Does Foreign Language Immersion on a Computer Work?
Jul 24, 2009 E-Learning/CALL 2895 Views
Many people tout the best way to learn a language is through immersion, but it is often difficult to take time to live in another country. Can virtual immersion work? Can foreign language immersion on a computer really work? The concept of immersion for foreign language learning is not a new, but its presentation has definitely changed in recent times. Twenty years ago a college student would go to a country to learn a language and be totally immersed by not having any translator present or teacher. Its a sink or swim situation; either you learn to communicate or have a difficult time getting around the country and surviving. It is a great way to learn a language, but not one that is easy or practical.
Even with actual immersion, which you can get through any study abroad program available at any university, it takes months and months to actually learn a language. As a American abroad in France, it took well over 5 months of constant classes, interaction with the French, and lots of forced frustration with France-telecom (which can rival some of our worst customer service representatives) to feel semi-confident with the French language. And this was after 5 years of traditional French classes. While it can be done, immersion takes a lot of time and commitment. With traveling becoming a rarity, and living abroad an anomaly, the idea of immersion has changed drastically.
The modern concept of learning a language through immersion is using a computer to sit down and be surrounded by the language. That means no English words are presented in the program and you will only see and hear words in the language you are learning. This would be theoretically similar to the way a baby learns a language by just seeing words and eventually figuring out what they mean and how to say them. Then the child gets older and is taught the structure of a language, the nouns, verbs, pronouns etc. The concept is unfortunately flawed since most people learning a language are not infants and won't learn through auditory osmosis.
The other fly in the ointment is the fact a young adult or adult brain is wired to learn and experience language differently than a young child. his "hard wiring" of the brain means the learning of a language will be difficult especially if the techniques used are based upon impossible to maintain, pre-school techniques of total language immersion. Remember, the language learner is only experiencing a limited amount of immersion and will ultimately get up from the computer and switch back to his natural language. It's like a 2 steps forward, 3 steps back phenomenon. Without having half a year available to traipse around Europe the next best way to learn a language is through a structured teaching format allowing the "hard wired" learner (over five years of age) the ability to use his grammar knowledge in the integration of the new language. It's necessary to start with a language foundation to build upon.
With "Speak in a Week", students are presented conversational phrases that they will be able to use in interpersonal communications. These practical phrases will allow the learner to think in the language, communicate and interact with foreign language speakers instead of being able to just read off a laundry list of items. Communication is essential. Learn a foreign language the easy and efficient way use "Speak in a Week!"