The Best Way to Learn a New Language?



Many people's experience of learning a new language is trawling through dull exercises with the nagging feeling that describing their pets won't help them in a typical day-to-day conversation. Of course learning a new language is hard, but immersion courses prove that it doesn’t have to be a grueling chore. Quite the opposite, in fact. Combining lessons with local activities and cultural experiences, they are an efficient, natural and fun way to learn. As with anything, throwing yourself in at the deep end is inevitably uncomfortable at first. You will start off cobbling together broken phrases, feeling a rising panic when your attempts at communication are met with a quizzical eyebrow raise. By embracing the challenge (and all your hilarious mispronunciations), you will be well on your way to fluency.

 5 min read

Why Language Immersion?

People's worldview is thought to be dependent on the structure of their speech. Language systems permit differing observations and characterizations of events, placing value and emphasis on certain expressions over others. In this way, language both illustrates and shapes culture. If language is the expression of culture, it does not seem right to learn a language isolated from it's cultural roots. In simple terms, learning something in context makes it stick. That is perhaps why medical training for junior doctors takes place in hospital with real patients, and isn't entirely theoretical and abstract. Language schools offering immersion courses have acknowledged that context based learning is the most effective method and go out of their way to provide a rich cultural experience alongside conventional language lessons.

Sumeru Chatterjee went on our language course in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He provided some reflection on his experience:

“I personally think a language is learnt not just by words, vocabulary and grammar but with deep integration into the culture of the language. In my case it was immensely useful to go to Buenos Aires and learn not only Spanish but also the Argentinian way of speaking it and their cultural idioms and proverbs. Also during the time I went, the world cup was going on and Argentina was playing (and losing) so I learnt some interesting curse words from the crowd as well!”

Sumeru recommended approaching a language immersion course as not work, but play. Go to parties, meet people, discuss politics, go on dates, throw yourself into the experience as much as possible. People are often reluctant to go on a course without a travelling partner, but travelling solo for a language course will actually enhance your experience. In a small group with other like minded learners also away from their home country, you very quickly bond and discover a shared camaraderie.

Go to parties, meet people, discuss politics: throw yourself into the experience of learning a new language

Language schools have embraced this concept and offer language lessons alongside other activities. At the Escuela Montalban in Grenada, for instance, students combine Spanish lessons with Flamenco, Tango or Salsa dancing, and outdoor activities such as horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking or rock climbing. Learning a language should be a varied and enriching experience: immersion courses offer exactly that.

Brain Health and Intensive Language Learning

Multiple studies have shown the cognitive benefits of learning a second language. Marcia Carmagnani, the director of the Fast Forward Language and Cultural Institute in Brazil, explained how learning a new language is beneficial in biological terms. People who speak more than one language have a higher density of grey matter and their brains are subsequently healthier and more active.

Our teachers at Instituto Aprenda said that language immersion courses encourage the brain to work 24h per day in that language (even when we sleep). This kind of intensive learning drastically changes the functionality of the brain. Language immersion forces you to constantly negotiate meaning in your immediate environment. This helps to develop the brain's multitasking skills as you switch between different language systems. Not only hailed as a quicker way to improve fluency, language immersion also improves your first language as you focus on the mechanics of grammar and language structure. As opposed to conventional classroom methods, on an immersion course, the learning process is quicker, and the skills learnt will last longer.

People who speak more than one language have a higher density of grey matter

Cultural Immersion

A new language is not only good for your brain, but for your soul too. We live in a multicultural world, and shared languages help to build bridges across seemingly disparate lives and experiences. Many people live their entire lives never questioning their own culture. By learning a new language, meeting new people and immersing yourself in another culture, you step outside this narrow scope and gain a fresh perspective on your native country.

Our teachers at the Wayra Institute said that learning a new language helps people be more open-minded. Year after year, the teachers notice a real change in students. Understanding other people makes you realise how much you have in common.

Likewise, our teachers at Escuela Delengua said that learning a different language is a great way to open doors for many new cultural experiences. This can be achieved by being able to speak with new people and being exposed to different cultures and ways of life. 

Alejo Etchart, who offers a Spanish course in the countryside around Las Viadas, reflected on his ‘estilo de vida’ (way of life). He said that learning a language, as well as ecology, healthy living, mountain trekking and wildlife, lets you experience the simple joy of living. The experience of learning a new language is enriched by gaining an insight into different ways of life. Alejo went on to say how he believes that our impulse to live is driven by an innate desire to learn new things. So if you ask yourself why you should learn a new language: why should you do anything? For the simple pleasure of it. 

Alejo's Spanish lessons follow a natural methodology. From waking up to going to sleep, students speak Spanish.  Alejo takes language learning out of the classroom and into the local area; hiking, cycling and exploring the area's rich cultural history. 

The impulse to live is driven by an innate desire to learn new things

To maintain the language after the course, the teachers at the Wayra Institute recommend reading books, listening to songs and engaging with news broadcasts in the new language. Keeping in touch with local friends in their language is also a great way to keep up language skills.

Escuela Montalban advises finding people in your home country that are looking to learn your language. They suggest the Tandem language exchange app which helps to connect language learners around the world. 

Sumeru Chatterjee is now intending to move to South America permanently. A language immersion course can be truly life-changing!

Are you thinking of going on a language immersion course? We have destinations all over the world:

Molly is a Content Creator at Dedico. Originally from the U.K, she has lived in Norway and now the Netherlands. In her experience, immersion is the best way to learn a new language.

Why go on a language immersion course?

  • More natural method
  • More effective method
  • A more enjoyable experience
  • Make friends for life

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