Testing Immersion For Language Learning

I’ve never really been a fan of the tactic of immersion for language learning, that by simply watching media in the language your learning you will pick up on it and start to understand the language better. Granted this includes taking notes and things like that.

So today what I’m going to do is what things in just my target language with no subtitles for a very long time, to properly give it a chance, and then I’ll tell you what I think. Here goes!

So I’ve done like an hour of watching stuff so what has it been like?

Due to the fact that I’m relatively new to language learning I’ve been watching children shows in Chinese to learn a language. My Chinese friends have asked me if I have heard of pepper pig, so I assumed it was popular there, and therefore had an ok translation. So I was watching that on netflix.

Children shows are really difficult to watch for me. Even though I understand most of it (not necessarily the words but you always know what’s happening) it is not the most entertaining. The most interesting thing is watching how they teach children (and I guess me as well) by going over pieces of vocabulary repeatedly.

So what did I learn? The phrase 准备好了吗, is the only one I can think of from the top of my head. It’s not that much. But I’ve also written down vocabulary to learn on memrise and have it ready on my list when I want to start my flashcards again.


So I took a break from immersion to learn the words that I had written down from the previous hour on flashcards. I learned them quite quickly, partially because it wasn’t just a list of vocabulary, but a relevant piece of vocabulary, where I could look back at the show and recall easier from experiences.

It is good to have more context while learning, but is that better than simply learning with the flashcards? In a world where time doesn’t exist then obviously, however I think it’s faster to learn with the flashcards.

Input is still useful though, I just question whether it’s useful to do it when you understand very little, rather would it be better to enforce it when you already know a lot and can better understand it, and listen properly, and still learn from the things you don’t know, while also making your speech more fluent.

I don’t know really.


What I decided to try next was actually a different kind of immersion, where instead of watching I practised my reading, just the hanzi. It was mostly to test the possibility of completing HSK3 before I went back to uni, the answer being most definitely no.

I read for a while without looking up the words, to really try and make myself test and understand it, it didn’t work. I did really badly. And I don’t feel like I’ve learned much, maybe my reading has improved as I have become more used to reading hanzi, however of course I have learned very little.

Immersion likely is a really bad idea for reading, not unless you want to break out a code book as if your trying to decode a language. In hindsight I should have seen this, however it was also fun to test myself so it’s not like I really lost out on so much.

It was cool to see actually how much I did know, even though I got many questions wrong, I still feel like for most questions I knew the majority of the questions, which is quite amazing!

The problem with HSK is that it tries to catch you out a lot, and punishes you if you know a little, because the little that it expects you to definitely know is contradicted by the other thing it thinks your likely to have not seen.

I have seen people learn hanzi using an English first mentality, but I think it’s not necessarily a good idea. The reason being that hanzi have different meanings when combined together, and you also have no way of knowing how that word is pronounced, just what it means.

I find it much easier myself to match the English to the pinyin, and then create a deck in just Chinese where it tests you on the Chinese while giving you the pinyin. I find myself connecting the words together much, much faster. I think it’s a better way, yes even better than heisig.

Because with heisig’s method what does it give you? All of the character’s English meanings, yet none of the pronunciation, nor many actual real words because most of them combine together.

Sure heisig may be better in the long run, for teaching you everything. However I feel like for the majority of your time with heisig you will learn very little of actual use that would benefit you in anyway besides your reading, until you switch from matching the character to pinyin.

This may be the better way in the long term, however I personally cannot do it. When I do heiseg, I do not feel like I’m learning the true meaning of the word, just the English, without knowing the pinyin I myself don’t feel like I can ever be sure if that’s what the word truly means. As well as that I want to see returns in other places faster. I don’t want to learn all the English for something yet still not be able to use it. I guess I’m impatient, and although it may screw me over, I’d rather be screwed over later than now when it feels like what I’m doing currently now is more useful.


Anyway, that was testing immersion, I hope you found it interesting. I think I will try to do more immersion, even though it’s really difficult and annoying for me currently.

Do you have any advice for me? Please? haha, as always, let me know how you’re language learning is going so far, and any thoughts you have!

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