The next best place for French immersion is your own home
It’s widely accepted that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself fully in it. When you live, socialize, work and study in a language, you have no choice but to learn how to communicate – fast. It’s a matter of survival. For this reason, many people choose to head overseas to learn a language. Immersion is kind of like learning to swim: it’s hard and it can be a bit overwhelming at first, but jumping into the pool is the best way to learn.
But, what about the rest of us? People who – due to family or money or time or work or health or a thousand other reasons – simply can’t jet off to France or Belgium or Canada for a few months to learn French?
All is not lost! Luckily, we live in an increasingly connected and digital world. With a little creativity and determination, you can simulate immersion in French – without leaving the place that you call home.
Simulate French Immersion
1. Get your news in French
If you’re like many people, you start your day with a quick glance at the news, sports scores, or the latest gossip. Subscribe to a French newspaper, tune into a French radio station or set a French news site as your homepage so that you can get your daily fix en français.
2. Switch your technology to French
Your phone, your computer, your GPS, your tablet, your camera – most technology will offer you the option of changing the language. Switching the language to French on everything that you use will provide you with hours of immersion every week. Social media is also a great source of simulated immersion. Follow French-speakers and post French updates on your various social media outlets.
3. Do your daily tasks in French
Do you jot notes on your calendar to remember appointments? Write a weekly grocery list? Count money? Assemble furniture or toys using instructions that you can barely follow in English? Doing all of these daily tasks in French will help you simulate an immersion environment. Even if you don’t normally write in a journal, you might consider jotting down a few sentences in French every day. Not only will this provide you with useful ongoing practice, it will also give you a concrete record of your progress.
4. Do what you love in French
Think about your hobbies, and then think of ways to do them in French. If you love to surf the net, read, watch movies, or binge-watch entire seasons of television series, then start doing those things in French.
While books and movies are easy enough to find in French, there are other less obvious hobbies that can also help you to simulate immersion. If you love cooking, follow French recipes or French cooking shows. If you enjoy working out, there are a variety of French-language exercise videos available online. Ask around – you might even be able to find a personal trainer who speaks French! Crafts, arts, cars, cooking, dog training, motorcycles, extreme sports, travel – there are French-speakers who do all of these things. Use the internet to locate resources for your hobby or passion in French. Do what you love, and do it in French!
5. Seek out French speakers
This is one of the most important things that you can do to simulate immersion. While you can surround yourself with books, radio and music, you’re not truly immersed unless you have to speak the language. French isn’t like some other languages – Portuguese, Cantonese or Greek, for instance – where there are communities in large cities where most people speak the language. There are, however, French-speaking people in most parts of the world!
Depending on where you live, there may be lectures, clubs or even worship services available in French. The trick is finding them. Look online for meet-ups, ask at libraries or universities, or put up an ad for a language exchange partner. Listen carefully when you’re out at the grocery store or doing errands, and if you hear someone speaking French, consider approaching them and letting them know that you’re learning. If you find a shop or a service with a French-speaking employee, make a point of going in when he or she is there and interacting in French.
Chances are that – if you look hard enough – you’ll be able to find some French-speakers in your area. If you can’t, then there’s always the internet! Find a language partner or a tutor on Skype to help you practice your French on a regular basis. To really simulate immersion, it’s best to seek out opportunities to interact with people in French every single day.
6. Make French the background music to your life
Listen to French music, radio or podcasts in the car or while taking a walk. If you leave the television on at home as background noise, turn it to a French channel or pop in a movie instead. Even if you’re not actively listening to it, hearing French often will help you to internalize its rhythm and cadence. Don’t worry too much if you don’t understand everything – the goal here is immersion. This “background music” isn’t meant to replace what you’re already doing, but rather to enhance it. If you were in a French-speaking area, you wouldn’t understand every word - but you would absorb the music of the language.
While a simulated immersion environment will never be quite the same as true immersion, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you progress if you incorporate more French into your day-to-day life! Remember, the goal in simulated immersion isn’t to study more or to replace the language work that you’re already doing – it’s to live your life in French, as much and as as possible.