How many hours per week do you spend entirely immersed in Spanish?
Most Spanish students would be ashamed to say it, but on average they’re only getting about one solid hour of immersion in per week — and that’s if they’re even actively studying the language at all. As you can imagine, this can pose a huge problem, as the “use it or lose it” philosophy tends to be especially pertinent when it comes to acquiring a foreign language.
We’re not ones to just sit by and let our students wither away in the ruins of language acquisition turmoil, however. With a solution in mind, we decided to create a unique opportunity and, well, last week turned out to be a little different around here…
It was Monday morning, just a week or two after Cincinnati Public Schools closed their doors for the summer, and we gathered an intimate group of high schoolers together for what became an unforgettable week of Spanish immersion. We met for four hours each day and had just one rule — nothing but Spanish for the duration of each immersion session.
In total, we met for 20 hours between Monday and Friday as the students were exposed to everything from the music of Columbia and interactive storytelling to hours of one-on-one conversations with native speakers and Salsa dancing. And I kid you not when I say there was SO MUCH in between.
We gave the students a survey the first and last hour of the immersion week, allowing them to rate their self-perceived abilities on a number of Spanish-related skills.
Across the board, participants rated themselves as having improved every aspect of their Spanish by significant percentage points. This included
1. Their ability to understand native speakers
2. Their ability to speak without much effort (In other words, fluency)
3. Their ability to produce grammatically correct Spanish w/o much effort
4. Their Spanish vocabulary
The craziest part? I didn’t need surveys to tell me what had happened. The difference between Monday morning — when the students were cocking their heads to the side when we would speak and tripping their way through sentences when they’d speak — and Monday afternoon was crazy enough. By Friday, however, our students were carrying on conversations in the hall with their new native speaking friends, laughing and crying while sharing stories, and giving breathtaking presentations in front of dozens of guests — All. In. Spanish.
So, what does all of this mean for you? If this is what our students were able to accomplish in just one week, imagine what a few hours every evening can do for you over the course of – say – a month. There are so many resources available now that you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home to become fluent in Spanish.
The Duolingo app to learn the Spanish basics? Check.
Spanish series on YouTube? Check.
Places to read Spanish news, sports, celebrity gossip, etc, etc, etc… online? Check.
Coffee Shop Spanish’s online, one-on-one Spanish courses? You know the deal.
I hear often that students “just don’t have enough time” to become the fluent Spanish speakers they dream of being. I encourage you to challenge your own assumptions and commit a few hours a night for the next month of your life to finally do it. In fact, we’ve got a new 4-week Fluency Challenge starting the 1st of next month. There’s no better time than the present to achieve something amazing. And if a group of high schoolers can do it in the middle of their summer break in just a few hours a day, you sure as heck can too.