Why Language Immersion is Something Everyone Should Do

About a year ago, I was studying Chinese in Kunming, China. To be honest, I went there kicking and screaming. I wasn’t too excited about spending 2 months in a single location (first world problem- I know), I didn’t really want to be learning Chinese, and I had no idea I’d end up absolutely LOVING it.

Now, I’m a firm believer that language exchange is the way to go! There are so many reasons that it’s an incredible opportunity; here are just a few.

 

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. If you want to learn a language, immersion is the best way to pick it up. You’ll constantly hear the accent, the pronunciation of words, and the fluidity of the language. And let’s not forget that you’ll be forced to use what you know! It can be a little daunting speaking a language you’re learning to locals, but every time I even attempted to say something, I was met with kindness. People appreciate you trying to learn their language, even if you butcher it. I learned loads from just attempting to live my daily life there. My interactions with the fruit stall lady taught me a lot! I accidentally bought 1.5 kilos of lychee instead of 0.5, and well, I haven’t made the same mistake twice!

While I knew I’d come out of China with a better grasp of Chinese, I didn’t think I’d be motivated to learn it! When you’re immersed, you want to learn the language so you can get around and honestly, just know what’s going on. I studied my new words every day so that I could somehow put them to the test outside of the classroom, and every time I was able to, I was really proud of myself. You can feel yourself getting better, and that feeling is sooooo motivating.

It’s not just the language you learn when you study abroad; you also learn about the culture. This translates to a much more fluent and natural way of speaking. You know what to say and when to say it, as well as when to hold your tongue. You learn when things are appropriate and when things are not by just living and learning. Also, you learn what apps are essential in different countries. China? You must have WeChat.

If there’s one thing I took away from China, it was the friendships. When you’re studying abroad together, your friends kinda become your lifeline. You get close incredibly quickly, a result of trying to get by in a city where no one else understands you. Just ordering food is a process, and figuring out the menu is a bonding activity like no other. Plus, you get to play tourist in your new city together. I loved going on weekend trips, to Sunday brunch, and to touristy landmarks in our city together. Some of my best friends (and my boyfriend!) are from studying abroad in China- we only spent about two months together, but you seriously get so close to others studying with you.

Looking back, I wish I had MORE time in China. I absolutely loved my life there, and my Chinese language skills were the best they’ve ever been! Language immersion definitely has its ups and downs (here’s looking at the day we spent 5 hours trying to buy a bus ticket), but it’s an opportunity that has the potential to be incredibly impactful on your life.


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22 thoughts on “Why Language Immersion is Something Everyone Should Do

  1. Totally agree with you. I’m glad we get at least 4 languages on my island. Because at a younger age its easier to learn. But glad you learned Chinese. Now can you teach me some?

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  2. This is 100% spot on! People totally appreciate you trying to learn their language and are more than happy to help you as you struggle through a conversation! I work at an intensive English language program so I get to deal with this on the opposite side every single day – and I love it!

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  3. Wow! That’s interesting! I know 4 languages but I also know it’s not easy to learn a completely different language after a certain age. Glad you accomplished it. Tell me one word in Chinese that has a wonderful meaning and is absent in English!

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  4. I totally agree with you! I studied Spanish and, while I never did an immersion program, I feel like the same thing applies even living somewhere that speaks the same language as you. For example, I moved from the US to the UK and, as I met more and more people, started noticing the difference in how things are phrased, as well as learning various ‘slang’ terms. So, even speaking the same language I’ve learned a ton by immersing myself, so I can’t even imagine how incredible it must’ve been to be in a totally new place!

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  5. YES! YES! YES! Every student who is going to be studying abroad needs to read this. One of my biggest regrets is not speaking Italian more when I was in Italy. I was “worried” to get the language wrong while there. If only I had done things differently I wonder how fluent I would be now.

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  6. Totally agree, there is no better way to learn a language than through a total immersion. I lived in France and was totally able to grasp the language and importantly, the nuances as well. The subtleties are best learned in context – in the country. Good for you for not only learning Chinese and for the connections and friendships you built!

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  7. This is great! I’ve been really meaning to learn french. I know a little bit but not fluently! After french I’d love to learn Spanish and then Greek as Greece is on my top 3 places to go! This post certainly makes it feel like it will be really rewarding to put the effort in!

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  8. Anya, so impressive learning Chinese! I love that study abroad is a universally amazing experience. I studied abroad in Siena, Italy and your story about the bus tickets is like a copy and paste of my life! Great post , Christine

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