Learning Language through Immersion
Published: April 8, 2018
When I was five, I took my first steps toward speaking my second language. I still remember very clearly the day when my parents asked me if I wanted to go to an immersion school, and learn French. I remember hesitantly saying yes, not knowing just how much that one small decision would affect the rest of my life.
Learning another language is a great way to make connections with other people around the world, and it can be a lot of fun. I have been lucky enough to learn French in multiple immersion environments - at school and at camp - and see some ways they are similar and different.
Learning French at camp was similar to my experience in school in a few ways - but with a twist:
Both camp and school use songs to teach the language. Music is often a good way to learn things, as it helps ideas and vocabulary stick in your head. When I was in elementary school, I remember dressing up as a snail to sing “petit escargot” with my friends. Singing songs like that taught us simple vocabulary in a fun way. Later when I was in middle school, my teachers would often give us fill-in-the-blanks activities, where we would have to fill in the words to French pop songs. These songs taught me French culture and connected to other things I was learning in class. While at French camp, my friends and I also learned French songs. From simple folk songs to songs about cleaning, we learned words that we would never have picked up in school. At school we didn’t talk about mailing letters, or doing dishes. Camp songs gave us the opportunity to learn the vocabulary for those everyday tasks.
We learned about cultures at both camp and school. When I was in French Immersion school, our teachers taught us about francophone history and cultures. We learned about francophone figures such as Lafayette and the Voyageurs, and our teachers brought new viewpoints to the classroom with their diverse backgrounds. However, while it may be possible to study francophone culture in school, nothing is as cool as getting to experience it like we do at camp! Instead of just talking about a culture, we would eat traditional foods, perform traditional dances, and play traditional games. Camp let me be a part of somethings that was bigger and let me live more of French-speaking cultures.
While learning a foreign language at school is great, there are some things that you can’t learn in a school environment. Even if you’ve attended an immersion school, camp offers great opportunities to learn things that you would not have learned in school:
At Lac du Bois you get to be with people with a variety of levels of French. When I was at camp, there were people with all different levels of French in my cabin. Some were just beginners, having only spoken French for a month or two, while others were almost completely bilingual. This was great because it gave me a chance to learn French from people who were better at speaking it than I was. I also got to learn by teaching others. When I was helping other people out with their French speaking, I learned how to explain things in French in ways that others would understand. I also learned where there were small gaps in my vocabulary that I would not otherwise have noticed. In school, there are not very many opportunities to interact with people at different levels of speaking. Camp lets you do that!
Camp teaches you how to live with others. Lac du Bois is a community where everyone can learn together. At camp, I made a lot of lifelong friends. I got to meet people from many different places all over the world. Camp let us share our cultures and ideas with each other without judgement. While at Lac du Bois, I learned a lot about who I was, and what I believe. Lac du Bois gave me a new perspective on the world, letting me become a better global citizen. It taught me to look at the bigger picture, and was a safe place where everyone could be themselves. I still have many friends from all over the country and the world who I keep in touch with. It’s really nice to know that I could travel somewhere else in the world, and I would know somebody there.
For me, learning French has helped me become a good global citizen. I am so lucky to have gone to both the immersion school and the Language Village, which together have brought me closer to being bilingual. Learning a second language through immersion is just plain awesome, and if you ever get the chance to do it, I would 100% recommend it!
Marion is a sophomore in high school. She is currently taking French among other classes. When she is not working on her academics, she enjoys spending time with her friends and doing crafts. She has been a villager at Lac Du Bois Bemidji since the summer of 2014, and has loved every minute of it.