Immersion language learning, or ILL, is widely accepted as the most effective classroom learning program available. If you are a teacher (or even a student trying to learn English as a second language), it’s not likely that your school offers a full immersion program for learning English. But you can create an immersion environment in your own classroom!
As we have already discussed in this blog, the key to language acquisition is experiencing it and making emotional links with the language in real-world context. This can be difficult when you live in another country and are not exposed to the language you are learning except when you enter the classroom. And then, many traditional English courses rely on grammar exercises, vocabulary memorization and exams. But today, more and more schools around the world are beginning to change their programs to use immersion in the classroom.
An immersion program means that students are learning a variety of subjects in English (or the language they are trying to learn) at least 50% of the time. While there is an initial drop in student performance when they participate in an immersion program, statistics show that they do catch up, and usually continue to excel further than their peers in the long run.
While you might not be able to influence other teachers or your school’s director into incorporating a full immersion program, you can try to implement this method into your own classroom!
Here are 6 Tips for Creating an Immersion Language Learning Classroom:
1. Use Familiar Stories. Stories help students connect with language on a personal level, as they learn the patterns, tone and authentic vocabulary of the language. With stories like myths, legends, fables and fairy tales, learners create a context for the language. Then, all activities can be developed around one story.
2. Task-Oriented, not Textbook-Oriented. Giving students problems to solve, research to do, or a presentation to give in which they must conjugate verbs on their own and find vocabulary allows them to remember more easily and quickly than doing workbook language exercises.
3. Include Culture. Lessons on the role of communication in the culture allow students to understand context, and gives a deeper meaning in the words they are learning. Learning about different ways of thinking and reacting can help understand the culture and thus the way a language is spoken, not just the rules. This can be achieved through videos, stories, theater, books, poetry, food, music and more.
4. Allow Them to Fail. Learning a language takes time and a lot of patience, and most multi-linguists speak of an “a-ha!” moment that they have experienced when the language starts becoming clear for them. It is a mix of not only spoken words, but gestures, body language and cultural knowledge that culminates over time and eventually leads to a moment of clarity. But getting there requires failing, forgetting, and stuggling. This means continuous assessment in the classroom will be a more reliable measure of progress, as opposed to just one exam score to test what they know.
5. Well-rounded Curriculum. Teaching various topics from science to social studies—in English—has proven to have the best effects. This is the true basis of immersion learning, which includes all of the aspects mentioned above: culture, context, emotion, problem solving, authenticity, richness and meaning. It’s also a lot more interesting to learn about real-world topics than reading a dry text in an English grammar book!
6. Use Online Resources. One great supplement to immersion learning is an e-learning English course students can take online from home. This reinforces their listening and speaking abilities with custom settings and lessons. Things like pronunciation and sentence structure can be improved at their own pace. Some grammar points can also be reinforced, supplementing the classroom’s focus on context and culture.
Have you ever tried to implement an immersion environment in your classroom?
How did the students react? Parents or other teachers?
Do you think immersion is the best solution for classroom language learning?
Why or why not? We enjoy reading your comments below!