Immersion

I spent yesterday in Aberystwyth with two Czech friends and we talked in a mixture of Czech, Welsh and English, with occasional bits of other languages thrown in for good measure. When they were speaking Czech to each other I found that I could understand or guess enough to get a basic idea of what they were talking about, and in some instances I could understand quite a bit more.

While I have been learning Czech on and off (more off than on in fact) for quite a few years, I rarely get the chance to listen to Czech conversations, apart from on online radio, and I was pleased to recognise quite a few of the words and phrases my friends were using. I couldn’t contribute much to the Czech parts of the conversation myself, but that will come with practise.

Quite a lot of the vocabulary and structures they were using have appeared in my Czech courses or in Czech texts I’ve read, so I was at least somewhat familiar with them already. Hearing these things used in context really helped to fix them in my mind. It also helped that I could ask about anything I didn’t understand – this is not possible when I’m listening to online radio or watching films or TV programmes.

This kind of immersion can happen anywhere you can find some native speakers of a language you’re learning (L2) who are willing to help you. Being in a country where your L2 is spoken is an even better form of immersion, but might not be possible for everyone.

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This entry was posted in Czech, English, Language, Language learning, Welsh.

4 Responses to Immersion

  1. michael farris says:

    A really valuable experience is just being able to be around native speakers without having to contribute. That was invaluable in my early days in Poland just hanging out for hours with people interacting on their own. I might occasionally be called on to contribute usually with the speech stopper “Powiedz coś!” (Say something!) but I could also chill.

    I also had this experience with Thai once. Even though it was shorter and my Thai knowledge was pretty low (and now regrettably disappeared) after a day or so I could understand lots and lots of words, sometimes bits and pieces of conversation.

    It didn’t help so much with Polish Sign Language but that was probably because I wasn’t fluent in any sign language when I began (ironically my experience with Polish Sign Language made my encounters with American Sign Languag much, much easier).

  2. Svetla says:

    I am just back from Poland. I had prepared a bit in advance but didn’t have time to learn anything more significant. I took with me a phrase book and this helped me a lot. The fact that my mother tongue is Bulgarian, helped me understand more than if it was, say, English.
    It is indeed a great reward to comprehend even if you can’t respond as well as you would like.

  3. Andrew says:

    I agree with Michael in that just being around native speakers for hours on end is immensely valuable even if you rarely ever speak yourself, there’s something to be said for high-volume listening, it sort of tunes in your brain such that you just naturally start understanding more and more.

  4. Abbas says:

    I agree that immersion greatly helps with learning a second language. A lot of my friends who know a second language usually spent some time studying abroad. I’m convinced that immersion is super useful, given how my English (L2) has improved after coming out to the States.