The Immersion Effect: The Linguistic Benefits of Teaching Abroad
Today’s article comes from Christina Chandler, a current graduate student and former English teacher. Not only does she take the view that one must actually use a foreign language in order to excel in it, but that this is best done while abroad due to the immediate access one will have to the brain’s of native speakers. And what better way to get this access than by teaching them English?
Learning a new language is on the list for Americans as one of the top things they want to do. It is also on the list of the top things that most Americans consider difficult to do. In a way, learning a new language is one of those life goals similar to writing a book that most people will make but not always follow through with. Much like any goal you set though, there is only one way to truly move forward with completing it. You have to actually spend the time and energy.
The problem with learning a language is even if you put the time and effort into it, you can often feel like you are not learning or gaining much. This is because the majority of people learning a language forget the most crucial step to learning a language: using the language. This is why the tried and true method of learning a language has always been through the use of the immersion system.
The immersion effect is a method of teaching a language to a person in the same way that we all learn our first language; by constant exposure and interaction with the language. Now this method is often used in a classroom that teaches foreign languages, and is currently used by programs such as Rosetta Stone. But classrooms and programs are only mimicking the true experience of the immersion process.
The only way you can enjoy and benefit from immersion in such a full way is by staying in a city where the language being spoken regularly is the language you are trying to learn. But you can’t just stop there, because you then need to be having regular interaction with people who speak that language. You can’t just sit in your hotel room, or go exploring by yourself. You need to strike up conversations with strangers regularly! And one of the easiest ways of going about this is through the teaching abroad programs.
Teaching abroad is the perfect combination of helping people out, immersing yourself in different languages and also experiencing an entirely different society and country. Most everyone that can speak English can teach it abroad, though it is easier to obtain jobs for it with at least a bachelor’s degree and/or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification.
This means that instead of just going over to a new country to spend a little vacation time, you can actually find a job in the other country and be paid to not only learn a new language but have a completely unique experience in an entirely different country. Guaranteed, it won’t be a totally easy process, but it can be incredibly worthwhile. But other than being around people that speak the language you want to learn, how does teaching abroad really help with immersing into a new language?
Direct exposure to people who know the language you are learning!
You have to interact with the people you are teaching a new language to, and that means communicating with people in the best ways that they can understand. This means not only are you needing to teach this language to people, you also need to be open to learn their language so you can best relay what you need to teach. Even if you only choose to pick up a few words, you are constantly needing to interact with these people who speak a different language and therefore exposing you to it. You’ll find you will learn even better than you could have on your own.
Christina Chandler is an enthusiastic poet and writer with a degree in English Education. She has spent a year in India and two years in Japan teaching English as a second language. She now continues towards her postgraduate degree in Higher Education.