The science behind language immersion: how and why it works

By Famworld
The science behind language immersion: how and why it works

Language immersion is based on the idea that the active use of a foreign language in a variety of real-life circumstances and contexts is the best way to learn it. This method has several advantages. Accelerates learning and helps improve oral expression, promotes cognitive growth, improves memory and problem solving ability. It can also help increase cultural understanding and empathy, helping students have a greater awareness and respect for other cultures.

The benefits are obvious and have been noted by students who have chosen this method to accelerate the acquisition of a higher language level. Research on education itself, thanks to numerous studies collected over almost half a century, has demonstrated improvements in several respects. Not only language development, but also achievements in education, work and cognition. This means that linguistic immersion is able to stimulate the mental and emotional sphere, promoting a different use of brain areas and encouraging the expression of hidden potential. Our brain is much more elastic than it seems and it doesn't matter if we are 10, 20 or 30 years old. If stimulated correctly, he is able to learn English at any age.

The science of language immersion

There are numerous researches that have discovered how studying a foreign language is able to modify brain mechanisms. For many years, scientists have examined bilingual individuals, including using specific tests such as magnetic resonance imaging. They discovered interesting differences in them compared to monolingual individuals, in particular a higher concentration of neurons and connections. Furthermore, the nervous system connecting the four lobes of the brain is more developed, a sign that the various parts work together more effectively. It is a clear demonstration that a greater linguistic exposure corresponds to a modification and improvement of the cognitive faculties.

A 2008 study conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle showed that this brain dynamism is also common in adults. Having found electrical activity located in different parts of the study and exercises, these researchers concluded that active exposure to a foreign language causes a change in the structure and functioning of the brain, at any age.

This dispels the myth, or excuse, that some students make, that as they are no longer children, their ability to absorb knowledge is limited. Every individual, even adults and the elderly, is able to learn and can benefit from studying. Obviously these advantages are maintained with regular practice and gaining new experiences, two factors that can be combined thanks to some modalities of linguistic immersion, such as in an English stay. The latter is in fact the most popular learning experience for students, who prefer it to more traditional ones such as summer English courses.

The psychology of language immersion

In addition to improving cognitive skills such as memory, concentration and problem solving, language immersion also has psychological benefits by establishing a mental connection between the student's experiences. It enables people to use language in everyday situations, which leads to the development of positive associations between language and feelings of success. This stimulates a fulfilling experience, instills self-confidence and promotes self-esteem. These qualities are especially important in younger students, especially those who suffer from insecurity. Thanks to these links, the foreign language will be more likely to be remembered, creating an optimal circuit for improving English in record time.

By offering comprehensive exposure to the local context and culture, a stay in English also fosters cultural knowledge and empathy. New people, places and situations can also stimulate autonomy. Young people, facing an experience alone for the first time, find themselves relying only on their own abilities and, seeing the results, they acquire the confidence and courage to face new challenges.

Other benefits of language immersion

Given the direct effects on brain activity, it is easy to understand why bilingual individuals have more pronounced skills such as creativity, memory and a better attention span.

This also has an impact on academic results, as they are general learning faculties useful in various contexts. And it's true for adults too, who can benefit from regular study to keep their memory sharp. In fact, it has been shown that practicing constantly promotes the ability to remember in the short and long term, so students can also take advantage of this aspect to study with less difficulty and improve academic performance.

A better attention span also stimulates active listening, which is essential for developing understanding and communication skills.

Other studies have instead found a relationship between exposure to language and creativity. The increase in this quality seems to be due to some exercises such as translating texts or speaking with native speakers. In fact, in such situations the mind is driven to find the most suitable words to convey a message, which implies knowing how to adapt thoughts in a less expensive and more immediate way.

A holiday in English as a linguistic and cultural immersion experience

All the benefits on the cognitive and psychological sphere that we have seen so far make linguistic immersion an experience capable of increasing training, relationship skills and working life. It is the most complete form of learning, therefore it is also the one capable of offering the greatest benefits. Among the various experiences, that of the holiday in English is typically the most widespread and the one preferred by students' families. A study trip offers young people the opportunity to practice their English in real-life scenarios, such as ordering at a restaurant, asking for directions or participating in group activities. And it also allows you to deal with new life situations and people. It may be difficult to live and interact in a new and unfamiliar environment at first. But those who participate in this type of adventure may find that they are more resilient and resourceful as they get used to their new surroundings.

Ultimately, an English placement can be a very effective approach to learning a new language and honing a range of personal talents. Individuals can develop a greater knowledge and appreciation of a new culture as well as new points of view and ways of thinking.

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