What if I told you that a lot of the things you think you know about language immersion are wrong?
That language immersion does not mean being surrounded by a language.
Or spending money on endless courses.
Or even having to go abroad!
Would you believe me?
I haven’t gone nuts. I stand by my words.
Spanish learners, hear me out: Immersion is not simply being surrounded by a foreign language and it definitely does not imply having to live abroad for a few months if that is not what you want to do.
Learning Spanish through immersion takes much more than that.
In this post, you will discover how to create an immersive Spanish environment, whether that is abroad or in your own home.
Take a deep breath and let’s dive into the world of immersive Spanish learning!
What Does It Mean to Learn Spanish Through Immersion?
Believe it or not, learning Spanish with immersion is not something that is new to you.
See, we have all already gone through at least one process of language immersion in our lives. That is how we learned our native language.
Ever since we were born, all we would hear was our native languages. Our parents would feed us, play with us and teach us in their native tongues.
And what were we doing in the meantime? Exactly.
We were eating, crying, smiling, sleeping… living, in a word. Living in that language.
And that is what immersion is. It is not only being surrounded by a language.
It is living the language.
Doing everything you would do in your mother tongue, just using different words.
So, as I said, immersion goes beyond being abroad or buying an expensive course in a language school nearby just to hear a teacher talk to you in Spanish.
Immersion means taking action and jumping into the language, without hesitation.
Can You Really Learn Spanish with Immersion?
As I have just stated, we are living proof of it. We took our very first immersion course when we were growing up, and look at us now, all mighty and native in our own language.
Granted, children’s brains are ever-thristy sponges that are built to absorb information like languages. But nothing is impossible. If you get yourself immersed and living in Spanish, you will be successful sooner or later. It all depends on you!
When I moved to Barcelona, I knew a total of zero words in Catalan. Fast-forward three months and not a single native was able to guess I had just immersed myself so deeply in the language that I was able to achieve an almost native level in a couple of months. By myself. At 22!
If I can do it, anyone can. Anyone.
So yes, language immersion works, and it works wonders. You just need to set your mind to it and jump.
Not sure how to get started? Keep reading this post! It contains plenty of information on how to learn Spanish through immersion.
What Types of Spanish Immersion Are There?
Depending on how you look at immersion, there are a few different types:
1. Abroad vs. in your home country
2. Early vs. late immersion (depending on whether you start as a child or as an adult)
3. Total vs. partial immersion (depending on whether you have all your classes in your target language or just a few)
Regardless of the type of immersion you choose or are able to commit to, they have one thing in common: They all give priority to contact with the target language.
It is up to you to decide if you want to go abroad, go for a course nearby, be immersed for one or 24 hours a day. The more you expose yourself to the language and live it in your daily life, the better your results will be.
In this post, I will give you four ways of getting that Spanish immersion experience you are looking for.
Check your needs and resources and choose the one(s) that work best for you.
Get ready to jump!
4 Ways to Learn Spanish with Immersion and Live the Language
I have divided my list of immersive techniques into four big groups: Immersion abroad, immersion at home, immersion at work and immersion during your free time.
Feel free to mix them up and use as many techniques as you want. The more, the better!
1. Spanish Immersion Abroad
It should not come as a surprise that the first place we look for in order to find a real language immersion is abroad.
Moving (temporarily or not) to the country where your target language is spoken is still, without a doubt, the most common way of achieving real immersion.
It is arguably the best option if you need quick results in a short amount of time, but it is likewise the hardest and more expensive one.
Moving to another country, be it for study, work or just a holiday, is not a walk in a park, especially if your goal is to learn some Spanish along the way and feel the immersion vibe.
Booking a holiday can be easy enough, sure, but what about those people who are looking for the real deal?
If you are serious about learning Spanish through immersion abroad and are ready to take the plunge, here are some sites that can help you find the right program for you:
This awesome website offers up to 11 ways of getting you immersed! Just click on the “Choose Experience” tab to see the menu unfold and pick the one you are interested in.
Once you have chosen the type of adventure you want to embark on, it is time to select the destination and the language you want to learn (Spanish, presumably). You can also just browse programs and courses, job offers, etc. It all depends on what you are looking for!
Do not miss this page if you really want to go abroad and learn Spanish like I did when I was a child: full immersion mode, on!
Agualivar allows you to feel what real immersion home-stay means.
You will be living with a family, who will also be your teacher. This way, you can be sure you will be getting the input you need every step of the way.
Besides, the lessons are tailored to cover your specific needs, so everyone gets their own adventure.
The groups are super small, and the school makes sure the immersion experience is lived to the fullest.
If you have always wanted to visit Spain and learn Spanish at the same time, apply right away!
It is official, you are visiting Europe!
I know how my American friends dream of visiting the old continent and getting to know what Europe has to offer. Dream no more, just do it!
EUROACE offers many different options you can take advantage of in order to get immersed and learn Spanish in no time. From internships to custom-made Spanish courses adapted to your very own needs, EUROACE is the place you need to go to if you want to experience Europe while learning the language of your dreams.
With StudyAbroad.com you can find everything you need to get fully immersed with just a couple of clicks.
Search by country, duration or language by clicking on one of the respective tabs and the full list of programs meeting your criteria will appear in a sec!
There is also a section with resources (articles, blogs and a student guide) and another one dedicated exclusively to scholarships. It is a must-see if you want to save a few coins while learning Spanish abroad.
2. Spanish Immersion at Home
Not all of us need or are able to afford a trip abroad in order to learn Spanish, but that does not mean we cannot make ourselves our own immersion swimming-pools at home and jump in as often as we want.
Here are some ways to transform your house into a Spanish-speaking foreign country.
“Spanishize” your house
Have you ever heard of “post-it-ing” your house?
In order to fill your house with Spanish, the only thing you need is a whole lot of post-its. Seriously!
Stick one to every single possible object and surface you can. This way, every time you look in a certain direction, you will automatically see the name of the object in Spanish, memorizing it without even being aware of it.
Think and live in Spanish
As I said at the beginning of this post, the real secret to getting a genuine immersion is by living in the language you want to learn. Leave your shyness behind and start talking to yourself in Spanish, loud and proud!
Are you going to do the dishes? Then say: Voy a lavar los platos. Do you want to go to sleep? Tell yourself: Me voy a dormir.
This can even be more fun if you are living with someone since you can decide to only talk to each other in Spanish, or pretend you do not know any other languages.
Additionally, think in Spanish every time you are able to. This will help you incredibly since you will get out of the habit of translating to your native language. As an added bonus, your inner voice will develop a Spanish accent!
Make the grocery shopping list in Spanish, leave notes for your mom both in Spanish and your native language… Do anything you would normally do, but do it (and experience it) in Spanish!
Read and watch the news in Spanish
If you traveled to a Spanish-speaking country right now, the majority of TV channels would offer only Spanish news and programs. The same would happen if you bought a Spanish newspaper or read one online.
You can recreate a foreign-country-like experience by only watching the news (or any other program you may like, for that matter) in Spanish.
Access only the Spanish versions of newspapers and websites online, and even if you do not understand a single word, do not be tempted by the English versions; pretend that the Spanish version of each news outlet is the only window to the world you can access at the moment.
Listen to Spanish podcasts and radio
A great way to practice your listening and comprehension skills is by listening to podcasts and radio programs in Spanish.
There are plenty of podcasts that are made fully in Spanish, and there are certainly hundreds of radio stations in Spanish where you can listen to anything from Latin music to religious sermons.
You make the choices, but make them in Spanish!
Write and read in Spanish
As I mentioned earlier in this post, any chance is a great chance to write in Spanish. Grocery-shopping lists and notes are just the beginning. You can also journal in Spanish, write letters to friends in Spanish-speaking countries, or find chats online where you can practice your writing skills.
The same goes for reading books and ebooks. Whenever possible, try to read the Spanish or at least bilingual version of your next book.
You may not be able to grasp everything at first, but no one said immersion was going to be easy. You really need to pretend you are not home and make believe that you have no access to English if there is a Spanish option available.
Cook in Spanish
This is fairly easy. Buy some Spanish cuisine books or find recipes online, and cook! The books and recipes should be in Spanish, naturally, or else you will have to translate them first, then cook!
There are millions of recipes in Spanish on the internet. Just choose the main ingredient you want to use (for example pescado — fish), and search for recetas con pescado (fish recipes) on Google. Prepare to become a Spanish chef in no time!
Speak in Spanish
You have decided to stay home, but that does not mean that you cannot have direct contact with native speakers of Spanish. Find a language exchange partner who is willing to teach you Spanish while you teach them your native language. This two-way street is the most efficient since both of you will be engaged and wanting to learn.
If you can, opt for speaking only in Spanish or your native language during each meeting. So, if it is your time to learn, only Spanish can be used between you two. If it is their time, use only the language they are learning.
You will really feel like you are having a coffee in Colombia with a local on a summer afternoon.
3. Spanish Immersion at Work
Some of us have to go to work every day, making it difficult, if not impossible, to be able to afford a trip abroad or have a few hours of study at home.
If this is your situation, you can try to make the most out of your time before and during work. Here’s how:
Make your commute Spanish
If you have to commute every morning, using this time to get immersed in some Spanish good stuff is a great idea.
If you drive to work, just listen to an audio-book or some podcast you were not able to finish the night before. If you use public transportation, take a Spanish book with you or read the news in Spanish on your phone.
There are only limitations if you believe there are!
Make your work environment Spanish
Have some post-its left over from your home post-it spree? Stick them around your desk on objects you see and use every day. You can also change the language of your computer to Spanish, try to write notes in Spanish whenever possible… The possibilities of using Spanish while at work are numerous!
There may even be a co-worker who is willing to learn Spanish and wants to get immersed with you. You can both pretend to be Spanish speakers and have any and all conversations or correspondence between you two in Spanish.
Maybe you can even find a native Spanish speaker in the office who is willing to speak and correspond with you in their language.
The more, the merrier!
Take advantage of work perks for language learners
Many companies offer free or very cheap language courses to their employees. Use them!
This may not be the best way of getting a real sense of language immersion, but any contact with the language you want to learn is one step ahead on your way to fluency.
Volunteer to contact Spanish clients
Do you have some free time and are willing to talk Spanish with real-life native speakers? Then volunteer to call or contact Spanish clients! Your manager or boss will be glad to have someone help out and you will be secretly using those calls or emails in order to get closer to your target language. It is win-win!
Who knows? Maybe your clients or your boss will be so happy with your work that they will offer some kind of raise or other benefits!
4. Spanish Immersion in Your Free Time
Not all of us have plenty of free time to spare. However, everyone has 10 or 15 minutes every day to just sit and do nothing. Why not use those 15 minutes to jump into the immersion pool?
FluentU is the ultimate language-learning app. It uses real-world videos like inspirational talks, news segments, movie trailers, music videos and more in order to teach you real Spanish produced by real Spanish people.
The program’s subtitles are interactive, so you can be sure you are understanding everything along the way—just tap on or hover over any word as the video plays to see a definition and sample sentence, and even see it in use in other videos.
FluentU’s algorithm also remembers what you have already learned, and offers you personalized content that is not only appropriate for your level, but also adapted to your tastes!
If you are feeling brave enough, you can even take some quizzes or have fun with the thousands of flashcards available. The sky is the limit, and the goal? Immersion!
Surf the internet in Spanish
You have already changed the system language to Spanish, but what about having Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or any other social media you use translated into Spanish?
This may seem a little bit chaotic at first, but you will get the hang of it very quickly. Besides, everywhere you look, you will see Spanish words, which will give you a real feeling of immersion.
Mix this with some Spanish music or a podcast playing in the background, and you will have a powerful combination that is very difficult to beat.
Keep up with your hobbies in Spanish
Whatever you are into, do it in Spanish.
Find Spanish forums and blogs and connect with people who like the same stuff you do. Buy the Spanish version of that game you have always wanted to try. Go wild and buy a Spanish cookbook in Spanish, then try your best to make an edible tortilla!
Feed your hobbies, and feed them in Spanish. Every little bit counts when it comes to learning Spanish through immersion.
Attend Spanish events
This may be a little bit difficult if you live far from a big city, but nowadays it is possible to find multiple Spanish events all around the world, and especially in the States.
Whether it is an exhibition, a charity or just a gathering, Spanish-speaking people living outside their home countries tend to be very active and participate massively in these kinds of local events.
This is your perfect opportunity to hear some native Spanish live and make a few friends who can help you improve your language skills. Worth it!
Use Netflix to your advantage
Do you have Netflix? Then start watching Spanish series and movies!
Ideally, you should find a series that is both interesting and originally in Spanish (like “La Casa de Papel” — “Money Heist”). Turn Spanish subtitles on so you can listen and read at the same time. This is one of the best ways to get a real immersion experience!
You do not have to understand everything. The important part here is to keep being in contact with the language, interact with it and make it yours by applying it to every aspect of your life.
As you can see, learning Spanish with immersion is only difficult if you think it is.
Going abroad is a great option for those who can afford it, but it is not always possible. Thanks to this post, now you know where to find an excellent study abroad program as well as how to get a real sense of immersion while staying home, going to work or just relaxing during your free time.
Stay curious, my friends, and as always, happy learning!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.