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Immersion doesn’t seem to work. Why?

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Forum Name: General discussion
Forum Discription: Discussion about language learning for people who study languages on their own.
URL: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=24775
Printed Date: 16 October 2021 at 4:20pm

Posted By: korman
Subject: Immersion doesn’t seem to work. Why?
Date Posted: 16 January 2011 at 2:03am

I want to learn Korean, and I'm trying the "immersion" method. I have dramas, music, and have Korean books. I try to have something in Korean in front of me at least 8 hours a day. I've been doing this for 6 months, and I still have no idea what is being said, or what I'm reading.

Why?


Replies:
Are you studying or just trying to learn by bosmosis. The latter doesn't work, also six months is not a long time for such a difficult language. It would be surprising indeed if you were to be able to understand Dramas, Music etc.. At this stage in the game. Get some good study materials and be patient. One day things will start making sense.
Nguyen on 16 January 2011


Just having the language in front of you is not enough if you have no way to break down what is being said and understand the meaning of the words. Nguyen is right, you do have to do some study of the language itself (i.e. grammar and vocabulary), especially with a language as dissimilar to English as Korean is. With Korean you will also have to study the different registers of speech, since completely different words are used depending on who the speaker is talking to. And not to discourage you or anything, but Korean is a particularly difficult language and even if you moved to Korea and cut English out of your life it would probably still take you years to feel comfortable in it.
Levi on 16 January 2011


Are you serious? 6 months of watching Korean movies without subs?
Of course you need to use subs until you are half fluent. This type of immersion only
works after you have studied all the grammar, OR when you are living in South
Korea, where you'd need to speak it to survive. Preferably both, I mean all three.
polyglHot on 16 January 2011


Because it doesn't work and it never has and never will. You're wasting your time. Semi-
immersion is good as a supplement to actual study. Actual study comes first. At least 30
minutes.
zerothinking on 16 January 2011


korman wrote:
I want to learn Korean, and I'm trying the "immersion" method. I have dramas, music, and have Korean books. I try to have something in Korean in front of me at least 8 hours a day. I've been doing this for 6 months, and I still have no idea what is being said, or what I'm reading.

Why?


Try to look up words that you hear/read all the time in a dictionary if you cant yet figure out what they mean just from the context.

You could also supplement your studies with Anki or any other flash card program. (please refer to http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/all-japanese-all-t he-time-ajatt-how-to-learn-japanese-on-your-own-having- fun-and-to-fluency - All Japanese all the time ). That's basically how I learned Japanese (Immersion + Anki) and Korean (still on my way to fluency ;))
Segata on 16 January 2011


Some people swear by the immersion (or artificial immersion) technique but I tried something similar with Mandarin and it didn't work for me either. I agree with everyone else, get a good grammar/work book to teach you the grammar and basic phrases and vocabulary. After that, put some focus on the aspects of the language that still confuse you or are difficult. A little extra drilling on these concepts will go a long way.Additionally, other than tons of exposure, what helps me is using the language a lot, even at a basic stage. If I can use a word/grammar point/phrase/etc. I rarely ever forget it.
portunhol on 16 January 2011


immersion doesn't work magically, and I have trouble comprehending how you didn't realise that after 6 months.

but nevermind, they probable haven't gone to waste, as you can probably at this point distinguish between things being said (like recognizing common words, etc.) intonation and all these subtle intricacies.

but you NEED to supplement it with study, be that grammar, or just comparing translated sentences, but do something that will at least help you UNDERSTAND.

the method you're trying could technically work with a language closer to your L1, but Korean is far too different and cognates are minuscule.
bushwick on 16 January 2011


You need some activities to make it more comprehensible. Try and find some audio that has a transcript, and work through it beforehand. Making a parallel text is one of the best ways.

One of the main things you need is vocabulary. When you know more words, you'll be able to understand more of the things you read and hear. Imagine for a minute that you knew the meaning of every word, but none of the grammar. You'd still understand a lot. On the other hand, if you knew every grammar rule perfectly, but very little vocabulary, you'd still be stuck.

Try working through a text sentence by sentence, just trying to figure out the meanings of some of the words. This is easier with a parallel text, due to the decreased dictionary time. Try to figure out what every sentence means in one page. This detail oriented way of investigating the text is called "Intensive reading". I personally think it's good to balance it with lots of "Extensive reading" where you try to read as much as you can, but in those cases where I have low comprehension / low vocabulary, then I increase the amount of Intensive work that I do until things balance out a bit.

I suspect that with Korean, since it is so far from English, you'll need a lot more Intensive work, but don't give up on your Extensive exposure either. Keep watching TV shows and whatever else. I suspect you've learned a lot already from it, even if you don't realize it.
doviende on 16 January 2011


korman wrote:
I want to learn Korean, and I'm trying the "immersion" method... I try to have something in Korean in front of me at least 8 hours a day. I've been doing this for 6 months, and I still have no idea what is being said, or what I'm reading.

Why?


My first post on here (3.5 years ago) was on this exact subject:

http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?T ID=6420&PN=1&TPN=1 - Total Immersion is a Crock!

There is some very good back-and-forth discussion from some very accomplished language learners in that thread in response to my somewhat irreverent post.
TerryW on 17 January 2011


What you are saying is that Keith's TV method is extremely useless:

http://natural-language-acquisition.blogspot.com/2011/0 1/two-thousand-hours.html#more - http://natural-language-acquisition.blogspot.com/2011/01/two -thousand-hours.html#more


slucido on 17 January 2011


If you were able to put up with Korean dramas and K-pop for 6 months at 8 hours a day, I applaud you. I would
probably go clinically insane if I were to do a similar thing, and I have a serious affection for Korean culture.

Anyways, the fact that you have spent so much time subconsciously engaged with the language probably means
that you are attracted to the culture, which is good, because Korean takes a real commitment and love for most
things Korean to find success in its language. With smart learning techniques and sustained study, any language can
be learned, but to feel Korean in the marrow of your bones... you essentially need to 'become' part Korean (may be
true for many languages/cultures).

I suggest you begin your real study here: www.talktomeinkorean.com - I've studied for 2 and a half years and I find
this site has something to offer for learners of all levels.
jtdotto on 17 January 2011


But, can you red Korean?
If you say you have something to read in Korean, then definitely you must have learned Hangul.
Do you look at subtitles?

Actually, I have seen some people claiming they understand 60 per cent of what is being said in Japanese anime, just by immersion.

Me, I try to watch Korean dramas too, and I think I understand more and more.
However I have spent long hours learning it before.
Immersion is important, but if you don't know the words, you will have to guess them one by one from the context, usually you do it up to 12 years old.

clumsy on 17 January 2011


bushwick wrote:
immersion doesn't work magically, and I have trouble comprehending how you didn't realise that after 6 months.


I wonder how much of that belief comes from people constantly bombarded with Rosetta Stone commercials claiming that you don't "learn" a language, but you "absorb" it effortlessly.
TerryW on 17 January 2011


For me, at least, when I watch Japanese or Finnish TV programs I have to be careful to keep my brain from wandering off into English thoughts. I can sit for hours, watch the characters and sort of construct a plot based just on the visuals. The thing is when my mind is buzzing along in English, I don't hear a word of the target language. I think Iverson had a good idea when he said to watch, but to pay attention to every single sound.   I do hear more this way, but I also go through long periods of understanding absolutely nothing, and this can be exhausting.

For the most part, what i do know comes from flash cards and grammar books. I haven't learned much myself from watching TV. I don't believe this is true for everyone, and some people do pick up quite a bit from TV.
cathrynm on 17 January 2011


Go learn several hundred to 1000 words in Korean. Get some basic language tapes, I think
Linguaphone is the best, and listen to them until your roommates want to kick you out
and you're hearing the words when the radio's off. Translate the text of Linguaphone so
you know what they are saying as you do the above and you'll be starting to learn. Do
only 1-5 lessons at a time. I did 5 lessons at a time because there were 5 lessons on
one side of a tape, but this was with French and Spanish. I suspect 1 lesson at a time
in Korean will be enough.

Start out in a linguistically small Korean world and slowly expand that world or you'll
be overwhelmed.
crackpot on 19 January 2011


korman,

I think you have involuntarily become a counter-example to Stephen Krashen's theory of comprehensible input,
which states that in order to progress in a language you should listen, read and watch the material, 80% of which
you understand.

It clearly wasn't the case with Korean music, dramas and books. You must have been exposed to thousands of
words, little to none of them stuck in your brain.

On the other hand, so much Korean couldn't help imprinting something in your consciousness. I believe when
you grab yourself and start on more structured material, all the Korean you've sieved through yourself will pop
up, and you'll make tremendous progress, thus reclaiming those six months of “lost” time.

I strongly recommend starting from scratch, this time making baby steps. Commence with learning by heart four
to five hundred most frequent words. Having them in your mental pocket, you can grasp 60 to 80 per cent of any
text you come across. It will make further study that much easier. Google keyword for the list of these words in
English is “minilex”. Post those words all over your apartment, the hardest in places you visit most frequently,
like beside the TV or a computer: you'll read them over and over, and they'll stick to your memory like glue.

After that, go searching for the simplest native Korean texts you can grab. Those most frequent words will stand
out in the text immediately, and your task would be to extract the words you don't understand yet and study
them as well. This way you'll accumulate a rapidly growing vocabulary, which is the most important in reaching
fluency.

Don't bother with grammar at the start, it hinders progress. Instead, try to grasp basic patterns from the texts
you read and subtitled video you watch.

Then, and only then you can return to watching unsubtitled Korean dramas and listening to music, with one minor
difference: you'll know what it's all about :)

Hope I helped out a bit! Oh, and don't take my words for grammar as granted, I don't know a bit of Korean, it
may well be worth studying from the very start.
karabatov on 19 January 2011


400-500 words and 60-80% comprehension? lol
The Real CZ on 20 January 2011


You should aim to have a basic to intermediate comprehension of alphabet/grammar/spelling/vocabulary before you even think about immersion in resources such as books/movies/music/articles. By all means, watch, listen and read them for fun, but don't expect at the end of the day, to be any better at Korean without having knowledge of the language and its structures first.

Korean is supposedly a hard language (I personally don't see it, but it differs according to willpower and ability), and you need to have an understanding before you jump into something, expecting results.

Learn the Korean alphabet: http://thinkzone.wlonk.com/Language/Korean.htm

Learn some Korean grammar: http://korean.sogang.ac.kr/

Think about getting some lessons, too. Good luck. :)
JaKorChi on 20 January 2011


The Real CZ wrote:
400-500 words and 60-80% comprehension? lol
For simple
texts it's quite true, at least for European languages.

I said I don't know anything about Korean, so maybe you have to know more, but to say
the truth I doubt it.
karabatov on 20 January 2011


karabatov wrote:
The Real CZ wrote:
400-500 words and 60-80% comprehension? lol
For simple
texts it's quite true, at least for European languages.

I said I don't know anything about Korean, so maybe you have to know more, but to say
the truth I doubt it.


In my experience, Korean (as well as for example Japanese) don't even compare to most European languages when it comes to the amount of vocabulary. If I remember correctly, you need about 9000 to 10000 words for a mere 90% comprehension of Japanese texts. I consider Korean to be in the same ballpark.
Segata on 20 January 2011


karabatov wrote:
Don't bother with grammar at the start, it hinders progress. Instead, try to grasp basic patterns from the texts
you read and subtitled video you watch.

You're contradicting yourself: those patterns are grammar.

You cannot learn a language without learning grammar, and it is always beneficial to learn grammar early, as while 20% of the words in the dictionary may account for 80% of the words used in any given film, you will never find a film which you can understand with only 20% of the grammar. At a rough guess, you'll need about 80% of the grammar to understand any given film.
Cainntear on 20 January 2011


Yes, Segata is right. I probably know roughly 4000 words and only have 50% comprehension in books and dramas/variety shows/movies in Korean. If I sounded like a dick with the "lol," that wasn't intended, but if it only took 500 words to get high comprehension, there's no way Korean would be considered a Category IV language for native English speakers.
The Real CZ on 20 January 2011


Oh, okay, I was wrong then. Thanks for enlightening me :)
karabatov on 20 January 2011


Immersion is NOT the TV/DVD method. This is part of it.

If you want to apply DIY ALG techniques, you can follow the Antonio Graceffo advice. You can check here:

http://l2mastery.com/featured-articles/alg-approach-to-self- study - http://l2mastery.com/featured-articles/alg-approach-to-self- study


Antonio Graceffo wrote:


....

Some people have written in and asked if they could approximate the ALG experience by watching tons and tons of hours of TV in Japanese or Chinese or another foreign language. The answer is yes, BUT only if you already have a sufficient basis to understand 55-70% of what you are hearing. If you are a complete beginner, it won’t work. The TV would just become more noise.

If you are a beginning student, one way of “artificially” increasing your comprehension level is to first watch a similar movie or show in English. This is what we often did while I was studying to be a translator. We would read a current news story in several international newspapers and compare them. Or, we would watch a movie or TV show in English, and then watch it in the target language. I do this in Taiwan, too. I watch a lot of Disney movies, like “Mulan,” “The Incredibles,” or “Kung Fu Panda” in English and then in Chinese. Over a period of months, I go back and forth between English and Chinese, watching them over and over again.

The trick is to choose few enough materials that you get constructive levels of repetition. If you choose too few, you wind up hearing the same story too frequently. You will get bored and tune out. Your brain will stop “guessing.” And when you stop guessing, you stop learning. If you choose too many materials, then it will take too long before they repeat. So, you must find a balance. You be the judge. After you embark on a disciplined program of listening on a regular schedule, then you can occasionally shake things up by throwing a new movie or TV show into the mix.

Just as an unscientific rule of thumb, depending upon how many hours you are listening per day, maybe you want to repeat a particular movie once per month.

.....


slucido on 20 January 2011


Personally, I think that immersion and learning from context can be very effective-- if you're already at an intermediate or advanced level.... For a beginner starting from scratch, especially if it's your first foreign language, and particularly if it's one that's very different from your native language.... trying to learn this way is unnecessarily painful and counterproductive I think, and it didn't work for me either. The reason is simple: How are you supposed to learn from context if you don't have any context in the first place?? It's like being a detective and trying to solve a crime without any clues. Or trying to work out an algebra problem without knowing how to add or subtract first. It's a catch 22.

Sure, you can learn a number of basic nouns and adjectives etc. through immersion only, but once you start getting into anything beyond a basic declarative statement, things get unnecessarily difficult (unless, I suppose, you have a native speaker holding your hand every step of the way, demonstrating and acting things out as you go-- but not everyone has that benefit). This is one of the most common complaints I hear about Rosetta Stone. Everything is all well and good, up until you start seeing more complex concepts, and things like conjugations, then it becomes very difficult to try and deduce what's going on. This was my experience with Japanese as well, and I imagine it might be similar for those studying Korean. My native language is English, and since Japanese has such different grammar structure, I have found grammar explanations to be extremely helpful and indispensable.

Once you build up some elementary vocabulary and some basic understanding of sentence structure, THEN it's possible to start learning things from context. I found that this works if, and only if, you have some kind of foundation first. In order to be able to guess the meaning of a word in a sentence, you need to be able to recognize at least some of the other surrounding words, and have some inkling of what type of sentence pattern it probably is (a question, a command, a statement, etc). For example, if you are reading a paragraph about washing laundry. You can deduce words like "soap" and "wash", if you already know things like "clothes" and "dirty", etc. For closely related languages, this may be possible through recognizing cognates and similar patterns. But if you have no clues to go by, and nothing similar to compare it to, you'll probably just get frustrated. All of this frustration could be avoided, if you spent a little time every day flipping through an elementary grammar or text book. Of course text books aren't everything, especially as you move to more advanced material, but when you're just starting out from scratch in a very unfamiliar language, it's worth it in my opinion.

I think this is especially true of languages that use a foreign script (such as kanji or hangul), where simply trying to read the script can be an overwhelming enough task for a beginner. Trying to understand the script, the vocab, the grammar, and things like politeness levels all at once, starting from scratch, and can be slow and painful indeed.
starrye on 20 January 2011


I am not sure I am willing to follow what seems to be the general consensus here, that you must know basic grammar and structure before you can learn a language through immersion. I have twice been dumped in a total immersion situation. In Spain at 11, and in France at 14. Both cases had the following similarities.

- I knew next to nothing before I came (15 words of Spanish, about 100 in French).
- I had learned no grammar before going.
- I did not study any grammar while I was there.
- I had no specific "language classes" for me.
- I listened a lot - to speech, to TV, to classes in TL only, with no explanation.
- I talked to people, but had next to no corrections from them (most of the people I talked to were other kids, or people with very little formal training).
- I learned enough of the languages to be able to function after 3-4 weeks.
- I was fluent in 6 months.

It has to be said that when I came back to Spain at the age of 18, it took me 3 months to regain a functional Spanish and another 3 months to be next to fluent, so I guess what comes easily, goes easily.

Now I do agree, that if you plan on learning a language basically by wathcing TV, particularly as an adult, you will need to study some grammar, and you need a basic vocabulary. However, as my examples show, you can perfectly well learn a language without adding any elements of formal training or notions of grammar, and just listen and try to speak what you hear.
Solfrid Cristin on 20 January 2011


There is a huge difference between immersion in the real world, with real people, and just watching TV passively. We're talking apples and oranges.

Moreoever, learning Spanish, where new words can be learned from deduction alone, is not at all the same as learning Korean.
Arekkusu on 20 January 2011


Arekkusu wrote:
There is a huge difference between immersion in the real world, with real people, and just watching TV passively. We're talking apples and oranges.

Moreoever, learning Spanish, where new words can be learned from deduction alone, is not at all the same as learning Korean.


I agree with both of your points, but if you look at the discussion here, it seems like the general view is that you need masses of grammar and all sorts of training to learn a language, and that is only half the truth.
Solfrid Cristin on 20 January 2011


Solfrid Cristin wrote:
I am not sure I am willing to follow what seems to be the general consensus here, that you must know basic grammar and structure before you can learn a language through immersion.


I'm not sure that people are necessarily saying that's the case with all language pairs, or all situations. But, for example, a native English speaker learning an East Asian language like Korean from scratch, at home, from immersion only with tv and books. Sure, someone somewhere can probably say they've done it... but that sounds incredibility painful to me. I personally think grammar explanation would go a long way in this case, and is worth the effort.
That all said, I'm not saying it's better to sit and drill nothing but huge grammar charts all day long either.
starrye on 20 January 2011


Solfrid Cristin wrote:
Arekkusu wrote:
There is a huge difference between immersion in the real world, with real people, and just watching TV passively. We're talking apples and oranges.

Moreoever, learning Spanish, where new words can be learned from deduction alone, is not at all the same as learning Korean.


I agree with both of your points, but if you look at the discussion here, it seems like the general view is that you need masses of grammar and all sorts of training to learn a language, and that is only half the truth.

Agreed. I'm all for using the language in the real world, with real people, as we did for millenia before written language even existed. However, in the absence of other speakers, intentional study speeds things up.
Arekkusu on 20 January 2011


I would agree that learning a language from scratch through immersion in native materials would take an unnecessarily long time. I learnt English, a language closely related to my native one, from nothing but immersion for a good ten years and at the end of those I was still only at basic fluency level. I wasn't actively trying to learn which may have affected my progress, but I was exposed to a couple of hours of native material every day and I was also at an age where it's supposedly easy to pick up a language.

I recognise the benefit of immersion because it gives you an instinctive feel for grammar and the words become their meaning instead of their translation but to expose oneself to a completely unrelated language without any preparation strikes me as very counter-productive. I'm not surprised the OP got nowhere in six months.

At the same time, I also know from my experiences with learning languages in high school that endlessly learning vocabulary and doing grammar exercises gets you nowhere either. That's why I try to combine the two in my own studying. I know that every word I memorise and every grammatical structure I learn, I would eventually have picked up through immersion as well but it would have taken me much longer and I don't have the patience to wait another ten years before I can have a real conversation.
ReneeMona on 20 January 2011


I'll try not to repeat what already has been said. I do think that total immersion in the country of the target language (and preferably at a young age) will produce results. I don't qualify the kind of results because I still think there are other variables that enter into the picture. But there is not doubt that being forced to function in the language and being constantly surrounded by the written and spoken language is conducive to learning. On the other hand, watching TV, movies and posters of the target language on the bedroom wall hardly qualifies as immersion. I'm not sure what to call it, but it does not remotely resemble an in-country immersion experience. As nearly everybody has said, this will not work for beginners, in any language, and even less in one with a difficult writing system.

I'm surprised the OP lasted six months. I would have given up after a week. I think learning should be immediate, meaning that one should feel some sort of progress, as small and incremental as it may be.

I personally recommend that people take a class in a new language. I know most people here don't believe in the value of formal classes. That's fine if you know how to go about learning a language from scratch. And I know that being in a class of 30 people with a nasty teacher is no fun, but a good teacher and the right materials can put you in the right direction. The problem is finding the good class.

If classes are not available or you have more time than money, there is a ton of material for free in the Internet and all the valuable advice right here.
s_allard on 21 January 2011


s_allard wrote:

I personally recommend that people take a class in a new language. I know most people here don't believe in the value of formal classes.


I also have bad experience with formal classes even the small ones.

One-to-one teachers is the best option, but it's better if you are intermediate or advanced. Teachers are another tool, but only a tool.

People tend to pass their responsibility to others. This is dangerous.

The sooner people realize that learning a language is a personal endeavor, the better.


slucido on 21 January 2011


I always wanted to write a book, that explains the real deal concerning Korean language
learning: "How to Achieve a Mediocre Fluency in Korean in Just 10 Short Years."

First of all, you need to study while you are immersing yourself. Secondly, and I speak
from experience, it takes A LONG TIME to be able to understand Korean for most
Americans! I spent years not understanding a word that came out of anyone's mouth. My
advice after years of messing with Korean:

- read, read some more and when you are tired of that, keep reading
- break down audio and listen to smaller chunks. memorize it and try to repeat it. try
shadowing
- go to KBS and look at the 대본 for dramas and news stories. Break it down and listen
to the audio while reading the transcripts. Do this everyday, for a few years.
- study vocab like crazy
- realize that understanding older people and people from the country, or Pusan, is
whole another can o' worms! Stick to 표준어 for now and skip the dialects
- And, as Frank Zappa said, the two keys to success: 1. Never quit, and 2.) Don't stop



ecgreen on 22 January 2011


ecgreen wrote:
And, as Frank Zappa said, the two keys to success: 1. Never quit, and 2.) Don't stop


Keep doing: input plus output.


slucido on 22 January 2011



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