Cultural immersion can develop foreign language skills

Erika Morris, an adult education teacher at Palm Bay High School, checks out a book in Spanish at Books-a-Million in The Avenue Viera.



Traveling to a foreign country could be enhanced if you can speak the language.

Laura Zoellner recalls an unforgettable two-week vacation she took to Japan with her family in 2018.

“The first time we went, we didn’t know any Japanese, but a Google app saved us,” said Zoellner, an artist who lives on Merritt Island.

The Google app translates what is said or pictured in English into another language.

Since then, Zoellner tapped into a variety of sources to learn Japanese — Duolingo’s free online language program, workbooks, books, Rosetta Stone (Brevard County Public Library locations allow members free access to 30 languages), plus movies and TV series in Japanese with English subtitles.

“We would love to return to Japan. The trip to Japan was the most amazing I ever had. The people were so friendly, kind, polite and respectful. The country was clean and safe,” Zoellner said.

To improve your language skills, watch TV, try to do simple activities like talk to those where you bank or shop, advises Erika Morris, who teaches adult education at Palm Bay High School.

In the 14 years Morris has been teaching in Brevard County, her students’ motivation for learning English ranges from a desire to get a job, improve communication with their spouses and others, or further their education.

“To merge in the culture is the pathway to learning the language better,” said Morris, a Viera resident. “When they understand the culture, it’s easier to embrace the language and the customs.”

K-Pop, popular music originating in South Korea, first caught on with Celia Lewis’ daughter, Cimone Toppin. Then, it captivated Lewis, an engineering technician at L3Harris, who began studying Korean during the Covid-19 shutdown.

“My daughter would like to go to South Korea to teach English there. One day, I would like to go there and to, perhaps, become proficient enough to eliminate the subtitles while looking at Korean dramas,” said Lewis, a resident of Palm Bay.

Music is a powerful language learning tool. Retired Brevard County teacher Christopher Adams used it in his English classes. His students learned pronunciation, how a song was built, the meaning of the lyrics and cliches in a song.

The advice Adams gave his students can be applied to anyone learning a second language: Practice.

“I’d tell them the more effort you make to speak some English, the more people will accept them. They’ll know you’re trying to fit in,” Adams said.