MaureenGaelicThis week, I am publishing a guest post written by Lucia Leite of about learning a language through immersion. I have done this myself over the years, mainly when I was learning Italian. I was sent to Milan for work and my Italian was still quite basic at that time. After about 3 months of working all day, every day with Italian people and watching Italian TV in the evening as well as using my ‘Da Capo’ book for help with grammar, my Italian had become as fluent as my Spanish which was what I wanted.

Taking the Plunge: Learning a Language Through Immersion

Do you look back on grade school language classes and wish you would have paid attention more? Youre not alone. With an increasingly international focus on business and in other professional arenas, knowledge of two or more languages can present serious benefits. The job market of today is a competitive one, and you want to make yourself stand out. Textbook companies, online learning portals, and even phone apps have become ever popular in encouraging people to pick up a new language, no matter the level. Still, despite all of the formal language acquisition methods to parler français, sprechen sie deutsch or hablar en español, theres no parallel to full language immersion in order to master even the toughest of languages.

Nothing quite beats workbook homework like sipping wine across from the Trevi Fountain, learning to dance flamenco in the hills of Granada, or navigating the subway routes in Tokyo. The truth is, living or vacationing in a place void of your mother tongue will require stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to new lengths in order to understand and be understood. The benefits go on and on. Here are a few to keep in mind to help you get the ball rolling on your next big language adventure.

Learn in Ways You Never Thought You Would.

Have you ever thought of binge watching your favorite television show or streaming new music as homework? In fact, these are some of the best ways you can learn a new language. Maybe you dont have the time or resources to book your travels around the world just yet, but listening to music or watching programs in your target language can be hugely beneficial. If youre not totally confident in your skills yet, utilize subtitles (also in the target language) or take pauses in between to do some translation. Again, dont make total comprehension your first goal. Even for advanced speakers, training your ear to pick up on a new accent always takes some time. But with context clues, youll be on your way to understanding faster than you thought possible.

Your Language Comprehension Will Skyrocket.

Throwing yourself into the deep end with language learning is not always comfortable, but its sure to be rewarding. From daily activities like ordering a morning coffee, catching the bus, or shopping for clothes will force you to interact using new vocabulary and phrases. When youre first learning, its easy to be shy or feel embarrassed about making a mistake. But the more you focus on conveying and understanding main ideas rather than every small detail, the better apt youll be to excel. Language is like any skill that takes practice, and with a friendly demeanor, most locals are happy to help you along.

Accents Will Develop Naturally.

If youre used to practicing a new language via textbook material or online, its possible youve been spoiled with listening activities latent with slow speaking and standardized accents. When it comes to languages spoken all around the world, its only natural that regional dialects and accents  develop. Getting to know a new accent is a great way to feel more a part of local culture. At first it may be difficult if youre straining with the breezy relaxed accent of Andalucia or the blunt choppiness of speakers from Manhattan, but dont let yourself get discouraged.

You’ll Test Out Slang with the Locals.

Beyond simply tonal differences, youre sure to pick up on colloquial phrases as well.This can be anything from simple regional greetings and goodbyes or other situational phrases that will give you a deeper insight into the culture. Its another way to make language fun and new. Find local friends or set up a language exchange to perfect your skills and practice your slang and idioms. Locals will appreciate the effort youre making to talk just as a native speaker would.

You’ll Gain Appreciation for a New Culture.

Most importantly, learning a new language means access to a part of the world, group of people, and way of life that you may never have experienced had you not taken the time to give it a shot.

Learning a language in an immersive environment full of little victories and huge leaps forward will give you the confidence to try all sorts of new skill sets, language related or not, to go out and conquer. Its a leap of faith you wont regret.