Anyone ever do a language immersion program?

Like most people who only speak one language, I’d like to learn another language one day but I know I’m never going to get there on my own. Has anyone ever done a language immersion program in another country, particularly as a non-college student? Not that I’m not interested in people who did study abroad but it’s sadly too late for that for me. Can anyone recommend a specific program? Since I live in the US and took Spanish in high school and college that would probably be the best language for me to learn. I’m also interested on hearing the experiences of anyone who has picked up another language as an adult.

I did one in the military before being stationed in Germany. Eight hours a day with no English, for two weeks. I didn’t learn enough to order eggs for breakfast, and although I picked up a few words as we went along I never was able to get by alone.

In my limited exposure time to plenty of languages I’ve come to the conclusion: 1 day in a foreign country = 1 week of classes. You can ‘immerse’ yourself all you want on the computer at home, but until you need this new tool to get around in your average day you’ll never really grasp it or really retain it. That said, if native speakers aren’t readily available, while looking for podcasts to learn Chinese I found tons for Spanish that were high quality and free. It’s a far cry from actual expereience, but the repetition will drum it into your brain. I think that’s your best shot.

Cuernavaca Language School I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Cuernavaca is one of the best places to live. Never colder than 72 degrees never hotter than 82 degrees. I took their 30 day immersion and ended up staying for a few years. They can provide you with a local family to live with. The family provides breakfast and dinner you are on your own for lunch. If you go be sure to stop by Harry’s Bar it is a “shady place for sunny people, members and non members only”. Truthfully it was a great place in the 70’s and early 80’s now it is a little too commercial, but good memories. The school also organizes field trips to many great cultural cites. The time I spent in Cuernavaca was absolutely the best time in my life.

I am working towards an immersion program in Sana’a, Yemen. Just sorting out the telecommuting thing for my business. I’ve been to the school and it seems well run and the students there (mostly 30-something Americans) report sucess.

I was a teacher for those programs in Germany.
Usually, we would meet at a hotel in a small town in Germany for two weeks and anywhere from 10 to 20 people would be a part of the group. We spoke only English, from breakfast together, to all day classes, with lunch and dinner together and evenings were filled with English movies or other activities. They were only allowed to speak German for 10 minutes each day to make phone calls home and to the office.

My classes were sponsored by a large German corporation, so all of the students were employees by that company. They came for various reasons - some had to go abroad to work on projects, others had to work on contracts, some had daily dealings with American and British companies, some were engineers working with multi-national firms…and lots of other reasons.

The results?

It totally depended on the person. Some came with little knowledge of English and left speaking English quite well. Some came with more knowledge of English, but didn’t learn much as they didn’t really try. However, I think I can safely say that everybody left learning something. I had some great success stories - students would write me and tell me great stories - some quite funny - but mostly thanking me and letting me know the course really did pay off in the end.

I don’t think these types of courses are really that valuable for absolute beginners, but if you have some knowledge of the language, this is the way to go to get a better grasp of the language in a very short period of time.

Mrs BACI studied at the Goethe Institut in Dusseldorf in Germany for 2 months when she was 25. Classes were from 8.30am to 1.00pm weekdays and the rest of the time was for homework and cultural experiences (museums, art galleries, beer drinking, etc).

There were various types of accommodation available, but she chose to stay with a local family sharing a room with a non-english speaking student. She had already studied German for 4 years at Uni, but had never become fluent. She found that circumstances forced her to speak German.

Even though other students did speak english, after about 4 weeks they all found themselves speaking German for preference.

It was a great experience and she loved it, but she says “Use it or lose it!”. She’s now 38 and hasn’t spoken much German for the last 10 years. She still gets the gist but isn’t fluent anymore.

I’ve done language immersion twice, once in Hebrew (it was at a university, but there were non-university students in the immersion) once in Bulgarian, as a Peace Corps Trainee. The Bulgarian one was by far the better of the two because I lived with a host family, so my immersion was really an all day thing. When I did Hebrew immersion, I’d go back to my dorm and hang out with a bunch of Americans (or Israelis who spoke English). When I got back from class in Bulgaria, I’d be with my Bulgarian host family.

In the early 70’s I moved from Cleveland to the rural South. Does that count? :smiley:

Hmm, I sorta don’t qualify to answer your question, but I think I might have a relevant response.

I’ve studied Spanish for 11 years as a student, which included a very highly regarded college Intensive Language Program that comes as close to total immersion as you can get without actually leaving the country.

Then, after graduating with a B.A. in Spanish, I spent two months in Mexico. In two months I feel as though I learned more than I ever did sitting in a classroom for 11 years. There is nothing that can compare to living in another country. The way I see it, you can either spend years and years sitting in a classroom, or just take the time to go abroad and do it in a fraction of the time. It seems to me like an immersion program set in another country would be absolutely the ideal. Go for it.

Only if you eventually lost your northern accent.

When I lived in Jakarta, I took a six week crash course in conversational Indonesian. Two classes a week, 4 hours a class, nothing but Indonesian spoken. At the end of the course, I could carry on a conversation fairly well. Slowly, but I could do it. And the more I spoke the language, the better I got.

Here’s an experience to use as a benchmark: I did the FALCON program (Full-year Asian Language Concentration) at Cornell in Indonesian. Each morning we had 4 hours of class, three of them with native speakers who were not allowed to use English with us and one with an English-speaking linguist who taught grammer. We had 4-5 hours of homework each day in the afternoon, including memorizing dialogues and doing a lot of listening/speaking exercises.

After a full academic year of this I knew a LOT of Indonesian, especially the grammar (an aside to other Indonesian speakers - I used to claim I was one of the few expats in the country who could rattle off all 4 meanings of the “ter” prefix without pausing). However, it still took at least a year of living in Indonesia and using the language regularly before I felt truly competent - for example, able to comprehend and participate in a business meeting conducted entirely in Indonesian.

A lot depends on how difficult the language is, where your skills lie (mimetic ability helps a lot), and what you want to do with it - being able to hold a cocktail party conversation is a lot easier than reading a business report and being able to write one is a step beyond that.

My nephew speaks several languages, all pretty well by all accounts. He learned each in a short immersion program but it appears to be some natural knack that he has. He just learned German because he wants to go there to live and study for a while. The cunning young lad talked his parents into taking on a German exchange student for a year even though my nephews are past high school. Now the two of them talk German all day.

Damn you, I think you might have given me a vacation plan for 2008.