An Introduction to Language Immersion

“What is language immersion?” I was asked this recently.

I started by explaining the word ‘immersion’.

“Imagine a tea bag being lowered into a cup of water. It is ‘completely immersed in the water – surrounded by it”.

The term ‘language immersion’ is a bit more loaded.

It’s a theory of learning that says that when the target language is inescapably surrounding you, you learn and absorb it.

Language immersion grew popular in the 70s as a way of raising bilingual children. Biculturalism is often a consequence, and sometimes a secondary goal.

This blog does not go into the theory of language immersion. (You can learn more here). Suffice to say, the term is also now broadly used to describe any kind of language holiday in which you spend time talking and exploring in your target language. 

For some language holiday providers, that’s a mix of classroom-based learning and social activities. 

For others (like us) it is a deep dive into culture, community and language all at once.

Read on for 3 goals for immersion learning

Goal 01

Flip School English into Spoken English

Language Immersion can convert school-learned language skills into more natural-sounding spoken English.

You probably learned ‘Could I have a…’ and that’s not wrong.

But you may be a little thrown by everyone here saying ‘c’n ahh giiiiit’ in its place.

An immersion coach could explain that it’s not Gaelic! It’s what ‘Can I get’ sounds like when spoken in this part of the world.

Here in Scotland, we say ‘Can I get?’ in place of ‘Can I have? (And we sometimes stretch out the word ‘get’ while we think of what we want).’

Your high school English likely thinks that ‘Can I get’ is a bit rude, but for us Scots, being informal can be a way of being polite.

In Scottish culture, we often speak to our server as our friend. For us, that shows more respect than formal language!

Those 3 words can unlock a deep cultural understanding – if you have a language coach by your side. 

How to Cope with Regional Accents

English is full of regional dialects and expressions.

As a second language user, you don’t need to know them all, (most English learners are seeking English skills to speak with other  L2 users).

Exposure to them WILL boost your global comprehension skills (and not being aware of them will confuse you).

Know that your ‘Could I have a…’ works perfectly. You don’t need to fix it.

But ‘Can I get’ is a new option to play with.

Lean in and have fun or you’ll find it frustrating.

Learn more tips about Understanding Scottish Accents.

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Goal 02

Fall in Love

Language immersion can help you fall in love with the language.

It’s a chance to have fun, explore, experiment and play.

Lean in, be different, and see where it can take you.

You can find the poetry and pleasant rhythms in the language and let new sounds dance across your tongue.

Don’t sweat through lists of phrasal verbs!

Discover them in a joyful context and they are yours for life.

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Goal 03

Discover how to be YOU

My first immersion English guest had never learned the word ‘son’.

She’d learned English at school and subsequently had her children. Although she was competent in workplace English, the word ‘son’ had never come up.

You need language that relates to you.

Not just to describe your life to a stranger, but to express your passions, opinions, politics, and purposes.

Your heart.

That’s not just the word ‘son’.

Imagine being able to say how parenthood has changed you or how COVID ripped through your community.

It’s the stuff that matters.

It doesn’t come up in an English classroom, but it might when sitting on a train and starting a conversation with a stranger.

And it’s important because it’s how you will connect.

It’s how you can learn from another.

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3 Common Language Immersion Misconceptions


It's Effortless

We all know of migrants who live lonely lives, displaced from their first language community, but who only manage a few words of this new language after spending YEARS in their new land.

Language skills don’t grow without effort (nor can we learn while we sleep).

Language learning takes a lot of showing up and working.

It’s one of the most fulfilling and frustrating things we can do, but like everything worthwhile – it can be hard!

The idea that you can drop an adult into fast-paced language contexts and they will learn through time and exposure alone is wrong.

In addition, that kind of immersion is frustrating, alienating and stressful. Unlikely to lead to any pleasure in English (the only language goal that ensures you keep learning).

English excursion to sunflower field. English client looking at field

There’s More to Language Learning Than Being Here


It's for Beginners

Language immersion is NOT recommended for beginner levels unless within a course designed around their needs. Learn more

Dip into English ad for beginner english course
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Pure (Unguided) Language Immersion Best Helps Higher Levels


You Can do it Yourself

The ‘real’ spoken language around you often comes as a shock.

For many travellers, starting quality conversations for language practice can be hard or impossible. 

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Immersion Environments Take Skill to Create

Language schools can create immersive language experiences by offering speaking practice alongside guided language coaching, if you are woking 1:1 or within micro groups. 


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Why Take a Blue Noun English Immersion Holiday

At Blue Noun, we believe that in a quality language immersion holiday, who you meet and what you learn about yourself is just as important as the language you are practising.

Why? Because any true conversation is an exchange.

So it’s not just about what you can say and how you say it.

It’s about wanting to speak because you have something you want to say.

And it’s about listening and learning from the community around you.

Gaining language skills is gaining the freedom of being able to speak your truth – not just more words.

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