yourself to a foreign country and just trying to speak with the locals, or it’s not immersion. However, that’s not necessarily the best way to conceive of immersion.

Immersion as a Child:

The fact that most of us learned to speak our native tongue through immersion, without grammar exercises or textbooks, shouldn’t surprise us. Nor should the fact that we as adults can emulate the same results by attempting to learn a language completely via immersion. However, we must recognise that it also takes yearsssss for a child to learn a language. Of course, we would do well to emulate the child’s open and unrushed attitude to learning, as noted in our first blog. However, immersion learning for adults is influenced by other factors beyond time and attitude.

A child’s immersion experience is characterised by the availability of native speaker guides, namely parents or guardians and their circle of friends. Such guides also exist for adult learners of languages, although they don’t usually take the form of 24h service providers who wash you and feed you. A classroom teacher and/or textbook can help tremendously when starting out learning a language as an adult, and a self-imposed immersion program doesn’t have to preclude such useful aids, even if it disqualifies the learner from the title of “supreme auto-didact”. The important thing is to be doing the learning, and not always the didacting.

The Main Player in Immersion

Once we recognize the conditions required to achieve an immersion experience as adult, that is, the time, the attitude and a guide, we can now consider true key player in immersion, and why immersion proves to be the most effective, natural and authentic way to learn a language.

You have guessed it, the main player in the immersion industry is the human brain. The human brain is designed for language learning. In fact, we have a whole part of the brain dedicated to understanding speech and another part dedicated to speech production. Moreover, the brain is a supercharged pattern-recognition machine. Sure, it’s not always accurate, but the brain loves detecting patterns and solving puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, the final piece in this one is recognising that the brain requires a healthy form of dopamine to drive the activity performed. This is why we recommend tempered immersion experiences. Start at the shallow end and slowly go deeper. At Pengguin, we want to emulate the experience provided by child language educators at Speak Like a Native. For years, they have been teaching children foreign languages through play; something they call Guided Language Participation (GLP). We’ll delve into Pengguin’s method further in upcoming blogs, so stay tuned!