Designed Immersion™: the easy and very practical path to fluency in Spanish
At Pars Omni we have been helping people learn conversational Spanish for over 30 years. Since 2016, because of changes brought about through technological advances, we re-purposed our company to help people become fluent in Spanish.
In fact, ‘learning Spanish’ has always meant to ‘become fluent in Spanish’. The problem is that, especially for Americans, to go much beyond a beginner or low-intermediate level has required intensive immersion in a Spanish-speaking society for many months to several years.
For beginners, the best way to start is with a class or classes with professionally trained instructors. We still offer our very successful Foundation Course for beginners. But once you reach what we call a Basic level, it’s best to transition to some kind of ‘immersion’.
So starting in 2016 we began developing our Spanish Fluency Membership Program. It’s meant for those who have already reached at least a ‘Basic’ level and it works through a method we call Designed Immersion™. The Spanish Fluency Membership Program takes advantage of the proliferation of international streaming services, as well text-to-speech and voice-recognition services to allow you to have an effective immersion experience without having to live in a foreign country.
How does it work? The first idea to understand is that the idea of ‘learning Spanish’ implies acquiring knowledge while the ‘idea of becoming fluent’ implies mastery of skills.
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The 3 Skills of Fluency
Fluency in Spanish, or any language, includes at least these 3 fundamental skills, described here at the level we call Practical Fluency, which is the minimal level of fluency:
- Understanding: the ability to understand any Spanish speaker in any situation (for example, easily understanding films and TV shows, with a very small number of missed words whose meaning you can guess from the context).
- Speaking: the ability to communicate any idea you want in Spanish that native Spanish speakers can easily understand (though possibly with grammar mistakes and usage that is understandable but sounds ‘foreign’).
- Conversing: the ability to carry on lengthy conversations, rapidly, back and forth, with Spanish speakers about any subject without getting lost or hesitating or thinking so much that others interrupt you or don’t want to converse with you.
When you practice these skills you will become more skillful and, without necessarily working at it, you will acquire the knowledge, along the way. When you aim solely for knowledge, you often don’t develop any of the 3 skills of fluency to any degree – even though you can ‘pass the test’.
In order to master the 3 skills of fluency, you need to practice – a lot. We all know that this is true of any really desirable skill. And an important part of the Spanish Fluency Membership program is detailed instruction on what and how to practice. When you set your goal to ‘learn the Spanish language’ you have set a goal that you cannot achieve; there will always be more to learn. When you set your goal to ‘reach at least Practical Fluency in Spanish’ (for example), you have a clear goal that you can achieve and that you can measure your progress against.
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'Barriers' to Practice
Now we come to the most important part of the Membership program: unless you do practice enough you won’t reach fluency. I recall one of our students enrolled into our beginner class (the Foundation Course) even though he had lived over 25 years in Mexico. Just living in a Spanish-speaking country does not mean you’ll ‘automatically become fluent’.
What is it that gets in our way when we want to practice a new skill? Here are the top reasons people have given us for why they find it difficult to stay ‘inspired to practice’ for a long time when learning a language:
- “I’m not sure I’m very good at learning languages; I didn’t do well in school.”
- “I’m very busy. I don’t think I can afford to spend several hours a week, week after week.”
- “Any kind of practice can become boring, tedious or difficult; if nobody is forcing me to practice, I’ll probably start skipping it.”
- “To become fluent, I need to master all sorts of grammar rules, but I don’t like grammar and I’m not good at it.”
- “I think you really need to be talking with real people, not just practicing on your own.”
The Designed Immersion™ training, when you start the Membership, shows you how each of these 5 ‘barriers’ can be easily overcome. All of these barriers to effective, regular practice boil down to this: “I don’t believe the practice I think I need to do will be easy or enjoyable”,
“I don’t believe the practice I think I need to do will be effective.”
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Let’s take them one-by-one and see how Designed Immersion™ deals with each one.
- “I’m not good at languages.” This is almost never true. If you speak your native language fluently, of course you’re good at languages. If you’ve had bad experiences learning languages before, it was, 100%, due to the method of instruction or to the instructional environment.
- During the Designed Immersion™ training you learn how all human beings, no matter their age, are very capable language learners – under the right conditions. You and I became fluent in our native language through the process we call Natural Learning, not through formal study. Understanding exactly how Natural Learning works is at the core of the Designed Immersion training.
- “I’m too busy…” Most adults lead busy lives. How easy is it to devote 4 or 5 hours a week to become fluent in Spanish? If those 4 or 5 hours are boring, or tiring, most of us would quickly say, “I’m too busy…”. But if those 4 or 5 hours were highly interesting, entertaining and fun – like an enjoyable hobby, we might easily find that we’re not as busy as we’d thought.
- “Practice and study are boring, tedious, difficult or tiring.” These are not uncommon experiences to most of us. But in the Designed Immersion™ training, you learn how to easily – and always – engage in practice and study from the perspective of interest, enjoyment and satisfaction. Study and practice that is boring, tedious, difficult or tiring is never effective study or practice.
- “I need to master the grammar, and grammar is difficult [or boring].” Yes, to become fluent you’ll eventually want to speak grammatically correctly (though it isn’t actually necessary for fluency). When you’re fluent, though, and you’re conversing with others, you don’t have the time to think about and recall grammar rules. In the Designed Immersion training we show you how to practice good grammar and usage rather then studying and memorizing grammar and usage rules.
- “I need to be spending my time conversing with Spanish speakers, not studying or practicing on my own.” Conversing with Spanish speakers is excellent practice once you approach fluency of understanding. But prior to that, there are far more effective ways to practice the 3 skills of fluency (understanding, speaking and even conversing) on your own, through the Spanish Fluency Membership activities.
I’m not saying ‘don’t converse with Spanish speakers until you’re almost fluent’ – It’s almost always a good thing to converse with Spanish-speakers when you have the chance. Rather, I’m saying, ‘the key to becoming fluent is to learn the most effective ways to practice the skills of understanding, speaking and conversing – and then to practice them regularly. ‘ And that’s what we show you how to do in the Spanish Fluency Membership.
Once you’ve completed the Designed Immersion™ training, you’ll meet with me or one of our other specialists to answer any questions and to ensure you’re ready to begin regular Spanish Fluency Membership Activities.
To find out more about our Foundation Course and the Spanish Fluency Membership, or if you’re not sure what’s best for you, click the appropriate button once you close this page.