How to get language learning immersion at home






The English version of this article was written by Kevin Morehouse, language coach, teacher and member of the LucaLampariello.com team.
"Travel", they say. "Go to the country and learn the language for a few months."

"You'll be fluent in no time".

That's what I always used to hear when I was first learning Italian, long before I took the leap and actually studied abroad there.
Quality language learning, it seemed, was inexorably tied to one's ability to buy a plane ticket and spend time in a place where a specific language is spoken.

The reason, of course, is immersion. If what makes us better at a language is simply speaking it, hearing it, reading it, and writing it as much as possible, then there's no better place to do that than the place where all of those things happen all of the time.
Wouldn't you agree?

But what if you can't travel? What if you can't spend thousands of dollars to buy a plane ticket, or potentially much more to enter a university program abroad?

Are you doomed to forever suffer sub-standard learning methods?

I think not.
Where immersion environments were once limited to the country in which you find yourself, that is no longer the case, thanks to the Internet.

If you've got an Internet connection, a good-quality immersion environment is only ever a few clicks away. Not only that, but with smartphones and tablets, you can even take your immersion environment with you on the go.
The following are the 10 easiest ways you can get more language learning immersion at home.

1. Change Your YouTube Content Location


Let's start with a website you probably use every day: YouTube.
YouTube is massive. Collectively, YouTube users watch over one billion hours of content every day—anything from cat videos to Photoshop tutorials can be found on the platform.
Without knowing your specific viewing habits, I can guess that most of what you watch is in English (or English and your mother tongue). The videos you search for and the recommendations you see are all limited to English, and you see little, if anything, in other languages, even if you want to.
Fortunately for us language learners, there's a way to tweak YouTube so that nearly everything it shows and recommends is in our target language—the home page, recommended videos, recommended channels, and so on.
And that requires changing your content location.

On YouTube, your content location is not the language you see in the menus, but the source from which YouTube pulls most of its videos. We human beings tend to have most of our interests in common with people from the same country as us, so if YouTube knows nothing about you other than what country you're from, it will show you popular videos and channels from that country as a catalyst to get you watching.
Fortunately, no matter which country in the world you are from, changing your content location doesn't take more than a few clicks of your mouse:
1. Visit YouTube.com

2. Click on the Settings icon (the three vertical dots) on the upper right of the page, next to either "Sign In" or your user icon. A dropdown menu will appear.
3. Locate and click on the option that says Location: [your current country>. Another menu will appear.

4. From the menu titled "Choose Your Location", choose a country where your target language is an official language.
In most cases, the content on the YouTube homepage (and any other subsequent page) should change to reflect the content that is currently popular in your chosen country.
Keep in mind that if you are currently signed in, the effect of changing locations may be overshadowed by recommendations from your watch history, so click the "Trending" button on the sidebar to get a clearer idea of what happened. The Trending menu should only show you the currently trending videos in your chosen country.

2. Join Online Groups in Your Target Language




One of the Internet's many strengths is its ability to connect people with shared interests who speak the same language.
For example, you and I have probably never met, but since we're both English-literate people who have an interest in language learning, we're basically communicating via this blog post.

The same thing happens in your target language too, whether or not you're actually aware of it. Speakers of different languages gather all over the web to meet and chat about any topic under the sun.
And while these meeting places and forums are usually intended for native speakers of those languages, there's nothing stopping you from joining in on the conversation and interacting in your target language.

The two easiest places to find forums full of native speakers are on Discord servers and Facebook groups.

Discord Servers


Discord is a community-based voice- and text-chat application. Though originally designed for and primarily used by members of the video-game community, Discord communities (called "servers") can be made or organized around virtually any topic.
To use Discord for the purposes of at-home immersion, the goal is to find a community that:
- Features your target language as the primary language
- Is organized around something you're interested in
To do this, you can use a website called Disboard, which is a searchable public Discord server list.
To find a Discord server in your target language, simply follow these steps:
1. Make an account on discord.com
2. Log into your new account on your web browser, or download the desktop or mobile apps.
3. Go to disboard.org
4. Type the name of your target language into the search bar in the center of the page, and hit “Enter”.
You will then be presented with a list of public Discord servers that contain that language as a "tag". Typically, these servers are either for people who are learning that language, or native speakers of that language (or both!).
For the purposes of immersion, I recommend that you look for a community that is not built around languages or language exchange. This way, you'll have the greatest odds of reading, writing, and communicating all in your target language, which is what immersion is all about!
Be careful of the types of Discord servers you are joining. If you are not sure what the purpose of a given Discord server is, read the description, or run it through a translator. Not-Safe-For- Work (NSFW) servers are tagged as such on Disboard, below the description. If you need more information or context before joining, you can also read reviews of each server, if available.

We have listed our best servers for learning English. If you find other interesting English servers, please add a new comment. To share Discords servers in a language other than English, feel free to create a new post.

Facebook Groups


Finding Facebook groups populated by speakers of your target language is not difficult, but finding a group that suits your needs and interests may take some work.
Facebook's group recommendation system seems to be based primarily on several factors:
- Your geographic location
- Groups your friends are in
- Other groups you're a part of
Because of the above, for example, it may be difficult to organically find all-French-speaking groups if you're not already in France, don't have French-speaking Facebook friends, or aren't already a member of such groups.
To get your start with target language Facebook groups, I recommend that you make a list of your own interests, and then translate that list into your target language.
Once you’ve done that, complete the following steps:

- Log into Facebook (or make an account, if you don’t have one already).

- Once logged in, type an item from your interest list into Facebook’s search bar.

- On the results page, click the "Groups" tab, and see what results await.
Since you're searching for groups with target language words in their titles and/or descriptions, you'll likely find groups solely intended for native speakers.

When selecting which groups you will join, I recommend looking for groups that have a mid-to-high frequency of posts. This will be visible to you under the group description, where it will say something like "10 posts a day" or "7 posts a week".
From there, you can even click into the group and get an idea of how active the group is. If the group is public, you can view posts directly.
If it is private, you'll only be able to see things like the amount of members (and how many signed up in the past 30 days), as well as more detailed info about the posting history.

We have listed our best groups for learning English. If you find other interesting English groups, please add a new comment. To share Facebook groups in a language other than English, feel free to create a new post.

3. Stream Target Language News




Another great way to get more immersion from home is by streaming target language news.
For better or worse, many countries around the world have embraced the 24-hour news cycle, meaning that there are news broadcasts available in those corresponding languages at any moment of the day.
The easiest places to encounter and stream these news broadcasts without region restrictions is through YouTube.
To find the YouTube channels that broadcast live news via stream, you first need to return to Tip 1 in this article and change your YouTube content location.
Then complete the following steps:
1. Click "Live" in the left sidebar
2. Scroll down to "Live Now - News" (if this section is missing, hit ctrl/cmd + f and search for the word "news" in your target language
3. Enjoy the news broadcast!
An added benefit of these news live streams is that they come with a live chat function. Usually meant to allow viewers to interact directly with the channel owner who is broadcasting the livestream, on news channels the chat messages are more like active commentary.

As the events of the news play on the video, you'll see messages pop up talking about and reacting to them. If you’d like, you can even join in on the action yourself!

4. Watch Livestreams on Twitch


Livestreams aren't just good for news broadcasts. They're also good for interacting with native-speaking broadcasters in real time.

Thanks to services like Twitch, you can search for and find native speakers who broadcast themselves doing all sorts of interesting things, like playing video games, hosting podcasts, playing board games, and just chatting!
In many ways, it's like hanging out with native speaker friends you didn't know you had, all from the comfort of your own home.

Watching target language livestreams on Twitch is very easy, and does not require a Twitch account of any kind.
Simply follow these steps:
1. Go to Twitch.tv
2. Click on "Browse" on the left side of the top navigation menu
3. Next to "Filter by", click "Add Filter +" and type in the name of your target language. If there is a suitable matching filter, your target language will appear in the dropdown list. Click it to continue.
Once you've completed these steps, you will see a list of all of the live channels that are broadcasting in your target language. You'll notice that most channels are broadcasts of individual people playing video games, but just as many are of people who are just there to chat and interact with their audience of subscribers.
This can be a great way to experience casual language, like you would hear in face-to-face conversations with a friend.

5. Purchase and Download Desktop/Mobile Games in Your Target Language




If you're not a fan of just watching native speakers play video games on Twitch, what about grabbing a controller (or keyboard and mouse) and playing a video game yourself?

Desktop Gaming (Mac/PC/Linux)


Fortunately, thanks to the advent of online video game distribution platforms like Steam, GOG, and the Epic Games Store, language-focused gamers no longer have to worry as much about things like region restrictions to play games in their target language.
Now, as long as you purchase and download those games directly online (as opposed to buying a physical cartridge or disk), you can have direct access to all of the language diversity a single game offers, even from your home country.
To find video games to play in your target language for a fully immersive experience, follow these steps:
1. Go to store.steampowered.com
2. Click on the magnifying glass icon next to the “Search the Store” input field (even without inputting anything)
3. Scroll down to "Narrow by Language"
4. Click the "See All >>" button if necessary
5. The search results will be updated live. You can then add or change other search filters as you see fit.
6. If you find a game that you are interested in playing in your target language, click on the name of the game to be brought to that game's profile page.
7. Scroll down to "Languages" in the sidebar, and click "See all supported languages". The displayed list will show you if your chosen game has the interface, full audio, or subtitles in your target language.
Look specifically for games with "subtitles" and "full audio" in your target language for the most immersive experience.

Mobile Gaming


If you’d prefer to get your target language gaming fix on the go, rather than from home, you can also turn to mobile games, which are downloadable and playable directly on your smartphone.
The most challenging part about getting immersion through mobile games is actually finding games that are playable in your target language.
Here are some tips to help you track down those games on iOS and Android, the most popular mobile operating systems available today:
iOS
Luckily for us, Apple’s iOS App store provides the most direct way to find out the language features of a specific game:
1. On your iOS device, open the “App Store” app.
2. Select a game, either through direct search or the “Games” tab. (Alternatively, visit the “Games” section on the App Store website)
3. Once you’re on a game’s profile page, scroll down to the “Information” section
4. Under “Information”, find “Languages”, and look for your target language.
5. If your target language appears in the languages list, then you can play the game in your target language!
Android
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there does not seem to be a reliable way to determine which games on Android’s Google Play Store are available to play in separate languages, at least directly from your phone or computer.
However, I recommend following the steps above for iOS (through visiting the App Store website) and still looking for compatible games.
If you can play a game in your target language on an Apple device, then you should be able to do the same on the Android version of the same game, provided it exists.

6. Buy and Download Ebooks


Reading target language books is a fantastic way to get massive amounts of target language input for relatively cheap.
The problem with foreign books, however, is that they are costly to obtain in large quantities. They're easy to find and purchase if you're traveling, but they're difficult to transport; they can be similarly easy to buy online, but shipping or import fees are often prohibitively expensive.
The best way to get at-home immersion from target language books then, is through an alternative method: downloadable digital ebooks!

Ebooks are essentially glorified text files. That means that if you can find them online, it's easy to download and store large amounts of them for way less than the cost of the equivalent physical books.

Here's how you can find target language ebooks online, so you can get large amounts of at-home immersion through reading.
We'll first start with Amazon Kindle, since that is the most popular ebook platform globally. Reading Kindle books requires either an Amazon Kindle e-reader or an Amazon Kindle smartphone or desktop PC application.
To find Kindle books in your target language, you should first visit the "Language" section of the Kindle Store:

Following Amazon's on-site product categories, you should look for ebooks listed under:

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Foreign Languages
There are 11 languages listed under the above category. Furthermore, there is an additional "Other Languages" category, under which can be found 32 more languages. (43 languages in total)

Alternatively, with the "Kindle Store" selected in the search bar, enter "[Target Language> Edition" in quotation marks. This will reveal ebooks in languages that don't have their own category on Amazon (even ones that are missing from the "Other Languages" mentioned above.

Google Play Books


Google's Google Play Books store offers an alternative to the Amazon Kindle store that is similarly full-featured. It's a particularly good option for language learners who do not have a Kindle e-reader, and must instead rely on a Barnes and Noble Nook or Sony eReader device. A Google Play Books smartphone app is also available for iOS and Android mobile devices.
Though the platform itself does offer a large selection of ebooks in a wide variety of languages, the website itself does not make it easy to find these titles. Unless you have a specific title in mind and can type that title into the search bar, you will have little luck locating books that meet your immersion needs.
To get around this issue, I recommend first searching around on other websites for names of books in your target language. You can follow the steps I've recommended for Amazon above, or you can search on Google for "popular books in [your target language>" (or the equivalent translation in your target language).
Make a list from any interesting titles you find on these sites, then return to the Google Play Books website and search for the titles directly.

Once you've found a book you like, click on it to visit its store page. From there, you may find related titles in your target language by looking through the books listed in the "Similar ebooks" column on the right-hand side.

7. Download International Radio Apps on Your Smartphone




There once was a time that the only way you could reliably listen to foreign language radio was if you lived in the country where the broadcast was made.

Not so anymore, especially with the growth of digital radio and online streaming.

Now, if you want to listen to target language radio just as natives do, all you need is the right desktop or smartphone application.
I specifically recommend two different apps: TuneInRadio and SBS Radio:

TuneInRadio


TuneInRadio is quite possibly the best all-around international radio app. As of this writing, their app indexes radio streams, sports broadcasts, and podcasts from 197 countries, and over 100 languages.
To find broadcasts in your target language, follow these steps:
1. Visit https://tunein.com/radio/home/ or download the "TuneIn" app on your smartphone.
2. Click "By Language" (in the left sidebar on browser or the Browse > By Language tabs) on Mobile
3. Select your target language from the list
4. After clicking on your target language, other categories will appear, depending on the language you have selected. Click through the various categories until you find a single radio broadcast or podcast that interests you.

SBS Radio


Another high-quality international radio app is SBS Radio, direct from Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

SBS Radio's offerings are meant specifically for Australia's diverse immigrant community, so it provides high-quality news broadcasts in 68 different languages.

While SBS's broadcast quality is excellent in all languages it offers, it's predominantly Australian perspective may be off-putting to learners who do not care to listen to Australia-related news.
That being said, many of SBS's broadcasts do follow major global headlines, so the app has some value for every language learner—especially those who are learning less common languages.

Here are the steps you'll need to follow to find SBS's non-English broadcasts:

- Go to https://www.sbs.com.au/radio/yourlanguage, and select your target language directly from the list

- On your iOS or Android device, download the "SBS Radio" app. On startup, select your target language from the "Which languages are you interested in listening to?" screen.

8. Download a Target Language Podcast App




Podcasts are a medium that offers all of the immersion benefits of digital radio, but with none of the time or content restraints. There are podcasts available for any topic and episode length. The only challenge for language learners is finding an interesting podcast to listen to in your target language.

To do that, I recommend using a podcast aggregator, which is a program that allows you to find and download podcast audio files to your computer or smartphone.
Most podcast aggregators nowadays all have access to the same body of content. Chances are, if you can find a podcast on iTunes (now known as Apple Podcasts), you can find it on any other podcasting app.

While this does give you a certain amount of freedom in which apps you choose to download target language podcasts from, the act of finding good and popular podcasts to listen to in your target language may be harder with some apps than others.
For this purpose, I specifically recommend Pocket Casts , which is a free application available on both iOS and Android devices.

The strength of Pocket Casts is in its "Discover" feature, which allows you to view podcasts lists and categories according to "content regions", which are, generally speaking, just countries.

As of this writing, there are 28 different countries featured in the "Select Content Region" list, available by selecting the "Discover" tab of the app, scrolling all the way down to the bottom, and clicking on the country flag and name listed just below "Select Content Region".
Once you have selected a region, all you need to do is hit the back arrow on the top left until you return to the "Discover" menu. There, you'll find a list titled "Popular in [Content Region>". That (expandable) list will show you the top 100 podcasts for your selected region, many of which should be in your target language.

9. Listen to Target Language Music Using an Audio Streaming Platform


In my opinion, there are few types of authentic content that are more motivating than music.

Listening to music is inherently pleasurable in any language. If you can find lots of music in your target language, you'll find yourself more naturally drawn to the language and its culture as a result.
While finding good target language music used to be as difficult as finding and obtaining good target language books, the process has gotten much easier thanks to audio streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, both of which make it extremely easy to find and play music from all over the world.

Both Apple Music and Spotify have free and paid service tiers, though their paid subscriptions offer much more freedom and flexibility when listening to their music catalogs.

For those of you who wish to do lots of immersion through music streaming, I recommend trying out each platform using their free trial services, and then deciding which paid service will be best for your needs.

Apple Music


If you don't know any musical artists in your target language, the best place to start on Apple Music is their Daily Top 100 Lists.

Here's how to find them:
- Click the "Browse" tab
- Locate the "Daily Top 100" section
- Click on a Top 100 category that corresponds to a country where your target language is spoken. There are 49 countries currently available, plus one "Global" category.
- Look through your chosen Top 100 list for songs with titles written in your target language, and give them a listen.
Beyond the Daily Top 100 lists, Apple Music also has several "genre" categories which contain music that is predominantly non-English.

These genres include:
- C-pop (Mandarin Chinese)
- K-pop (Korean)
- Música Mexicana (Mexican Spanish)
- Latino, Pop Latino, Urbano Latino, Música Tropical, Rock y Alternativo (Latin American Spanish)

Lastly, Apple Music offers a few digital radio stations which broadcast music in languages that don't have their own listed genre.

You can find these stations by clicking the "Radio" tab, and locating the "Radio by Genre" tab on the subsequent screen.
For example, clicking through to the "Pop" radio genre will reveal streaming music radio stations for Brazilian, German, French, Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, and Turkish, in addition to the languages listed above (with their own genres).
Spotify categorizes its music in a similar way to Apple Music.

First, you should start by looking for target language music on the "Top 50" charts, which are available for 62 countries, plus one "Global" category.

Next, take a look at the "Viral 50" charts, which are available for 66 countries in total, plus one "Global" category.

Both the "Top 50" and "Viral 50" sections can be found by going to "Browse" > "Charts" and locating the "Top 50 by country" and "Viral 50 by country" lists.
Spotify also has its own genres, several of which are devoted to non-English music, including:
- K-pop (Korean)
- Anime (Japanese)
- Arab (Arabic)
- Desi (Hindi, Urdu, and related languages)
- Regional Mexican (Mexican Spanish)
- Latin (Latin American Spanish)

Once you've found groups, bands, and soloists who you enjoy listening to on the above lists, the next place to turn to is the Browse > Discover tab.

Here, Spotify will give you recommendations of artists and playlists based upon the music you already like.
With a little luck, you can also find user-curated playlists of music in your target language by prepending your search query with "playlist:" (e.g. "playlist: french" or "playlist français ") and clicking "See All" under the Playlist section in the results.

10. Sign up for Online Tutoring or a Language Exchange


So far, all of the immersion tools and methods I've suggested so far are meant to develop listening and/or reading, which are the so-called "passive language skills”. Harder to develop from home are the active skills, particularly speaking which, of course, requires you to speak with an actual person.

Apart from boarding native-speakers in your own house, the best way to get speaking immersion from home is to engage in either an online language exchange.

Try Polyglot Club, which is a platform for connecting language learners who want to converse and share languages with one another.
Through language exchange, you can set up instant messaging, face-to-face Skype sessions, and even penpal relationships with native speakers of your target language.

How Else Can You Get Foreign Language Immersion from Home?


In this article, I've shared ten different ways by which you can immerse directly in your target language without needing to travel.

These aren't the only methods available, however. Technology is ever-expanding, and more ways to surround yourself with your target language are becoming available by the day.

Are there any methods you use that I've missed? Do you use any of the methods I've suggested in a totally different way then suggested above?

Let me know in the comments!

Written by Kevin Morehouse. Kevin Morehouse is a language coach and teacher who is on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. A member of the LucaLampariello.com team since its inception, Kevin's principal role is that of writer, editor, and content developer. He is currently learning Korean, his primary language focus since mid-2017.

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