Do I need to travel to a Francophone country for immersion to improve French?
There is a popular opinion among French learners most especially those learning for proficiency exams like TEF, TCF, DELF and DALF that they have to travel to a francophone country for immersion in order to perfect French. What is the purpose of immersion? Is it really compulsory? Why do some need to travel that far for it? Is there an alternative? These and many more will be discussed below.
What is immersion?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined immersion as a method of learning a foreign language by being taught entirely in that language. In language learning parlance, it involves being in the target language speaking country. French is the official language in Belgium, Benin, Burkina, Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central, African, Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte, d’Ivoire, Democratic, Republic, of, the, Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial, Guinea, France, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Republic, of, the, Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, and Vanuatu.
Consequently, any learner can choose to travel to any of these nations for immersion in order to quickly assimilate and adapt to the language.
Why do some need to travel for it?
Majority of people who travel out for immersion do so on the premise of deficiency in either listening or speaking. Many French schools or tutors mainly focus on teaching the students on how to write and read, but less time on speaking and listening. French is a language, and the first two things anyone will judge you by are first, the ability to speak and understand (listen). Therefore, if a good job is not done by the school or tutor(s), the students may have to travel to a French-speaking country to improve these aspects. This however can be time and resources consuming. Nevertheless, for undergraduates in the French department, it is a requirement but not for a learner for a proficiency exam.
Is it compulsory?
While it is good if you want to, and if it is affordable and convenient, it is not a must to travel out for immersion. At Tobidam, we see immersion in terms of Chemistry. In Chemistry we have solute, solvent and solution. So, immersion is like a solute (e.g. salt of 5g) dissolving in a solvent (e.g. 500mL of water), to a solution of salt water( alkaline water). What I mean by that illustration is that, I see immersion as soaking yourself into French. Referring back to the solute-solvent reaction, if I want a salt-water, must I travel to the beach to get it? For instance, there is a Bar-beach in Lagos, if you live in Oyo state, must you travel down to Lagos to get a salt-water. Even if you reside in Lagos, and you need an alkaline-water, must you go the river or beach, no? You can make one or create its environment at home.
Is there an alternative?
How can one create its own immersion environment? Firstly, one has to surround himself with French speakers physically that he can communicate with, otherwise, he can go online to some some language exchange sites to get partners. For listening, he should be listening to French news, movies, cartoons, music etc. at his level from time to time. Lastly and the most important, his tutor/school should help create a viable daily listening and speaking practice with the student to aid him. At Tobidam, most of our students started with just Bonjour and they were able to pass all their papers at one sitting because we have our special immersion program we give our students from day 1.
By Tobi Gbadamosi
Got any questions on this article, feel free to drop your comments and you will be replied shortly.
UPCOMING ARTICLE: How to find a good online French tutor