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Immersion and integration

Immersion is a very good word, because it captures what it’s like learning a language and living abroad. When we first start learning, most people begin at the shallow end of the pool, not fully immersed, but keeping most of themselves over the surface. As we grow more and more confident, we leave the shallow end of the pool and head out into deeper waters. When we feel ready, we might even leave the surface and immerse completely, leaving just a thin thread still connecting us to the familiar world above the surface.

Learning to swim

Now, this metaphor is handy both for talking about language learning (the water is Chinese, the air is your native language) and culture (the water in Chinese culture, the air is your own culture). How much you want to immerse is mostly dependent on your own attitude and external factors. It’s possible to immerse anywhere in the world, but it’s of course easier to do so in a Chinese-speaking environment. I think most people agree that immersion is good, indeed necessary if we want to learn a language quickly and/or to an advanced level. How much we can immerse is also dependent on how much Chinese we can cope with. The more proficient we get, the easier it becomes.

Immersion is mostly about listening and reading. For listening, we should strive to fill our time with comprehensible input. Quality matters, but quantity still reigns supreme. For reading, we definitely need comprehensible input.

Immersion at home and abroad

Creating immersion at home is mostly about managing your time, finding audio and then committing to the task of immersing yourself. If you already live in a Chinese-speaking environment, you still need to integrate with that environment, find a life-style which immerses you in Chinese to a large a degree as possible, but still prevents you from drowning.

Here are of all articles on Hacking Chinese related to either immersion or integration (scroll down to see all of them in a text-only list):


All articles
If you can only stay abroad for a short time, don’t go immediately
The importance of knowing many words
The virtues of language exchanges
Pros and cons with travelling to learn a language
Native speakers and native speakers
You won’t learn Chinese simply by living abroad
Growing up in Chinese
How to find more time to practise listening
Don’t be a tourist
Achieving the impossible by being inspired
The kamikaze approach to learning Chinese
Triggering quantum leaps in listening ability
Understanding regionally accented Mandarin
Defining Language Hacking: Lessons Learned From Hacking Chinese
Listening strategies: Background listening
Practising sports to learn Chinese and make friends
Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2: Playing computer games in Chinese
Listening strategies: Active listening
Why learning Chinese through music is underrated
The time barrel: Or why you have more time than you think
Learning Chinese with StarCraft 2
RTI, my favourite radio station
Immersion at home or: Why you don’t have to go abroad to learn Chinese
You might be too lazy to learn Chinese, but you’re not too old
Role-playing as a way to expand your Chinese
5 insights from the first year of a master’s program in Taiwan
Standard pronunciation in Chinese and why you want it
Your slumps affect your language learning more than your flows
Preparing for rainy days and dealing with slumps
Asking the experts: How to bridge the gap to real Chinese
Review: The Geography of Thought: How East Asians and Westerners Think Differently… And Why
Role-playing to learn more Chinese and avoid frustration
Chinese immersion with Carl Gene Fordham
25 books I read in Chinese last year
Wuxia, a key to Chinese language and culture
A language learner’s guide to wuxia novels
Two reasons why pronunciation matters more than you think
Learning how to fish: Or, why it’s essential to know how to learn
The Grand Listening Cycle: Improve your Chinese listening ability
The three roads to mastering Chinese
How and why to use television to learn Chinese
A learner’s guide to TV shows in Chinese, part 1
How and why to watch the world cup in Chinese
How to reach a decent level of Chinese in 100 days
A learner’s guide to TV shows in Chinese, part 2
Language learning with a Chinese girlfriend or boyfriend
Is speaking more important than listening when learning Chinese?
How long have you studied Chinese?
Change your attitude to enjoy life and learn more Chinese
Focusing on communication to learn Chinese
The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese
Learning how to ask for and receive directions in Chinese
The 10 best free reading resource collections for learning Chinese
How to find the time and motivation to read more Chinese
How to find a suitable Chinese name
Three steps to more and better Chinese listening practice
Adjust your listening practice to your current state of mind
The new paperless revolution in Chinese reading
Using Chinese textbooks to improve reading ability
Will a Chinese-only rule improve your learning?
The 9 best Twitter feeds for learning Chinese
Review: Mandarin Companion graded readers (Level 1)


One Response to Immersion and integration

  1. Ken Wong says:

    Some interesting reading there, thanks for sharing.