Immersion is the foundation of language acquisition. Through immersion, you expose yourself to each word, phrase, and grammar structure in many different situations until you can intuitively grasp their nuance.
The amount of time you spend immersing is the single most important factor in how fast you acquire your target language (TL). It's important to start immersing from day one so you can start racking up immersion hours and kick start the acquisition process. Even if you don't understand anything, your brain is hard at work decoding the language.
New language learners often fall into the trap of not feeling "ready" for immersion. Immersing in content you don't understand feels uncomfortable. New learners try to avoid this discomfort by putting off immersion and focusing solely on active study.
That approach does not work and never will.
It doesn't matter how much you prepare and study and learn, when you make first contact with real language, you will not understand it.
Instead of avoiding the discomfort of not understanding, we strongly recommend that you dive headfirst into the language and learn to embrace the ambiguity. The better you become at tolerating the discomfort, the more you will enjoy your immersion and the faster your brain will absorb the language.
When you first get started, it can be difficult to build up a tolerance for ambiguity. If you find it too difficult, here are a few strategies you can use to make the experience more comfortable.
Spoil the Plot
One way to reduce ambiguity is to read the plot summary of the TV show or movie before watching. Another option is to rewatch a TV show or movie that you’ve already seen in your native language (NL). Both of these approaches allow you to follow the story without needing to understand the words.
Native Language Subtitles
We generally don’t recommend using NL subtitles when consuming content. You won’t learn much from it.
However, if you find yourself completely lost and struggling, then it’s OK to use NL subtitles to keep yourself engaged.
As an exercise, try to watch as long as you can without subtitles before turning them on. Another option is to watch a piece of content without NL subtitles and then watch it again with them.
By the time you reach Stage 2A, you should no longer consume content with NL subtitles or NL translations.
Immersing in a new language is exhausting. You will get tired very quickly. You may even get headaches as your brain accommodates the new language.
Make sure to take frequent breaks and naps to recharge. Over time, your endurance will grow until you can immerse for multiple hours straight.
Throughout your learning journey, you will spend thousands of hours immersing in your TL, so it's important to find content you enjoy. The more you enjoy the content, the more you'll want to immerse and the faster you'll learn.
To maximize your time spent with the language, convert as much of your media consumption as possible over to your TL. This includes TV shows, movies, YouTube, and blogs. You will need to explore what content is available for your TL and find what is most interesting and enjoyable for you.
Make New Accounts
One great way to explore TL content is to create a dedicated TL account on all your social media and video streaming services. By having a separate account where you only consume TL content, you can take advantage of the recommendation algorithm to find new and interesting content. We recommend creating TL accounts on YouTube, Netflix, Tiktok, and Twitter.
To help seed your TL content recommendations, Refold has collected lists of channels and content for each language across YouTube, Netflix, and other content sites. You can access these through our community.
Netflix is a great place to find TL content. Netflix offers different content in different countries. With the help of a VPN, you can trick Netflix into thinking you are in a different country and get access to all the content for that language.
We recommend using the Unofficial Netflix Online Global Search DB. This makes it easy to search for and find Netflix content in your TL and tells you which country you need to set your VPN to in order to watch.
You can find a detailed guide for setting up a TL Netflix account here.
TL Streaming Services
Netflix and YouTube are great places to find content in your TL. However, don’t just limit yourself to the sites you already know. Every country has different streaming services. Search Google for the streaming sites most used by natives of your TL.
Refold Content Collection
Our community has collected a huge amount of content that's perfect for beginner learners. Make sure to join the official Refold Discord to get access to thousands of content recommendations across 45+ languages.
Passive Listening Content
As explained in Stage 0: Activities Explained, passive listening is a great way to increase your immersion time when you're on the go.
Podcasts and audiobooks are the most straightforward way to start passive listening, but they will be very difficult for new learners. The more difficult the content, the harder it will be to stay engaged. You can make your passive listening more engaging and comprehensible by re-listening to the audio from TV shows or YouTube videos that you've already actively watched.
To make passive listening a habit in your life, it's important to make it easy and effortless. The easiest way to start passive listening is to turn on Netflix or YouTube on your phone and just listen. If you are more technically skilled, you can download the audio and put it on your phone or a separate digital audio player.
For a more detailed guide on how to set up passive listening, read this article.
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