How do we learn a language? In the sub-continent of ‘Bharat’ that is ‘India’,the famous texts of Ramayana and Mahabharata have ancient history that is as old as 5,000 to 3,000 BCE. There is a popular anecdote in the ‘Mahabharata’, of how the yet to be born ‘Abhimanyu’ learns the art of warfare from his father Arjuna, while Arjuna is narrating this art to Subhadra. Now latest researches like the one mentioned in the Sicencedaily conducted at University of Kansas, prove that indeed Language associated social and cognitive skills start developing in the womb. We all know how new born babies respond to our speech and how well they understand the feelings associated with the words spoken. So, the immersion method, uses the extension of this early learning environment into learning as an adult.
All modern education are bound to the physical spaces like buildings and classes of learning like the kindergarten, pre-school, primary to high school and climbing the stairs up to the University Education. This way of education emphasis the point that we need getting surrounded by a specially designed environment that aids in Learning. But with the advent of the Interned the physical spaces have merged with virtual spaces. Today, the Internet has become a hub of online education providers. Although, the challenge lies in creating the right ambience to make learning effective and meaningful.
For a student, who is aspiring to study abroad in an English speaking country, it is not enough just to know the language but he/she has to prove the minimum required level of proficiency needed to succeed in an academic environment like the CEFR C1/B2 level,which is equivalent to an IELTS Academic score of 8.5 – 6.5 Band.
So the question is how to use the Immersion Method to improve English Language Proficiency? The answer lies in the Environment. If we go to an English speaking country to live, work, study then we notice that we gather or imbibe the language and culture of that place in a very short duration, say, within a week or two. Even a person who has never had the opportunity to speak English in India would start speaking like the natives, though, such language is limited to day to day usage in the initial days and then as time progresses the person will act and sound quite native like. So what happened? Like a water surrounding a fish in a fish bowl, language surrounds us by sound waves. We live in the dominating sphere created by the sound waves of that language and thus, not only our ears, but our entire being is immersed in the language and culture. What is the advantage in an English Speaking country like the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, becomes a big barrier in a multilingual country like India. It is quite difficult to beat the dominance of regional languages and customs to be able to use English at a higher proficiency. The trick lies in dedicated efforts. The dedication to learning English or for that matter any subject leads to spending more time with the area of interest and this in turn is what immersion is all about.
There is a much favoured Indian delicacy, the sweet dessert, snack, mood elevator, grab to gobble, the “Jalebi”. This sweet is the perfect example of how language learning works. When taken out of the deep frying pan, the ‘jalebi’ tastes sour. This hot and simmering concentric pipe work is then immersed in a sugar syrup that is made from boiling sugar and mixed with essence like saffron. After being immersed in the syrup for about 10 minutes it is ready to be served hot or cold. Now a bite full of this will taste uniquely sweet. Language Immersion works in just the same way. The learner needs to create an environment of English to let the Receptive Skills Develop first (Auditory Skills– Listening; and Verbal Skills– Reading) and as a consequence the Productive Skills Develop (Speaking and Writing).
To succeed in increasing the proficiency in English we need a combination of Classroom teaching (Physical or Virtual – Live class) and dedicated efforts to immerse oneself in a self-created environment of English. Live Virtual Classes as well as Recorded Live Lectures are an immensely successful way to get the classroom experience at home. In these tough pandemic times where schools and colleges are closed and so are most of the private Coaching Centers. In such a scenario, online learning is the best option, provided the internet connectivity, the devices like an android phone, tablet, a laptop or a desktop are ready with the user. The future of education is predicted to increasingly become integrated with virtual technology and distance education is going to be the new normal.
For students staying in a non-English-speaking country like India, they will need to increase their exposure to English so that gradually the brain starts functioning in English as well as the mother tongue. Some tips to create an English Sphere around you are:
- Change all your social media account languages to English and change your browser settings so that all the websites you visit will be automatically changed to English from some other regional language.
- Watch English movies and TV shows even if you cannot understand fully. You can switch on your subtitles as it will also increase your English-reading speed.
- Listen to the news or radio in English.
- Speak in English to your family and friends as much as possible as it is one of the best ways to learn English.
- Join groups online or offline where there are other people sharing your interests who speak in English. This will allow you to converse more in English.
- Spend as much as 6 hours doing the above activities apart from the work that is done in an English class.
- Sign up for an English class.
- Find an English speaker (preferably someone who speaks native English) to tutor you.
- Find websites and apps that will test your English language skills with quizzes and exercises.
- Study English every day; regular practice is very important to learn a new language.
- Revise what you learned before every day or every few days
- Get a couple of good grammar books to solve exercises and clear your doubts –the Essential Grammer in Use by Raymond Murphy and brought to us by the Cambridge University Press is a good book and is designed for Asian Learners.
So now, back to the most fundamental question that international students ask, “How to get High Bands?” The answer lies in carefully reading what has been written above. The Band Scores at an IELTS depends upon the English Language User Level.
The IELTS scale
|The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.
|Very good user
|The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.
|The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.
|The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
|The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.
|The test taker’s basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.
|Extremely limited user
|The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.
|The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
|The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.
|Did not attempt the test
|The test taker did not answer the questions.
The above Rubrics make it amply clear that IELTS is not a school subject. It is a test of how well a person uses English in the four main skill areas mentioned earlier. Being honest to oneself and working in a planned way will of course bring the best in your abilities and lead you to success. So getting a high band score like 8 bands, one needs to be using English at that level – which is “a very good user of English”. To get a high band score two things are necessary. The first is sufficient practice of the IELTS modules by doing the Practice Tests and Full Length Tests and secondly, using immersion method to build actual language skills. So, get some perfect guidance from a Language Coaching Centre as well as use you ingenuity to up skill yourself with English by using Immersion Method