Immersion is one of the best ways learn a new language – after all, it’s how everybody on earth learns their first language – but, as with every method of learning, there are advantages and disadvantages depending on the student. Here, we’re going to look at these, as well as how to negate the disadvantages when teaching young people.
Natural way to learn
When students are taught English using textbooks alone, they often cannot apply their English skills to the real world. Their sentences and vocabulary will be stilted because they haven’t heard how native English speakers are actually using the language.
This is vitally important when you think about the slang inherent in English, depending on the country and city you’re in. It’s easy for non-native speakers to get confused about “sick” meaning “cool” in some places and “ill” in others.
Adults might visit an English-speaking country to get this down, but for children and teens, that is often out of the question. That’s why companies, like Daily English, recruit English-speaking host families in France to teach English during school holidays.
Makes learning fun and fast
We often learn the most effectively when we are putting our knowledge into practice or when we’re having fun. Learning through immersion combines the two and makes it easier to teach children English.
You can teach a child English in a classroom or online school, but you might make them more keen to learn by taking them bowling or to the cinema and having them practice English with peers while there.
Students cannot disengage from the subject
In a classroom setting or when studying alone, a student can easily distract themselves from learning English by talking to another student, moving onto another subject, or even abandoning homework for the lure of the TV or the internet. (We know how tempting those can be.)
If they are surrounded by English-language content, they can combine the two as they are practically forced to continue with their English studies even while watching TV.
Helps to teach about English culture
If the student’s end goal is to study, work, or live in an English-speaking country, then the language is only the first thing they’ll need to learn. Immersion can teach them about food, entertainment, and culture, as well as the words they use to describe them.
Can ignore written English
If you focus too much on spoken English, then children may miss things like grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, which are also important to help them communicate. Even native English-speakers, who learnt through immersion and were subsequently taught grammar in school, slip up on this a lot.
Negate this by using English-language books so that children can see how things are written out.
Can be difficult for students to do alone
If a student is given a worksheet to complete on their own, then they could easily do that, but it’s harder for them to immerse themselves without an English-speaker at hand.
Negate this by setting homework like writing to an English-speaking pen pal or visiting an English-language café/shop in your local area, ordering or buying something, and reporting back. This will ensure that they are using English and that they have completed an assignment.
You could even plan immersion day trips at the weekend, where you visit the English area of town and make it clear that everyone will be required to communicate solely in English.
Can be hard for students who are learning solely from adults
Even with the best will in the world, adults forget what it is like to be a child learning a new language and can get frustrated with children for consistently forgetting the word for “cheval” or needing many short breaks.
Negate this by pairing up the student with other children who are learning English or native English-speaking children. This will make it more fun for the student, giving them more incentive to learn and take fewer breaks, but you’ll also find that children work together to help each other remember.
To sum up, immersion is the best way to teach English because the student cannot really disengage from the lesson when it is all around them and won’t want to disengage either. It helps make learning fun and all of the disadvantages can be easily overcome.