What does immersion meant to you?

What is meant buy immersion, or total immersion for that matter? Is there such a thing as 100% immersion? Can you provide an example? Has any actually studied in a total immersion environment?

What about people who are not able to devote themselves to immersion, are they at a disadvantage?

By 100% immersion, I understand that everything you see, hear, write, listen, say is in the target language.

I am living in Thailand and live like Thai people (I buy food in the streets, watch Thai TV, listen to Thai radio, read Thai books, talk Thai with my wife, the taxi drivers, the street sellers, etc …).
But overall, my time spent with Thai does not count for 100% of my time. I would say about 60%.
A 100% immersion is possible, but not for me : that would be too boring and prevent me from posting on Lingq !!! :wink:

For me, even though I liveand work in China, 100% immersion in the sense mentioned above is impossible since all I read and write is in English since we are an international company. Furthermore, many meetings have to be held in English.

To me total immersion is literally unattainable. Practically speaking, it is just a buzz word for doing as much as possible in the language. This is just common sense.


I have read what you commented on the C1 thread and while you’re right that immersion by itself is not a new approach I can tell you that there are very few people who really work hard at learning Chinese. All non-Asian expat colleagues in my company or other companies for that matter give up quickly and practically don’t learn any Chinese in spite of having personal teachers.

Benny did not have a more efficient method than for example I used and given his determination and time on task I did not think he advanced really that fast (certainly not faster than I did when I was learning part time back in Germany), but in the end he was able to speak and have basic conversations which very few other Chinese learners achieve. So that I think we should give him credit for. So having a Westener who puts himself into a Chinese immersion environment and actually succeeds after 5 months to use the language orally is actually not such a common thing, and might be reason enough for LTL to volunteer evaluating him.

But you are right of course assuming that LTL knew who he was and didn’t mind to get some mileage out of this but I find this completely legitimate.

I just could not follow much of what Andreas was saying on a few issues. He says that the difference between 90% immersion and 100% immersion is huge or something like that. ( I am not going to read the thread again). I don’t know what 100% immersion is. I agree that it is largely impossible to achieve.

I put in 6 or more hours a day when I was learning Chinese in Hong Kong in 1968. I can’t remember how well I spoke after 3 or 4 months, but I was reading a lot. After 9 months I was done my course, reading novels newspapers and interpreting at the Canton trade fair, and I did not live in a Mandarin speaking environment. If you put in the effort, listening, reading, writing and speaking, for a good 6 or more hours a day, you are as close to full immersion as you are going to get.

“But you are right of course assuming that LTL knew who he was and didn’t mind to get some mileage out of this but I find this completely legitimate.”

Then zhou should stop being so mealy-mouthed. Would LTL interview you? What’s the difference?

meal·y-mouthed (ml-moud, -moutht)
Unwilling to state facts or opinions simply and directly.
Word History: It seems fitting that Martin Luther, a man noted for the forthright expression of his ideas, may have had a hand in giving us the contemptuous term we apply to those unwilling to state facts or opinions directly. Mealy-mouthed may come from a saying such as German Mehl im Maule behalten, “to carry meal in the mouth, that is, not to be direct in speech,” which occurs in Luther’s writings. In English we find the terms mealmouth (1546) and meal-mouthed (1576) recorded around the same time that we find mealymouthed (around 1572). Mealy-mouthed is the only form that survived to describe this trait described by Luther, which not only survives but flourishes in our time.


I started reading newspapers after 5 months or so but only on my computer with the help of software. Reading a real newspaper after 5 months or so even with 6 hours a day of time on task, I find that very difficult to do.

Five to six months that is where Benny is about right now and we know how he speaks. In my experience solid character recognition requires knowing that vocabulary already and someone who reads well Chinese also tends to speak it very well. So being able to pick up any newspaper, read and understand it sufficiently after 6 months would be a very exceptional achievement in my opinion.

@dooo: yes, full immersion is probably a bit of a buzz word.

@Steve: sounds like you did very well with your studying. A lot of people I see studying Chinese by mainly putting hours in and then not speaking it after class tend to progress slower than people who study less but speak more during daily life and try to become part of Chinese culture (as far as this is possible). Reading I guess is also a way of immersion, but I would think there is a limit on how much of that a day one can do.

For me I think I only got once close, which was when I worked for a company in China and was on a two week business trip during which I had one phone call with my boss (in German) and that was it, all email, contracts, conversation etc. was in Chinese. I didnt even notice until about the second week, as I always spoke a lot of Chinese anyways during work, but once I did, I could feel how I suddenly started to see Chinese as my own language, looking at characters before I would try to read the pinyin, dreaming in it.
And I had the feeling I progressed a lot in those two weeks, while during the years beforehand where I was mainly speaking Chinese, but not exclusively I was not really (no way to measure - but that was my impression).
I personally was as far away from an immersion experience as one could be when I started learning Chinese (BLCU, living with an Australian etc., though I was studying a lot), so I cant report on the advantages from a personal experience at a beginner level (certainly on the disadvantages of a lack of it though - I was not very good in speaking back then).

There is no question that to speak well, you eventually have to speak a lot. However, there is a lot you can do to prepare yourself for the opportunity to speak, to make sure you take full advantage, and that includes lots of reading and listening and vocabulary review. I find that for most people it is easier to organize listening, reading, writing and review activities, than to organize speaking activities. That is unless you live in the country where the language is spoken, or attend a school. That is simply not practical for a lot of people.


I was reading newspapers and other authentic content, but I was using “readers” which had glossaries or vocabulary lists. I tried to avoid looking things up in a dictionary since this was not only time consuming, but frustrating since we usually forget the meaning of anything we look up.

I cannot imagine reading Chinese newspapers where I need to look up characters a lot doing that the old fashioned way in a book. I agree, way to cumbersome.

I have improved more when I have done 100 percent immersion. This means no other language for as the long as the course/stay lasted. It is as if the brain gets a shock and then needs to work harder.

It is possible! I don’t think hearing some English counts, as the brain does not make the switch to start thinking in that language (I think). If you speak in your native tongue/a third language, it it is not 100 percent immersion.

In one country I spent months just speaking that language and I could tell it made a difference. I think the click point is around seven to ten days for me. The first few days are uncomfortable. But if I have chats in-between in another language I can tell my brain starts switching to the comfort zone. The brain then stops being as focused and stop being as stressed. When the discomfort level is high, that is when I have found this has had most effect. When other people demand things of you in the new language, you are no longer in control and you struggle. That works for me. However, each person is different. I like to learn from listening and speaking.

These are the type of immersion experiences I have had (ranging from a few weeks to months):

-Home stays with a family
-Studying at a university

  • Immersion course at school (live at the school)

Actually I found the studying abroad the most challenging but the one method with the most long-term benefits.

Imy, most people I have spoken to, except you, forget the meaning of most words that they look up in a dictionary for the first time. You are truly an exception.

Steve - I humbly count myself in with the likes of Imy. However, others have said I have a good memory. The act of looking up the word actually helps me remember it.

Marianne, of course looking a word helps us to remember it, more than that it helps us to discover the meaning. However, I find that until we see the word again and again in context, we forget the meaning. That is part of what is behind LingQ. When I see the yellow highlighted LingQ again and again, I gradually learn it. Often when I used to look up a word in a dictionary, after much effort, I would forget what I just looked up. I have confirmed that most people have the same experience.

This is possible. I find looking up a word and seeing it in context from the examples provided helps, but, as you say, this is also the principle behind LingQ. I need to observe this more closely. I do think though that some people who are blessed with a good memory may not need that much additional help as twere.