Educational Theory of the Month: The Immersive Method
The ‘immersive’ method when I first heard it got me thinking about jumping into the sea. You look at the sea, people can tell you that it’s cold, or that if you just jump in it’ll be okay, or if you breathe deeply it will feel warmer faster… but really, it’s not until you actually jump into the sea and start swimming that you get through the fear and know what it’s like.
You can imagine immersive language learning a little like this. You can learn the grammar rules and practise simple sentences, but it is not until you are forced to communicate only in the language that you really start to know how it works, what the intonation is like, how culture affects language, and how to communicate with others. Like jumping into the cold sea, the initial preparation can ground you, but is no comparison to the real experience. It is important to know the skills and the tips and the grounding, but unless you’ve experienced it, the theory on its own isn’t going to make much of an impact.
The immersive method became a popular teaching practise during the 1960s when parents in Canada wanted their children to speak French all the time during class to help them become bilingual. The practice proved to be so effective it quickly spread across classroom settings globally. Classes can have a varying amount of immersion, some schools offer half immersion, meaning half of the class is taught in the first language, half only in the taught language. Other immersive courses require the student to travel to a country where the language is spoken to have a lived-in experience. At IQBar we practice 100% immersion, but from the comfort of the Bready’s own home, so Breadies are lovingly thrown into the deep end and can develop their new language in manageable chunks throughout the week.
Benefits of the immersive method
Mimicking first language learning
The biggest positive of immersive learning is that it mimics first language learning. Like a toddler learning from their mother, Breadies have no option but to speak and try to understand the English through necessity, meaning the process of learning is faster. The immersive method means Breadies can see English as a language of communication, rather than just a principle.
More time to practise
IQBar sessions are also often the only time Breadies have access to native or high-proficiency English speakers, so the twenty-five/thirty-minute session is invaluable time to feel confident conversing in English.
One of the biggest challenges when learning a new language is having the confidence to actually speak it when faced with a native/fluent speaker. You will often find British people who spent years learning French or German at school for example, feeling simply mortified at the prospect of speaking French to an actual French or German person. At IQBar, Breadies only face native or fluent speakers which means in order to learn they have to break through that fear and understand that speaking English to native or fluent speakers, or simply new people, can be a fun and enriching experience.
Understanding how language works in practise
Whilst learning a language in lessons using native language teaches you the fundamentals of the lingo, it does not prepare you for the quirks of the language in action. This includes anything from exactly how intonation works, or how the language may change in real life. By communicating with teachers who speak native English, these more unconscious, natural parts of a language can be gained and practised too. My own personal example comes from my husband whose first language is Indonesian and has been visiting the UK for the last month or so. He explained to me that he was a bit surprised at how much we used the conditional, for example, if a friend was explaining something that happened that nearly went wrong, friends would often say ‘oh my god, that would have been awful’, or for something someone wished they’d done, a member of the groups would exclaim ‘Oh, that would have been brilliant!’ Whilst my husband knew how the conditional worked from study at school, it was the immersive practise in the UK that helped him understand that it was a much more popular practise here than he realised in lessons, and a grammar form which is used far more than in his own language. For me, it has made me realise that in the UK lots of people like to speculate and imagine what could/would have been!
The immersive method at IQBar then, is focused on getting our Breadies to feel as comfortable as possible speaking English with a focus on expanding on content to get Breadies speaking more, allowing Breadies to make their mistakes and develop a sense of familiarity with speaking English.
How do you think an immersive approach helps in your classroom? Let us know!
Immersive learning at IQBar
The immersive method at IQBar works as courses are developed so learners gradually increase their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar using the spiral curriculum explored in last month’s newsletter. This gradual acquisition of knowledge is constantly practised throughout sessions as all conversation is in English.
We can make sure this is effective across levels by remembering to converse in English appropriate for Breadies.
Young Breadies with limited English, for example, should only be introduced to very simple sentences and vocabulary, backed up with lots of gestures, props and actions to help convey meaning. This means remembering not to use incidental language (there is a vlog you can watch about this from kyle at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQBZjI-X5-8&list=PLf71aJ_WRJvlgspIhwXCAjyqFSsupFoHb&index=34 which confuses Breadies, or tenses and sentence structures that are too advanced.
For Breadies of all ages and stages, this also means remembering to practise what has been learnt in previous lessons, but applying it to your conversation of the day, making it a natural part of the conversation.