Is it possible to get English immersion in your home country?
How do you learn English?
If you want to know how you learn English, first think about how you learned your first language.
Do you remember that?
Well, it probably seems like a long time ago, so here’s a recap;
(1) You spent a lot of time listening to other people talking.
(You didn’t say anything until you were one year old!)
(2) You spent a lot of time copying what other people said.
(You didn’t know what grammar was until you were about six years old!)
(3) You spent a lot of time practising what to say in certain situations.
(Remember the days before your first serious job interview?)
(4) you spent a lot of time adapting language to get what YOU wanted.
In short, you learnt a lot more by doing things than you did studying, and immersion played a big part in your learning.
immersion keeps English words at the front of your mind.
How you learn English through immersion
Immersion is when you are surrounded by the language you are learning.
No-one knows exactly how the brain works, but immersion worked for you as a child!
In a perfect world you live in the country of the language you are learning.
But this world is not perfect…
So, is it possible to recreate immersion in your own country?
Well, it might be easier than you think …
Immersion for English learners
If you want to know how immersion can improve how you learn English it is important to understand what you do during the day.
So, here is a diagram of an average day:
Obviously, work takes up most of the day and it’s unlikely that your boss would be very happy if you suddenly asked him to talk to you only in English from now on.
But look at the spaces in between, like breakfast and travel and lunch.
These spaces in between work and sleep are good places to start.
The best way to learn English
Most people will agree that the best way to learn a language is to take lessons.
But lessons are for learning.
And practising what we learn is the way we really learn language.
You can’t learn ALL English in lessons!
Which means that all the time in between your lessons can be spent practising the things you learned in your lessons!
A whole hour!
Keep eating your pain au chocolat, but eat it on a plate with 400 english words all round it.
Still want a cup of coffee? You can have it! In a mug with 600 english words on it!
They are knowns as ‘sight words’ – the first 1000 words that all children are taught to recognise and use in England and the US.
There’s even a mug with over 400 words arranged in pronunciation lists: of all the sounds that Francophones find difficult to pronounce in English.
Giving yourself constant, daily reminders is how you learn English.
And if you take your mug to work you can carry on immersing yourself in English.
(Please note: at the moment we only sell our mugs and plates in Nantes, France.)
What can you do with those words?
Challenge yourself to use a word a day in a useful sentence: a sentence you actually say in real life.
For example, if you choose the word ‘sometimes’, a simple sentence like “Sometimes I drink too much coffee” is great!
Your brain may start to think of other frequency words – and keep searching for them until all of them appear at the front of your mind.
Amazingly, one day, you will just start looking for translations of words without even thinking about learning!
We know immersion works – we just don’t know exactly how it works, but the more English words your brain sees the more it becomes accustomed to seeing them and will, eventually, start to want more English words.
Using the words you learn is how you learn English.
See our making English interesting section for more ideas: just don’t make sentences that you will never use!
Other ways to increase your vocabulary
Travelling to work
Of course you can learn vocabulary from apps, but it can feel a little too much like ‘study’.
So you might be interested to know that there’s a version of Mahjong with English language tiles.
It’s still a challenging game of Mahjong, but on the bus/tram/train it will open your brain to new vocabulary in a more enjoyable way.
Opening up your mind to new words is how you learn English.
(1) Get an English magazine delivered.
We recommend The Week (for level B2 and above) and The Week Junior (for level A2 and above), which both offer an in depth look at the week’s news in short, easy to read articles.
There are lots of interesting articles from Art and cinema to fashion and current affairs as well as business and books. (Please note: we don’t get ANY money for recommending it!)
If you aren’t sure about your English level you can take our level test here.
(2) Read a great book.
Most people would agree that reading is more difficult than watching television, but it is a perfect example of immersion – and you can read anywhere! We have gathered together 12 of the best books for English learners. Although the books are aimed at young native English readers, they are extremely well written and very engaging stories for readers of all ages.
Seeing how other people use English is how to learn English.
Above all, making mistakes is a perfectly normal part of learning.
The purpose of having lessons with a teacher is for your mistakes to be recognised and corrected
If you are having lessons and learning things that you could learn on your own at home, change your teacher!
If you are attending conversation classes that don’t correct mistakes, change conversation class!
To read more of our blog about learning English you can return to the home page here
Stuart opened Bards Language School, Nantes, in September 2017 – and Learnch, in March 2018 – to help French students develop their spoken English.