Do you know how to swim?
The best way to learn how to swim is to jump into the water.
This is an equally good strategy for many other situations, including learning English.
If you’re trying to learn English, one of the most effective methods for learning is to surround yourself with the language. Just like when you’re learning how to swim, you’ll struggle a little at first, but soon you’ll find that you already know most of the skills you need to survive.
Once you realize that you can survive, you’ll learn even more—and before you know it, you’ll be understanding everything and speaking English like a native.
There’s a name for this method: The immersion method.
The immersion method of language learning believes you should immerse yourself (that is, surround yourself) with English—even when you’re not studying. You should do as much as you can in English. In English immersion classrooms, even other subjects are taught in English.
The best way to get this kind of complete immersion is to study or live abroad, but with a bit of effort you can find ways to bring immersion to your home. Surround yourself with English in your own home, and you’ll be learning English even faster.
The Benefits of English Immersion at Home
English immersion has many benefits. Bringing them home just makes them even more effective! Some reasons immersion is effective include:
- It makes you practice more: When you can only speak English, it gives you lots of real-world practice.
- It makes you practice passively: This means that even when you’re not sitting and studying, you’re getting the benefits since the language is all around you.
- It reinforces what you’ve learned: In other words, it has you use the things you’ve learned in conversation.
- It’s a natural way to learn: Children learn to speak by being surrounded by the language. They learn words and grammar structures by just listening to the speech around them. By using immersion, you’ll be learning in this way—without even realizing how much you’re actually learning.
Having an immersion environment at home means you don’t have to go anywhere to learn; you’re always surrounded by the English language when you’re home. It’s a fantastic way to get more English practice. But how do you turn your home into an immersion environment?
How to Create an English Immersion Environment at Home
1. Start with your devices.
What language is your Facebook set to? What about your phone?
Our Internet connection might come with us wherever we go, but it’s also become an important part of our home. So to create an English immersion environment at home, you need to start with your online presence.
It’s time to change your phone, browser and social media account languages to English. Doing so will keep the language always in front of you, and it’s a good way to learn some new words: you already know all the words in your language, and now you’ll see them in English.
Here are a few links to get you started:
- Change the Google search results language to English
- Change the language for individual apps you use from within the apps (if they support English, and most apps do!)
Congratulations, you’ve just taken the first step towards immersing yourself in English!
2. Use an English-to-English dictionary.
If you’ve been using an English dictionary with translations in your native language, switch to an English-to-English dictionary instead. These are the dictionaries that English speakers use to look up new words. Your goal is to use English all the time, and translating back and forth to a different language will hold you back.
We know some dictionaries use difficult words in the definitions, but there are plenty of excellent, English-learner friendly dictionaries for you to choose from.
- Vocabulary.com is a great resource with friendly definitions that use everyday words
- Merriam-Webster has a great learner’s dictionary
- You can find a list of other great dictionaries for your phone right here
For another easy way to learn about English words in English, you can check out Visual Thesaurus. This is a visual vocabulary tool that you can use to explore words that are similar to one another. Visual Thesaurus places words in “maps” to better show you the connections between words. Because the display is more visual, you can actually see how words relate to each other, even if you don’t understand everything you read.
3. Turn off the native language subtitles on English shows.
There’s no end to the fantastic English media you can watch. But the best way to really learn from all of these is to turn off the subtitles in your native language.
Instead, use English subtitles. Or better yet—use no subtitles!
It takes different parts of the brain to process written and spoken English, and by removing the subtitles altogether you’ll be giving your brain a workout. After all, there are no subtitles in real life. This will prepare you to understand real conversations.
Of course, it can be a little overwhelming to do this. What if you don’t understand what you’re hearing?
FluentU brings English content within reach, no matter your language level.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
4. Designate an “English only” space or time.
Are you planning to turn your entire house into an English immersion experience? Or can you only change a section of it?
The more space you have filled with English things, the more effective this learning method is. If your whole house can be filled with English books, movies, music and other materials, that’s the best possible situation.
If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of being constantly surrounded by English, you can choose a certain room in your house to turn into your learning area. Any time you enter that room, your brain will know that it’s time to switch to English.
You can also choose a certain time to switch to English instead of (or along with) a physical space. Choose one or two hours every day to immerse yourself in English. Then actually do it! That means for that hour or two, you can only speak, read and write in English.
You could fill this time with all things English: English books, English TV shows or even an English course that allows you to gain a skill while practicing English.
Take, for example, Creativa.
Creativa is an online course that allows you to speak English professionally and effortlessly by focusing on vital skills for business. Their first course—business for video calls—is divided into topics, which is perfect for English only time, and these topics include greetings and openings, the different parts of a business meeting, keeping the attention of your audience and talking about future plans and ideas.
It will be tough at first to have an English only time, but you’ll get used to it!
5. Fill your house with English reading materials.
What do you read in your spare time?
You might be in the middle of a good book. During quiet moments you might pick up a magazine you have lying around.
Now imagine how much English practice you would get if each of these books and magazines were in English! Go around your house and make a few changes:
- Replace some books and magazines with their English equivalents. You can check if a book has an English translation on Amazon. Some excellent books to have around your house are children’s books and recent bestselling novels. Some examples of excellent English books to have are “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Hunger Games.” Both are popular book series that you might have even read in your native language!
- Get a subscription to a new magazine or newspaper in English. You can find some great ideas for English magazines for any interest in this article. The British newspaper The Guardian delivers to a number of other countries, while some services like this one let you have newspapers delivered nearly anywhere in the world. Many magazines like the classic TIME Magazine only deliver to the US, but you can also find digital versions on the app store on iOS or Google Play.
If you are in the US, Magazine Line is a cheaper option for finding and subscribing to magazines. They offer big discounts (savings) on a lot of popular English-language magazines, and sometimes more if you happen to be a college student.
- If you can, get English products and brands, too! Even simple items like instant oatmeal or cereal are excellent because they use easy-to-understand instructions and other writing. You might not think something like the back of a cereal box will help you learn English, but many childhood mornings in English households are spent reading them.
Change your home (or a special area of your home) into an English household. Your goal is to see English all around you!
6. Find friends to learn with you.
Learning alone is fine, but learning with someone else is even better.
Get a friend or two to work with you on your new English immersion project, and you’ll all benefit. You’ll help each other follow the rules (like pointing out when you cheated and used your native language for a word you don’t remember!) and make the learning process more fun.
If none of your friends are learning English, you can find someone online to speak with through a language exchange program. Find an online English tutor and ask them to only speak English with you.
Don’t know how to do this? Verbling can help. Verbling specializes in helping you find the perfect online language teacher for you. You can have your lessons right there on their site, so you don’t need to worry about meeting up on Skype or another outside platform.
If you live in the US and you would like to hire a teacher near you to speak English with you in person, Wyzant is a great resource for finding English tutors in your area. A lot of the tutors on this site have professional certifications, so this is an especially good option for students studying for college admissions exams or other tests.
The more people you have working with you on your English immersion, the easier it will become.
7. Make notes in English.
What language do you use to make notes? If you usually write your notes in your native language, it’s time to change that, too.
Use English when you’re writing anything down, from your shopping list to your learning notes. Define vocabulary words in English (remember to use those English-to-English dictionaries).
Any time you write anything down, try to do it in English. Since you’re already using your speaking skills with learning partners and your reading skills with the items around your house and your digital devices, making notes in English will use your writing skills.
You don’t need to write essays or paragraphs. You’d be surprised at how effective just making one-word or two-word notes can be for learning English.
8. Label everything.
Speaking of notes, make a few and stick them around your house!
Label household appliances and furniture if you have trouble remembering their names in English. Put a note that says “toilet” on the toilet, or a note that says “mirror” on your bedroom mirror. One easy way to get started is to order the English-language sticker set from Vocabulary Stickers. This set includes colorful labels of the most common English words for objects around your home and office. Vocabulary Stickers are delivered with free shipping worldwide, so you won’t pay extra no matter where you are.
Tape a list of vocabulary words on your bathroom door so you can study them whenever you have a few minutes.
Put a list of room-related words in each room. Or just leave random vocabulary words in places you’ll see them, like above your coffee machine. Even if you don’t read these words, you’ll see them and your brain will remember “Oh yeah, we’re using English now.”
9. Play audio in English.
Your home’s English transformation (change) is almost finished! Add one final step and you’ll be ready to learn through immersion: turn on some English audio.
Play English music, listen to your favorite English podcast or just tune in to an English radio station.
Leave this audio playing in the background (as long as the background noise doesn’t distract your thinking). This will work the same way as labeling. You’ll be learning English without even thinking about it as you go about your daily life.
10. Think in English.
The final step is up to you. Once your house is prepared, your goal is to start thinking in English. This isn’t always easy, and it will take some extra effort on your part. Instead of translating everything in your mind, try to use English.
If you have trouble with this, start with a few minutes a day. Spend some time every morning planning your day in English, or spend some time in the evening thinking about how your day went.
The more time you spend inside your English-only space, the easier it will get to think in English. And once you’re thinking in English, you’ve made one huge step towards speaking like a native.
Finished? Look around you.
It’s almost like you’ve moved abroad to an English-speaking country, isn’t it?
It won’t always be easy, especially in the beginning.
But if you work hard at keeping the English immersion in your home, you’ll learn English a lot more effectively!
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