10,000 Hours of Immersion

November 11th, 2009

10,000 Hours to Mastery

I know I’ve talked about Malcolm Gladwell’s books often with my clients.  Many of you have already read them, and put some of his ideas and observations to use in your businesses.  I read his book, “Outliers,” this past summer, and found it, once again, to be very thought provoking.  If you have not yet read it, I highly recommend it.

One of Gladwell’s assertions in this book is that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to gain mastery of it.  Of course, people have different levels of natural talent for things, and different abilities to learn, but, essentially, he asserts that anyone who spends 10,000 hours doing anything will gain a superior mastery of whatever it is.

Mastery of a Second Language

I started thinking about how this applies to learning a second language.  Of course, if any of us had 10,000 hours to devote exclusively to learning another language, we could all be fluent.  But, who among us has that kind of time?  We’re busy becoming masters at our professions, or other things.  Still, it is obvious that the more time spent with a language, the greater the learning.

One of the benefits of immersion learning is that it increases the hour count of exposure to a language.  If you take a class 2 hours a week, in a year you have only gained 104 hours of exposure to a language.  And, that exposure is probably 50% or more nullified by the amount that is forgotten over the week, and also by the lack of real listening and speaking that occurs in a classroom situation. 

In the typical immersion program, students are exposed to 12 to 20 hours of language instruction per week.  Again, assuming that a student studies for a month, he or she will have been exposed to only around 80 hours of language.  Better, but far from 10,000 hours.

It can safely be said that after 1,000 hours of immersion language instruction, a person could expect to speak and understand a language really well, nearly fluently.  At a normal school, studying 2 hours per week, that means you would have to study 500 weeks (assuming each 2 hours was full immersion, which it can’t be), or nearly 10 years! 

At a typical immersion school, you would have to study over a year to achieve 1000 hours.  At our school, the Lake Tahoe Institute of English, you would have to study for 10 weeks with no breaks.  Far better, but rarely practical for a working adult. 

There has to be another way to accelerate the learning.  And, of course there is.  See my next post to read about my ideas on how to gain 1,000 hours of immersion.

One Response to “10,000 Hours of Immersion”

  1. Shorty says:

    Cheers pal. I do apprecatie the writing.

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