How to Learn a Language with Immersion and Formal Study

There are two basic ways of learning a language: immersion, which is simply observing and imitating speakers of the language, picking it up as a child would, and formal study, which is learning the vocabulary and grammar of a language through rote learning. Immersion speakers tend to be more fluid with the language and have less noticeable accents, while students of formal learning tend to pick up words more quickly and have a wider vocabulary range. Combining the two methods is generally the most effective way of learning.


  1. Image titled Learn a Language with Immersion and Formal Study Step 1
    Decide which language you wish to learn and then which dialect. Usually languages spoken over several countries will have distinct dialects with differing accents and vernacular. For example: English has three main dialects, North American, European and Australian. While the grammar and vocabulary of each dialect will generally be interchangeable the pronunciation and slang will not.
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    Purchase your learning materials. For the formal learning aspect pick several different books to study from. Different authors have different ideas of what is important in a language and you may understand the explanations in one book better than those in another. Buy books that focus more on vocabulary than grammar. While you will need to see the rules most of your grammar learning will come from the immersion part of your studies. If you are an auditory learner or spend a lot of time in the car you may want to look into audio programs, or programs with an audio component. Take notes during the lesson and when you're done write a page or two of what you've learned as if you are teaching it to another. Write the new vocabulary words with their definitions ten times each. Make flash cards of the words as well.
  3. Image titled Learn a Language with Immersion and Formal Study Step 3
    Listen to the language you wish to learn. This process will help familiarize you with the sounds of the language and makes learning grammar much easier as you will become familiar with the structure of sentences in your language of choice. You should be able to find several options for television and radio programs via internet search.
    • Begin by simply listening in your spare time, such as while driving or cleaning the house. You don't have to actively pay attention to the program but make it loud enough to be able to clearly hear what's being said. News programs are best for early stages; it's easy to determine what country the program originates in and anchors tend to speak slower and more clearly with good pronunciation and without heavy accents or use of slang. Plan to use this as "background noise" the entire time you are learning the language, starting at the very beginning.
    • When you begin to understand phrases and words set aside a quarter hour or so to be still and pay attention to the program. Really listen to what is being said and take notes of phrases or words that you notice but don't understand to look up later. Gradually increase this active learning time to about an hour every other day while still listening casually in your spare time.
    • When you understand the majority of what is being said on the news programs switch to movies and soap operas, or other entertainment shows. This is where you'll learn to speak "like a native" and begin to pick up common expressions.
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    Write in the language. While you are learning vocabulary begin learning the alphabet, if there is one. This is a first step to reading in the language.
    • In addition to journaling your lessons practice writing in the language's alphabet. Every day write your vocabulary list with the other alphabet and write short passages in English using the foreign letters. This will help you to associate the letters with the sounds that they make.
    • Begin making short journal entries in the new language. Use the dictionary to help you write a paragraph about what you've done that day.
    • When the journal assignment becomes easy begin writing short stories and poems in the language using its alphabet. This helps you to learn to think in the language and makes speaking it more fluid.
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    Read in the language. If your language of choice has its own alphabet wait until you're familiar with its writing system before beginning this step.
    • Start off small; if you have access to children's books use them, otherwise get a subscription to a newspaper or magazine in the new language and use your dictionary to read short passages. News and magazine stories tend to be short and concise with simple language so they are an ideal starting place.
    • When you can read this with relative ease move up to short novels that you've already read in your own language. Books written for young adults are a good option but anything that isn't too long should suffice.
    • As you grow accustomed to reading in the language you can move on to longer books that you haven't read. At this point you should be about finished with the language learning books and can take your vocabulary from what you're reading. As you go note words that are unfamiliar, look them up and make them into flashcards. Reading in a language helps by reinforcing vocabulary and grammar and teaching you to think in the new language which will help fluency in speaking.


  • Set an alarm for when you want to study. If you're already up to turn off the alarm you'll be much more likely to go in to your desk to study. Also setting a timer for an hour can prevent you from breaking your concentration every few minutes to check how much time you have left.
  • Keep the flashcards handy and when you have a spare moment pull them out to review.
  • Find a native speaker to converse with. This will reinforce what you've learned and after you've reached some proficiency in the language will prevent you from forgetting the fundamentals.
  • Keep your supplies together in one place. It's hard to read a book when you don't know where it is and having to look for it can become an excuse not to study at all.
  • Application is key to success in any endeavor, including learning a language. Expect to spend at least one hour every day, preferably two split into morning and night sessions.
  • Don't skip lessons that you already know. Being able to breeze through an entire chapter may seem like a waste of time but it builds confidence and review is always valuable. Besides, there may be one or two new vocabulary words you've never seen.


  • Learning a language takes time and dedication. If you don't have either of these things don't waste your money on the supplies; flipping through a book for a quarter hour every other week will never produce fluency.

Things You'll Need

  • A two-way foreign language dictionary
  • Three to five language learning books, preferably by different authors
  • Separate book for learning the language's alphabet(s), if there is one
  • Notebooks
  • Newspapers and novels in the language you wish to learn.

Article Info

Categories: World Languages