Immersion Method – Rosetta Stone and Others
The type of immersion method I discuss here is the one advertised by Rosetta Stone. Their version of immersion basically means that when using their software you will only be exposed to the target language and not exposed to your native language. This is supposed to increase the efficacy of their lessons by mimicking a real immersion experience.
I would claim that the results are limited because it is only a superficial re-creation of an immersion experience. A software or lesson can’t hope to put you into a tense social situation where your mind has to run at 110% in order to even keep up with a conversation in a foreign language. Through these situations more is remembered because it is tied to us emotionally. When you stumble over asking your new friend where the bathroom is, the slight embarrassment or anxiety created by that experience will have you mulling over it longer in your mind and make a point not to make that mistake again.
It is true that one benefit of being immersed in a culture is that you are highly exposed to the language and have very little exposure to your native tongue. However, this alone is not something that immediately forces one to learn or even increases the chances of learning. The level of excitement, social pressure and anxiety that accompany a trip abroad are the true driving forces behind learning the language.
I would equate Rosetta Stone to taking a trip to Cancun and staying at a nice resort. Yes, you are exposed to the language but you don’t necessarily have to focus on it in order to get by. The internal interest, social pressure and anxiety aren’t there as a driving force. You can dabble in the language but there is no penalty for not taking it seriously.
The good kind of stress that studying abroad or visiting a foreign country creates is a truly unconscious motivating force. You will feel this stress when you buy food, meet new people, go to restaurants, partake in class presentations, make friends, or even meet someone you like. This type of excitement and heightened level of interest ties back into the concept of active learning. Rosetta Stone can’t re-create the excitement and therefore their use of the term immersion is almost baseless. It is purely an advertising technique.
The best method for learning how to speak a language is visiting that country, making a friend and keeping that friendship alive. You would be surprised at how much you learn in this way. You will easily increase your vocabulary by discussing experiences you have together and it will be interesting because you will be chatting with a friend.I will close this by just stating that Rosetta stone is good for what it is meant to be. You will learn an OK amount in an interactive and fun way but this will never get you to the level where you will be able to read, write or speak the language fluently. These are the types of things people buy when they wish to learn a language with the least amount of effort but rarely do they really take the lessons to the next level.
If you truly wish to dedicate yourself to learning a language then the most cost effective and beneficial method would be to buy one university level grammar book costing 50-100 dollars, an English to foreign language dictionary and a notebook. The same kind of dedication you would put into a language learning software could be put into basic study for 1/6th the cost.