Saturday, October 12, 2013

Immersion and social pressures

When we think about the best way to learn a foreign language, we think of immersion.  There is simply no substitute for the constant exposure to the language that comes from living in country that speaks that language.  But what other factors make immersion successful?

It has been said that learning is change and that in developing the ability to speak a new language, we are adopting the perspectives that are part of the new language.  We absorb a new culture and develop the skill to see two potentially contradicting perspectives on issues.  While this is confusing at first, it gives us the ability to think in new directions and possibly to solve problems or understand views that we could not understand before.

The immersion experience has been described as a process of reconstructing your social identity.  It is easier to adapt to new ideas and new concepts when you are placed into a living situation where they exist and the ones that you knew before did not.  With migration comes the pressure to adapt to the new rather than the social pressures to stick to the old.  And finally a sense of anonymity that comes with being alone in a new country may lead people to lose the inhibitions that prevent them from making the all-important errors.

Immersion frees you from the ties and social pressures that keep you afraid to be someone new.

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