Language Learning

By Elizabeth Gregory

I have studied 3 foreign languages, taught 2 languages, and have also participated in immersion programs for 2 different languages. For Spanish, I took 6 years of classroom instruction here in the US and spent one semester in Spain in an immersion program. I can honestly say that I learned more in the 4 months I was in country than the 6 years of classroom instruction. However, this does not mean that classroom language instruction is obsolete or unnecessary. I have outlined some of the advantages of each instructional method below as well as where the 2 overlap. Immersion is always a good way for any language student to refine or brush up on their skills in a setting where the language is used everyday in every way. Additionally, absolute beginners can benefit from immersion by getting a solid start without too much translating back to their native language as often happens in the classroom.

    Classroom instruction advantages

  • More emphasis on accurately using grammatical structures
  • Explanations can be given in native language for ease of understanding
  • Textbooks typically include explanations in native language
  • Frequently, more focus on reading and writing
    Immersion instruction advantages

  • Typically much smaller class size
  • Native speakers of the target language
  • Students tend to learn a lot more in a much shorter period of time
  • Frequently, more focus on oral communication
    The same for classroom and immersion

  • Students grouped by language level
  • Same goal of target language learning

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