3 Best Ways To Learn A Foreign Language


I’m sure many of us have studied a foreign language in school. And we probably can agree that picking up a new language is difficult. You have to learn new words, sounds, syllables, and syntax. Even if you choose a language you want to learn, you’ll still have to invest in a lot of time and effort. 

But what if you want to speak a language fluently? Well many tend to classify foreign language education through three approaches: total immersion, traditional study, and little and often. Let’s examine each one: 

1. Total Immersion 

When you immerse yourself in a foreign language, you surround yourself with said language. You watch movies, visit the country, and speak in the language with others. In Canada, there are French immersion schools where you take half of your subjects in French. Otherwise, you would only take one course in French. 

2. Traditional Study 

This is basically the method of our current foreign language curriculum. We’re forced to treat foreign languages as a subject. So the concentration is mainly on reading and writing, and less on speaking and culture. 

In this method, the prioritization is memorizing grammatical rules, followed by introducing new vocabulary. This is different from total immersion, as it places more of a theoretical focus. 

3. Little and Often

This method of learning a foreign language basically entails studying online and learning bits and pieces. An example is Duolingo. The software first starts with the basics, then progresses into complex sentences. Students would usually keep their notes in a flashcard or a notebook. 

When comparing the three study methods, it is evident that the traditional study and little and often methods do not emphasize oral communication. For the traditional study method, you’re writing and memorizing grammar. And for the little and often method, you’re memorizing vocabulary with the grammar. By placing a focus on writing and being grammatically proficient, oral communication becomes less of a priority. 

However, in order to speak a language, you’ll have to surround yourself with those who already speak it. This means that you’ll have to immerse yourself in a new environment. Here is why out of all three, the total immersion method is the most effective: 

1. Total Immersion means more practice. 

The key to learning a language is practice, and by immersing yourself, you’ll have to practice. This way, you’ll train your comprehension skills and feel more confident when using the language. 

2. Helps with understanding socio-cultural norms 

Other than practice, language immersion also helps with understanding cultural norms and cues. When you’re in a different country trying to speak a different language, you may notice that there are nuances. And by immersing yourself in a foreign language, you’ll be able to understand these nuances and make connections. 

For example, in Urdu, there isn’t a translated word for ‘boyfriend.’ This is because in Pakistan, couples usually meet on the first day of marriage. Language immersion will help you understand these connections between language and culture.

3. Improves language acquisition 

Research has shown you can achieve a higher level of foreign language learning through the immersion method, rather than the traditional method. This may also be due to picking up local slang and other verbal cues from native speakers. 

4. Higher levels of bilingualism and biliteracy. 

When comparing native speakers to second language learners from an immersive environment, research has shown that immersion students developed higher levels of bilingualism than native speakers. Moreover, researchers noticed that immersion students had slightly higher levels of oral and written proficiency compared to native speakers. 

5. Higher rates of fluency

When learning by the immersion method, you’ll still train your reading and writing skills. For example, you’ll have to read books in the foreign language to pick up on new vocabulary. Or you’ll message your friends in the foreign language, which will improve your writing skills. As a result, many studies show that students who surround themselves in a foreign language have higher rates of fluency

Many people often tell us that the only way to improve language skills is through practice. And by the immersion method, we’re often practicing by speaking with others, reading new material, and writing new messages. All of these skills can improve our vocabulary and understanding of the culture. However, learning a new language does take time and success doesn’t happen overnight. So, it’s best to continue to immerse yourself and improve on your skills.

Feature Image by RODNAE Productions on Pexels


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