French immersion is a form of learning whereby students completely surround themselves by the language, either abroad by living and working in a country whose primary language is French, at a study program in one of these countries, or at an educational retreat in their home country.
Immersion works by ensuring that a student's mind is completely focused on learning French, stopping them from using their native tongue – as many have discovered throughout history, using English while learning can cause setbacks, halting the memorization of vocabulary and syntax. For French beginners, this can be very useful.
While language classes and their associated homework often making up a large portion of the immersion learner's time, part of the joy of this strategy is that students can live like a French person, enjoying and understanding the culture and society of their chosen French-speaking nation.
Being able to speak with locals also lets students hone their conversational skills, and opens their minds to new words, expressions and phrases they might not have otherwise learnt if they were working from, say, a textbook.
Living with other students, immersion programs are exciting and enjoyable. French is learned as a group, and given that everyone is in the same boat, learners are surrounded by opportunities to help one another out.
While French is the only language that's spoken, and some schools administer penalties in order to uphold this rule, in reality this aspect isn't half as harsh as it sounds – it's surprising how quickly the basics of a language can be picked up.
As with any means of learning, French language immersion has both benefits and drawbacks, and it's important to understand these before embarking on an immersion course.
Firstly, some French immersion vacations can cost a lot of money, sometimes in the thousands. The cost does change depending on the provider, quality of accommodation, number of lesson hours and so on, but if you've not got much spare cash, studying at home or living and working in a French country could be a better option.
Next, immersion programs are intensive by nature. If you're averse to being academic, working lots of hours of the day, then immersion probably isn't for you.
Weigh that against the many benefits of immersion: Right off the bat, French immersion is one of the fastest ways to learn French. You're surrounded by the language 24/7, forcing your brain's language-processing centers to adapt to the challenge.
It's also fun. Meeting new people, exploring a new and exciting place – these are the reasons that many people want to learn French in the first place, so why not combine the two from the get-go?
If you think that French immersion might be for you, there are many options when it comes to choosing your particular program. Dotted across France and other French-speaking countries are schools that offer the chance to learn French abroad – a quick search online and you'll be able to find hundreds offering trips. The same goes for learning in your home country.
Immersion programs cater for all sorts of people of many different backgrounds. You can enjoy a group learning experience with friends, work while in the country in order to support yourself and cut down on the costs, or enjoy a study vacation of sorts, kicking back and exploring the foreign country during your evenings and days off.
Alternatively, you can jump in the deep end and go your own way, working small jobs as you travel across a country, all the while talking to people, making new friends, and honing your French language skills in a free-form manner. This particular immersion strategy isn't for the faint-hearted, but can be hugely rewarding, or immensely enjoyable when undertaken with friends.
Learning French in an immersive fashion is one of the best ways to study, and one of the reasons why Rosetta Stone's language learning packages are designed with immersion in mind. If you want to give French a go, download our app and take a free demo today.
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