Immersion. One of the most misunderstood study methods in language learning, and because of that misunderstanding, is often looked down upon. If you spend a moment to reflect on what immersion is actually all about, you’ll realize there is no reason in the world why you shouldn’t be doing some form of it (and probably already are).
Let’s clarify what immersion is, once and for all.
There are 3 classic dictionary definitions of immersion when it comes to language learning.
1. Concentrating on one course of instruction to the exclusion of all others for several days or weeks (“an immersion course in conversational French”)
2. Foreign language instruction in which only the language being taught is being used
3. Instruction based on extensive exposure to surroundings or conditions that are native or pertinent to the object of study.
These were the original meanings of immersion. They had realistic and positive implications. Then one ugly definition developed thanks to the internet. I like to refer to this as “magic immersion.”
Spending a lot of time around a foreign language which will result in the natural, magical acquisition of it.
Ex 1. Go to Japan, live there, and you will learn Japanese without any effort.
Ex 2. Watch a ton of anime, and just by listening to it enough, you’ll start to understand the language
This was/is not immersion, and it will never be immersion.
Jalup’s definition of immersion
The meaning I use for immersion here is a slight variation on #3. It’s simple when you break it down.
1. Study the actual language (vocabulary/grammar/sentences) from any textbook type source
2. Actively watch/listen/read/speak/write Japanese, using native Japanese sources (material created by Japanese for Japanese), whenever you can
3. Passively listening to native Japanese whenever you can
That’s it. 3 factors. #1 is absolutely required. You can’t just do #2 and #3 and expect much progress.
The biggest confusion is #3, so it’s worth explaining it in more detail. The passive component of immersion is not there to teach you new things. It has 3 main purposes.
1. It’s a powerful way to use life down-time (cleaning, chores, walking, etc.) to keep yourself absorbed in Japanese when you can’t actively study it.
2. It’s about solidifying what you’ve learned from textbook and active immersion. Solidifying what you learn is just as important, if not more important, than learning something new. It takes what you think you know and makes sure you actually know it.
3. It transforms your passive knowledge into active knowledge, due to the repetition that inherently comes with it
The passive component requires a little bit of self-analysis, because it doesn’t work the same for everybody. It should be adjusted based on your learning style.
Nothing magical. No false promises. No tricks or gimmicks. It’s about taking a few important study principals and combining them together.