Immersive language learning online and offline

Guest Blogger: Nick Eley is the Co-Founder of English Like A Native and has become fluent in Spanish and Thai while travelling.  

What is immersive language learning?

Immersive language learning is the process of surrounding yourself with a language and culture.  At its best, you take away all of the options to engage with the world in your mother tongue, so that you only have the option to use your target language.  

Do you have to travel to get an immersive language experience? 

Traditionally, yes, that was mostly the only way.  You would do a language exchange, travel or work abroad.  I learnt Thai while teaching English abroad and Spanish while travelling.  During this time, the internet was young and smartphones didn’t exist.

Going abroad is still the best way, but it’s definitely not the only way. You can join online classes, so face-to-face zoom classes, change your TV and phone languages, join chat forums, watch pretty much anything you want from any country with a VPN and even do your shopping in another language.  You can even get a remote job with a company in another country/language.

It really is possible now to have a totally immersive language experience right from your sofa.  

What are your top tips for learning languages while travelling?

I really only have three top tips.  

  1. Study hard, then close your books and put them away.  There really is no better way to build your fluency than to work with what you have, to make the best of your situation.  
  2. Find genuine experiences and situations to use your language.  Use it all the time and never use your mother tongue (or English – unless you’re learning English)
  3. Be the best person at your target language in your group.  You may think that being with other people who are better than you will help you develop, but the reality is that they are usually the ones doing the talking.  They’ll get better while you watch and it undermines points one and two.

Oh, I guess there’s one more.  It’s not for everyone but… drink!  Drinking lowers your inhibitions and you’ll be amazed at how good you are when they are gone.  You’ll be amazed at how much it helps to build your confidence in the long term.

What makes travelling the best immersive language experience? 

The thing that makes travelling really special is that you don’t have any other options.  You are out in the wilderness and working with what you have.  You’re unlikely to find people that speak your language and whether you are trying to buy some lunch, make an important decision or get yourself out of trouble!…. You’re doing it in your target language. 

More than that though, the essence of travel is to meet people and enjoy the culture.  You’ll have fun, interesting and exciting adventures every day and you’ll be presented with situations that require you to use your language in a dynamic way.  

Using your language while you travel is FUN, and it makes your life better in a really tangible way.  It is a necessity on a daily basis, for everything you do.  That makes it better than learning online or in a classroom because in those situations, you are really finding your own opportunity to use the language and it’s less emotive. 

Do you have any tips to have the best immersive online language learning experience? 

Yes, it’s really what we’ve tried to do at English Like A Native.  The idea was to replicate all aspects of the immersive experience when people move abroad.  These key areas included: 

  • Making friends and socialising – we created a 24/7 online community and chat groups
  • Building your knowledge of culture and generally building your level, which we cover in the General English Courses
  • Nailing your native level speaking confidence and clarity, so we created a really comprehensive British English pronunciation course
  • Getting work experience and applying for a job – which we cover in our Business English course
  • Finally, most importantly, we created the Conversation Club, where you can get hundreds of hours of genuine face-to-face English Speaking Practice 

Some of our students have even expressed that their experience is really immersive and we’ve been told we have one of the most engaged online communities by our platform provider.  That’s of any type of community, not just language learning communities where conversations are usually difficult because of the language barrier.  

We firmly believed that having sanitised, unrealistic classroom experiences were not the best way to learn online and I wanted to make sure that the two key aspects of ‘genuine interactions’ and ‘study hard then put your books away and practice’ were are the core of what we offered and our students really enjoy it.  

So there you go.  If you can have an immersive learning experience abroad, you should do that.  But for the majority of people who can’t…. Come and see us at English Like A Native

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