You may have heard that the best way to learn a language is through immersion, just like how you learnt your native language.
Unfortunately for most of us it isn’t realistic to pack up our lives and move to a foreign country…
…but the good news is - you don’t have to!
It’s possible to completely surround yourself in your target language without even leaving your home (or your home town, for some of these), and the best thing is:
It’s even MORE powerful than the passive immersion you might get abroad.
In this article I’ll show 52 different ways to use language immersion for any language.
You can skip to different sections here:
|Music & Audio||Around the Home|
|Video & Movies||Reading & Writing|
|Everyday Tech||Social & Leisure Activities|
Music & Audio Immersion
Audio is fantastic for immersion because you can soak up the language while you do other things - which is exactly what immersion is all about.
We almost all have at least 30 mins a day where we can get some audio immersion in.
1. Listening while exercising
Kill two birds with one stone and workout your languages at the same time as your bod. Here's a Spotify workout playlist for Spanish.
... and another in French.
2. Listen on your commute
Turn dull downtime into supercharging-language-skills time. You might find you even start looking forward to your commute! (Anything’s possible)
3. While you cook
This is especially good when you are cooking up something you don't need to think about too much, so you can listen to the audio more.
4. ...or doing the chores
Same here, or anything you do around the house that takes time, but doesn't require much thought.
What should you listen to? How about:
Listening to music is a great way to get a feel for the sound of a language without having to even pay attention to it, just put it on in the background any time. There are plenty of playlists available on Spotify and YouTube covering many languages. Here are a couple for French, and Spanish.
6. Radio Stations
Unlike music alone radio will also expose you to natural speech. Even if you don't understand much just hearing the flow and rhythm of the language is beneficial.
Try the awesome radio.garden, to find online radio stations in any country all around the world and listen instantly.
If you are a beginner then there are plenty of great podcasts for language learning, or for more advanced learners try general podcasts in your target language about a topic that interests you.
Here is a comprehensive list of podcasts for a whole host of languages and language learning in general.
Similar to podcasts there are many audiobooks specific to language learning, but also general books in your target language for more advanced learners.
Audible allows you to search for audiobooks in many languages, and even by target age, making it easy to start with children’s books of a certain age and work your way up. Audible is a paid monthly subscription but you can get a month for free AND two audiobooks (that you can keep) if you sign up via Amazon here.
Librivox also has a free collection of audiobooks in the public domain in an extensive selection of languages, all read by volunteers.
9. Audio courses
There are a number of (generally paid) audio courses that are perfect for the commute, such as the popular Pimsleur and Rocket Languages courses. These require you to speak out loud so are excellent if you are somewhere a little more private, at home or in the car - you may be less popular doing them on the train though!
Some of these can be pricey - but you can get two free Pimsleur courses for free when you sign up to Audible plus many others to chose from.
Most of us spend some time each week watching TV shows or films. Why not use that time to learn while you are relaxing?
There are plenty of movies and shows available in foreign languages on Netflix, plus many that are originally in English have overdubbed audio and subtitles available in multiple languages.
This might seem to advanced as a beginner, but there are multiple ways of using Netflix depending on your level.
From easiest to hardest. Here are some ideas:
Watch in English with subtitles in your target language. This way you understand everything, but still get exposure and can pick up some new words or phrases.
Watch in your target language with subtitles in English. This could be shows originally recorded in that language or using the overdub option. Similar to 1, you will understand everything but get exposure to the sounds, and can slowly rely on the text less and less.
Watch with the audio and text in your target language. This is a step up, but having the text makes it much easier than just listening which will take more time to master.
No subtitles, just the audio in the target language.
And some more tips for Netflix
11. Dubbed movies and TV shows you know well
Half the work is done for you when you are already familiar with the dialogue, letting you concentrate on the foreign words while already knowing what’s going on.
Can’t justify watching every single episode of Game of Thrones…again? Well now you have a reason: to practise your language! Get to enjoy your favourite moments all over again, with a linguistic twist.
12. Children’s TV shows
Watching children’s TV in your target language is a good way to ease you into watching with only the foreign dialog.
13. Watch documentaries in the target language (subtitled, if necessary)
This is a great way to get exposure to more specific vocabulary related to your particular interests, or field of work if you are learning for business reasons.
14. YouTube channels
Follow popular vloggers on Youtube, which will also do the work for you of suggesting other similar channels. Here’s a great list of channels to get you started.
Yabla and FluentU are online video "immersion" tools, where you watch authentic videos in the target language, with accompanying subtitles and other built-in features to help facilitate language learning. These are paid services, but you can try them out for free before committing.
16. Watch the news in your target language
As well as being great for your listening comprehension, this will help you get clued up on important news and cultural references.
Similar to watching dubbed movies you already know well, to make it easier you can catch up on the news in your native language first so you understand the story, then watch and pick out any key phrases or vocabulary.
You can also check out News In Slow.. which provides audio based language learning using news and current events in a number of languages..
17. YouTube music videos
If you tend to play music from your computer or smart TV when you’re at home, why not use them to play music videos instead? Lyric videos are increasingly popular letting you read (or sing!) along at the same time. Here’s a great channel for Spanish music with lyrics and English translations.
Another fantastic resource is Lyrics Training, which takes popular music videos on YouTube and creates a gap-fill game of the lyrics, that you must type along to, so you can learn while enjoying your favourite songs.
Everyday Tech Immersion
18. Set your phone to use your target language
Addicted to checking your phone? Use it to your advantage and set it to use your target language
19. Speak to Siri in your target language
Siri understands 21 languages now. There is the added bonus that Siri is not an actual person, so it's less embarrassing if you make a mistake, and if you're not understood, you can always blame it on the technology!
20. Talk to your home in your target language
Amazon Alexa and Google Home are basically Siri, but for your home, allowing you to do things like play music and perform internet searches from simple voice commands.
Right now Alexa only works in English - but this is due to change soon. Google Home currently supports English, French and German.
21. Set your computer / iPad language
Most of us spend many hours a day on some sort of digital device. Why not make the most of that time and have your computer set to your target language instead?
22. ...and your TV, radio. microwave…
Most domestic electric items with some sort of on screen menu will have the option to change languages. Change them all! You’ll forget what country you live in by the time we’re done…
23. ...and call center menus
Maybe one for more advanced speakers, but if that’s you then why not get as much practice as possible.
As we spend so much time online these days, building exposure to language online is a logical step to take. Try some of these to digitally immerse yourself…
24. Set your internet browser language
This will probably change by default if you change your computer language - but if you don’t want to change everything on your computer (that might be a problem when you come to troubleshoot it...) then just updating your browser language is a safer bet.
25. Change your Facebook language
And any other social media you regularly use. Changing the language on any sites you use often is less daunting because you already know the layout and what all the buttons do.
26. Change your browser homepage
Set your browser homepage to a website in your target language that is non-static i.e. changes every day (no Google.fr!) and contains content interesting to you - e.g. a news website.
27. Chrome extensions
The Language Immersion Chrome extension allows you to learn new words without trying - it will change random words on any website you are reading into your chosen language (clicking on them returns them to the original). Extensions like Readlang allow you to read text in your target language and translate as you go along.
Immersion Around the Home
There’s no place like home to immerse yourself in language-learning. The advantages include being in control of the environment, and having the freedom and privacy to talk to yourself and not worry about making mistakes.
28. Label objects around your home
Use colour coded Post Its for gender reinforcement, or if you're too lazy to write up a load of post-it notes yourself, you can just buy a premade set, like these by Flashsticks which come with a free supporting app providing pronunciation videos in 5 different languages - plus sign language!.
29. Learn from your shower curtain
No, really. You can get a shower curtain covered in vocab in your target language, so you can learn even in the shower. According to Tilco, the company that produces them, we spend 91 hours per year in the shower. That's a lot of learning time!
30. Name objects as your see them
There’s nothing wrong with speaking to yourself - in fact it’s positively encouraged for language learning! Regress to a child like state and name things as you see them around the home.
31. Go a step further and narrate your own life
In moments of idleness, such as waiting for the kettle to boil, translate what you are doing into the target language.
32. Create an "immersion zone"
Assign a area of your living space to be an immersion zone - everything physically in that space can only be in the target language, and only the target language can be used in the space - including for thoughts!
33. Schedule "immersion days"
Set aside entire immersion days once a fortnight, or as often as is convenient and feasible for you, where the entire day is in that language. Make it fun by playing music and cooking food from a country that speaks the language.
34. Learn an awesome recipe in the language
This is not only a way to expand your vocabulary for cooking and ingredients, it will also impress your friends when you can make a delicious dish, and say how you did it in another language!
Reading & Writing
Two essential skills in acquiring a language, here are some ways you can harness these for further language immersion.
35. Dual language books
Sometimes old school is the best way; good old-fashioned side-by-side translation texts can speed up your progress. Search for dual language stories on Amazon.
Children' books in your foreign language
If you're not advanced enough for the above, texts aimed at children can be great. You can pick a target age that matches your level and work your way up.
36. Keep a language journal
Spend 5 minutes at the end of each day writing something about what you did that day. It can be as simple as you can manage, gradually getting more details as you progress. Instead of a diary you could use it to write a daily gratitude, or goals. The great thing about having a daily log like this is looking back on it to see your progress over time.
37. Or a Blog
Similar to above, but more public! It’s free and super easy to set up a blog. You can document your language learning progress, or just use it as your daily journal. You don’t have to tell anyone about it.
38. Build your own dictionary/inventory of words
Whether in a good old-fashioned notebook or on an app like Evernote, this is a ludicrously simple but effective way of progressing in a language. Note down all new words you encounter, and have your notebook always to hand to look over whenever you have a spare moment.
39. Write your to do lists in the target language
This will mean you get prompted in the target language every time you consult your list, and will encourage you to think in it more. If you’re a beginner you could just use key words instead of sentences.
You can also use tech to your advantage. To do list apps like Wunderlist will send you notifications with your (now foreign language) tasks when they are due.
40. Write your calendar/planner in target language
Similar idea to the above, as it's something you look at often.
41. Read the news in your target language
Most people keep at least vaguely up to date with what’s going on in the world each day. Why not check the news in your target language first, see how much you understand before reading it in your native language.
Here’s a list of news sites from different countries.
42.Follow blogs that interest you
If you use a blog reader then adding some blogs in your target language will give you some daily exposure even if you don’t or can’t read the full articles. This is particularly good for building vocabulary around specific niche interests.
43. Use Wikipedia
If you’re a frequent visitor to Wikipedia you could be missing out on an amazing language learning resource right under your nose. What you might not know is that it has articles in over 300 languages, making it a great place to get a language fix while you’re there. Here is a great guide on how to do so:
Social & Leisure Time
Your social circle can have a massive impact on your language learning. What, after all, is language but a social tool? Make use of opportunities to immerse yourself while engaging in social activities.
Some of these might require you to leave your home, but you don't need to go far!
44. Group chat
Friends learning the same language? Know native speakers? Create a Group Chat
Whether it's Whatsapp or Facebook or anything else, this is a great way to regularly interact in your target language with others who are enthusiastic and invested in it. Throwing in some native speakers too will help with any queries.
A bonus of these platforms is they are no longer limited to texting; you can send voice notes, and even video conference call!
45. Language exchange meetups
Don’t have friends learning the same language? No problem. Most large cities will have language exchange meetups where you will spend half the time practicing and half the time helping others practice English.
The best part? You get to make new friends, have fun, and make language learning part of your social life.
46. Online language exchange
If you don’t have any meetups near you in your target language (or just want to practice more often), check out iTalki.
iTalki is a fantastic online language exchange and community where you can practice with native speakers all around the world. It also has paid on-to-one video lessons from only $5 per hour.
47. Play online games
For the gamers out there, try playing Massive Multi-player Online games in your target language. These will force you to interact in that language, but will be engaging and fun, while allowing you to have genuine interactions with native speakers around the world.
48. Get a boyfriend/girlfriend who’s a native speaker
OK, if you already have a partner this might not be such a great idea!
49. Visit (or even move to) a different part of town
If you live in a big, cosmopolitan city like London or New York, where there are communities from all over the world - make the most of it! Hanging out in these areas will make you almost feel like you’ve left the country.
50. Follow local language and cultural groups on Facebook
This is a low-investment action that will mean activities will come up on your newsfeed, presenting opportunities to meet native speakers and new friends
51. Find cultural celebrations
Find celebrations of important dates around your city, from your target culture. We've all seen Cinco de Mayo events around town, but if you look you'll find all sorts of interesting things going on.
You're likely to meet native speakers, learn soak up a bit of culture, and also have a good time!
52. Use foreign language tours in museums and other tourist venues
Most museums offer resources in multiple languages either as pamphlets or audio tours. This is a great way to practise your listening and/or reading skills. If you're a beginner try using both the English guide and one from your target language to cross reference them.
Can you think of any more?
Leave a comment below to share more ideas about creating an immersive language learning environment.