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Language immersion programmes are courses which combine formal language learning with experiencing the language as a day-to-day means of communication. In this way, the foreign language becomes an essential communication tool thanks to the native teachers with whom language learners live throughout the whole course.
During that period, teachers and learners don’t coexist within the classrooms only, but they also do all sorts of activities together: trips, outings, cooking, sports, games, etc., all of which aims to improve learners’ communicative skills and fluency in the foreign language.
These programmes present a series of advantages over traditional language courses, among which we can highlight the following:
1. Confidence boost in the foreign language
Whether it be English or another foreign language, learners, especially young learners, have to make a great effort to overcome the language barrier in order to get on in a foreign language environment. For this reason, they end up developing greater confidence when communicating in a second language. In the case of learners under 12 years old, summer school immersion programmes are ideal, as they spend between 6 and 8 hours in a 100% English environment, but they go home for the night, so they don’t spend it away from their families.
2. Oral skills boost
Pronunciation, fluency or intonation are some of the skills that are most difficult to improve in a regular classroom setting. However, in a language immersion programme, pupils are constantly listening to other people speak in a different language, plus they have to use that language to communicate, too. We could say that it’s like doing listening and speaking tasks 24 hours a day. In Granada, there’s an English summer camp in the Valle de Lecrín where these programmes are really effective, especially with teenagers and adults.
3. Cultural immersion
Learning a language is more than simply developing language skills; it also means opening to another culture and a different way of understanding the world. For this reason, immersion programmes abroad are especially effective. A week in Ireland to learn English can have a greater impact on some pupils than 3 months of lessons in their own country.
4. Increased interest in language learning
Learning a language in a classroom as a subject is one thing, and another, very different, is learning a language in context, seeing it as an effective tool that will open up the world and will allow you to communicate with people who have a different mother tongue from yourself. This increases learners’ interest and motivation towards learning a different language from their own.
5. Goodbye, shyness!
Speaking in a foreign language is no mean feat, and feeling shy and being afraid of not being understood is one of the most difficult things to overcome. During language immersion, these problems disappear, as learners have no other choice but communicate and, step by step, overcome their fears and shyness. In fact, this is so typical that in many cities, language exchanges are organised among people interested in language learning so as to get rid of those fears that prevent them from making the most of their language skills. Apps like uTandem help us get in touch with people who want to do language exchange in our city.
6. Learner autonomy
For most children, especially those younger than 13, experiences like a week in a Bilingual Summer Camp are great to become more autonomous. Being away from their family and immersed in a bilingual environment fosters children’s capacity to get on on their own.
There are many types of language immersion programmes and there are courses for all ages and needs. Finding one that suits our needs or our children’s needs is a matter of making the decision and taking a step forward.
This article has been written by Rosalía Casares, who works as an English teacher, community manager, content writer and graphic designer for IML La Zubia School of English.
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