I was challenged to learn a new language for the first time in school. As our education system requires, every student should learn two foreign languages. Depending on the school, the students were learning English and French (as mine did) some of them English and German, and some of them English and Italian. I loved English (can’t say the same about French)!!! I tried hard to learn it. Believe me, this was a challenge in a class with 30 students and only one teacher! I learned mostly from books, reading and writing… and surprise, when the moment came to talk in English, I couldn’t find my words!!! Did you have the same problem? I know many friends who had the same experience. Some of them learned English with a dictionary and phrase books, and some of them joined English classes. Few of them became fluent in the new language fast, but most of us… we were trying and trying really hard.

After many years, moving to India, I was forced to learn Hindi. A difficult language!!! Different sounds, different script, and once again learning from books did not work. I’ve tried for some time, and reached a beginner level. I was able to survive, but I wasn’t content because of the inability to share my deep feelings and experiences with my Indian friends. Miscommunication due to the lack of language knowledge made life really difficult sometimes. In that moment I learnt about OnSite Language Services, an immersion language learning program which helps English/Spanish speaking people to learn Hindi/Urdu and other Indian languages. Its motto is “Immerse to Converse”, because they believe that immersion is the best way to learn a new language.

The principles of OSLS are natural, and yet I haven’t thought about them! Let’s learn as children do! What does it mean? Children learn through their everyday experience not through lessons; they acquire language which they need to use; they speak before they write and read. Through OSLS you become a child again; you learn to listen to the new language and to speak before you read or write. This does not mean that writing or reading is neglected, but the program concentrates on speaking. Being a community based language learning program, the students learn the new language mostly out in the community with natives or in private sessions with a language helper. This makes the relationships easy to build and learning culture a natural process. Of course, learning requires sweat, frustration and… humility: to recognize that you don’t know everything, to accept that people will laugh at you and to persist in having embarrassing language contacts.

So, what did I learn from my language learning experience? I learned… how to learn! I learned that immersion language learning is the most efficient method to learn a new language… as long as you work hard!!!

Author's Bio: 

Gabi Andrei, OSLS Learner, a language acquisition program which invites people to learn Hindi and learn Urdu in India from native people not from books, an intensive language learning in a new culture.