Cultural immersion is a well-known and effective way to learn a new language. For instance, it’s been shown that students who are put in an immersive program where they speak at least 50% of the time in a foreign language show more progress in four weeks than most students in a classroom show in an entire year.
While uprooting your family to another country for a few months or even attending an immersive language camp may not be feasible, there are still plenty of ways that you can encourage this hands-on, immersive learning style as you and your loved ones go about learning a second language.
Gardening is a universal language. However, the specific things grown in one’s garden tend to vary from one climate, and nationality, to the next.
If you’re studying a language from a specific area of the world, one way you can further embrace the experience is by planting a garden with flowers or veggies from that culture. Just make sure to start by confirming that the plants you want to add to your garden are hardy enough to survive in the zone where you live.
Keeping with the food theme, cooking in the culture that you’re studying can be a great way to get away from that fast food and learn a new language at the same time. If you’re learning Brazilian Portuguese, for instance, you can spice up your lessons by making some Pao de Queijo.
Just try to do as much of the cooking and reading of ingredients as you can in the native language of the dish!
From ancient chariot racing to modern football, sports have always been a defining element of each culture. As you look for ways to make your language lessons more interactive, consider heading outside. There, you can spend some time experimenting with a sport that is enjoyed by people who speak the language that you’re learning.
If you do try out new sports with your kids, though, always be careful to avoid any unnecessary injuries.
Watching movies and television shows in a native language is a very effective way to learn a language in an enjoyable way. For instance, you can stream Life is Beautiful to help shore up your Italian or watch Univision or a telenovela to develop your Spanish skills.
Don’t just listen, either. Try to speak and even think in the language as you watch as well. If you turn watching television in your new language into a habit, you can get comfortable with it in no time.
Right along with visual aids, listening to music from a culture is a wonderfully immersive way to increase the effectiveness of your studies. Look for popular songs — if you’re learning with kids, make sure they’re not inappropriate — and then listen to and sing along with the lyrics. The experience can help with pronunciation, fluency, and speed.
You can also look up various popular podcasts from the culture you’re learning and use them to immerse yourself through hearing the language spoken fluently. This can be incredibly powerful as it’s akin to a continual conversation with someone who speaks the language as their native tongue.
Audio and visual elements are powerful ways to learn a new language, and reading allows you to combine both together at the same time. Look for a best-selling book in the language that you’re learning and then read it out loud to yourself or have your family take turns reading out loud.
This exercise combines visual reading with audible hearing, and the dependability of having printed words (rather than coming up with words out of your head) can be an excellent learning crutch as you get comfortable with things like vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and idiomatic phrases.
Finally, if you want something fun to do while you’re learning a language, you can always pick up a copy of a game from the culture that speaks that language. If you’re learning Chinese, for example, you could nab a copy of the popular Chinese board game Go.
As you attempt to outsmart your opponent, you can read the instructions to the game in the native language and even communicate exclusively in the language as you play.
Learning a new language can be intimidating, especially if you go about your studies in a dry, textbook manner. However, if you introduce a splash of hands-on, cultural activity as you go along — things like playing games and cooking food — you can keep everyone’s attention focused on the task at hand.
Creating an immersive experience can be the deciding factor in whether or not you effectively learn a new language. Fortunately, it doesn’t require much work to bring that immersive element right into your own home as you study.