How to immerse yourself in a language without going abroad

language immersion without going abroad

Immersing yourself in a foreign language without going abroad might not be as difficult as you think. Here’s a brief example: 

He is daring, adventurous and bold! On holiday in Spain, he calls over the waiter and confidently says “Unas aceitunas, por favor.”. He is Viktor, my Swedish boyfriend, the reason why Spanish olive producers will never run out of business! Viktor is as clever as the “ratones coloraos” (lit. as clever as red mice, a Spanish expression meaning someone is really smart and cheeky) so one of the first words he learnt when he travelled to Spain was “aceitunas”. Then, as the charming and polite Swedish man he is, completed with a fluent “por favor”.  That’s it! What useful language!

I followed his example when I travelled to Sweden last summer. With my limited Swedish, I was able to go to a local restaurant and order dinner and even have a short chat på svenska (in Swedish) with Viktor’s lovely and patient friends.

Holidays are great for practising a new language. But, what happens when you get back?

We all know it can be a challenge to keep up the language you improved whilst you were away. So how can you keep practising? How can Viktor get past his simple, “Olives, please.” to “Can I have some more olives and some crisps, please?”

Here I give you six tips to immerse yourself in the language you’re learning even when you are back from holiday and not in the country anymore:

1. Mingle and make friends with native speakers

There are lots of language exchange events happening in cities around the world. In London, I am the organiser of a Swedish language exchange. I am happy to say my skills have improved quite a lot since I set it up and I am a much more confident speaker now.

Pro-learner tip: Don’t be shy and afraid of making mistakes, they are the best way of improving!

2. Go to restaurants and cafes and order in the language you’re learning

Viktor loves Spanish food so we often go for tapas where I let him order away in Spanish. Equally, I know all the Scandinavian bakeries and cafes in London and always make sure I order in Swedish when I go!

3. Enjoy the culture around the language you’re learning

We celebrate Swedish midsommar in Hyde Park and Salamanca’s Easter version of midsommar called Lunes de Aguas. When we make a toast we do it in both languages.

4. Watch movies and series, listen to songs and podcasts or read

I love Scandinavian noir TV series and Viktor loves all the Spanish novels I recommend him (well, not always) but he does like to sing ”Vamos a la playa, a mi me gusta bailar…” at the top of his voice…

Let your life be filled with vocabulary of the language you’re learning! Use post its to label everyday objects around the house or have a noteboard where you can write yourself a word for the day every morning.

Fall in love with the language you’re learning. I know…cringe. But trust me, remember why you’re learning the language you picked and picture yourself walking the streets of the city you love imagining how cool it would be to discover the country’s culture or its quirky traditions whilst speaking the language. It helps to keep you motivated!

5. And of course, use busuu!

To learn Spanish, Viktor uses busuu’s new feature, Study Plan which he has set to study 5 minutes every day after lunch. Grab a coffee (or some olives!), do one of our lessons and share your amazing speaking skills with our community. You’ll feel like you never left the country!

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Senior Spanish Language Expert Elena is from Salamanca, Spain but currently lives in London. She studied English Literature and Linguistics in her home town, then later studied to become a Spanish teacher at the Instituto Cervantes. She loves bread and baking, and is mad about cats and anything shiny!



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