How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

General discussion about learning languages
golyplot
Orange Belt
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Languages: English (N), German, French, ASL (abandoned), Spanish, Dutch
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby golyplot » Thu Aug 01, 2019 4:19 am

I've achieved decent listening skills in several languages with no native speaker interaction, just by watching lots and lots of TV. The only thing you really need native speakers for is to practice speaking/writing.
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Cavesa
Black Belt - 3rd Dan
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Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (passive advanced, active basic)
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Re: How far can you progress without immersion of some sort?

Postby Cavesa » Mon Aug 05, 2019 1:14 am

sirgregory wrote:The question raised here is an interesting one: What happens when this immersive period is reduced to zero? Or, a bit differently, what can be achieved without interacting with any native speakers? I would not presume to declare what is possible, but I will say that the typical experience will be for people to plod along in stage one and never learn the language.

Up until my C2, I had rather rare opportunities to meet any real natives. Some basic interactions during my touristy trips to France, a few conversations with classmates in Berlin (we were all there to learn German. Well, this speaks a lot about several things :-D ). So, you can become damn good without immersion. Not perfect, but definitely ready to function like a normal person, when you get there. I definitely don't regret having achieved C2 before going on an Erasmus instead of lazily waiting and then just partying instead of real learning at the university.

The main problem of most people in the typical situation is not lack of immersion. Most people give up long before having learnt the basics properly. The typical "successful learner" will pass the minimum requirement at school and never get much further than what life forces them to. It is not just lack of an opportunity to go abroad, in most cases it is also not that much hard work or not too good teaching. The exception are people who devour tons of input and substitute the classical in country immersion (available just to few) by movies, tv series, computer games, and so on. Those tend to understand and speak the language much better than their seemingly more responsibly studying peers. :-)

The modern age of copious multimedia of course opens up additional possibilities. One could in theory imbibe thousands of hours of native speech. Could this do the job? Or is actual interaction in the language an essential ingredient? I don't know. But I suspect it would be difficult for most people to endure that much media, especially with no external pressure or necessity.


No, not much of a problem. Just look at the Super Challenge. If you pick the right content, spending time on this actually becomes easy. Really, I had very little "actual interaction" between my B2 and C2 French, a few hours. But I read over 10000 pages of books, and watched over 250 hours of tv series and movies. It turned out fine. And I am seeing the effects on my other languages too. My main problem is not too little media (I am actually a bit of a tv series addict, now that I think of it), nor it is lack of interaction. My weak link in the chain is usually too little actual study these days. Real studying (just opening the less fun book and doing the exercises) is beneficial not only to beginners and it is a very common problem holding people back even at a higher level than what I suppose is your phase one.

The best motivation to devour that much media is very simple. Fun. :-)

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying real immersion in the country is a bad thing. It can be awesome (if the person is not lazy to also actually study and if they use their opportunity right and avoid other non natives like a plague) and extremely helpful. But if immersion was the only way, success would be possible just for a tiny minority of people rich enough to pay for this (or with rich enough parents). That is 1.not true 2.a harmful myth discouraging lots of people.

Devouring tons of media instead is a wonderful alternative the internet and the 21st century have brought us. Efficient and much more widely accessible. Suddenly, the financial threshold to success is much lower. And if someone cannot bring themselves to use this opportunity (I know such people. They have very active life styles and consider just reading books or watching tv for fun to be a waste of time. They prefer just paying lots of money to tutors and progress worse than the people having fun usually), it is just their problem. It says nothing about the method being better or worse.
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