Immerse Yourself!

Providing exposure to languages for all in the form of entertainment, experiences, and engagement

Photo of Alissa
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Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

11/30/00; 11/08/00

Where are you located:

Florida: Lake Mary (32746), Winter Park (32792)
North Carolina: Raleigh (27513)
Connecticut: Winchester (06094)

Date Started

March 1, 2018

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

This project has been particularly relevant to my life because I’ve grown up in a multilingual and multicultural family. Growing up, the first language I learned was French because it was the only way that I could communicate with my French dad. I didn’t learn English until later when we starting planning on moving to the United States. In school, I’ve been learning Spanish and, on my own, I’ve been learning Amharic, the Ethiopian language, for my mom and her side of the family. Coming from such a background, the problem of our loss of language, and, thus, of culture has been evident in my life. This past year, through my interactions with my friend, the wonderful Czech exchange student to our school, I’ve realized that it’s all about immersion. I’ve been fortunate enough to be immersed in a lingual experience my whole life, and I want to make sure that others get that same privilege.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The goal of this project is to solve the immense problem we have with learning languages. Too often, students will learn a language for years and come out unable to converse in it. It is because of this that only 15-20% of Americans speak more than one language, which is disproportionately worse in low-income communities. In a world that is ever more interconnected, losing our language abilities means losing our global connection and culture.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The solution to this problem is to create a platform (website, app, etc.) that connects students and other language-learners to immersion opportunities for free. These would include the expected travel-abroad opportunities, where students could live with host families, work in internships, or attend classes in another country. However, this platform would also include simpler immersion opportunities that we tend to miss out on. These include movies, music, articles, and books from a multitude of languages. They would be sorted by difficulty level and be tailored for the student. By providing access in one platform to all these types of immersion opportunities, we would ensure that people can learn languages in ways that are applicable to the real world. Another facet of the solution is including conversation opportunities. These would include prerecorded conversations as well as real-time phone calls with native speakers and online discussion forums for debates. These would ensure that students not only know the language but are also able to use it in conversation. Best of all, ensuring access for free would lower the access barrier low-income communities face to language-learning.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

As a language-learner: Once a person enters the platform, they have instant access to abundant immersion opportunities, no matter what language they want to learn. For instance, if they're learning Spanish, they could watch the movies, "La Historia Oficial" and "Los Diarios de Motocicleta." They could then listen to some music by singers Juanes and Ricky Martin. They could also engage in a phone call or online discussion with someone from Argentina or Chile and discuss movies, music, or current events with them. Finally, they could also book an internship with a company in Spain where they could make use of both their Spanish and business skills.

As a team-member: The vast curriculum (movies, music, articles, books) needs a lot of help to be curated. Language experts from all over are critical. Further, foreign-language speakers are essential for phone calls and discussion forums.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

What's so different about the "Immerse Yourself" program is that it forces language-learners to actually engage with the language completely. While programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo can teach someone the basics of a language, in order to actually be able to converse with a native speaker, one needs to also learn the context and culture behind the language. While a few programs out there provide opportunities for foreign travel immersion, no other program out there provides the complete immersion experience—from music to movies to articles to books to internships to classes.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

While the project is, as of yet, just starting off, we have tested out an immersion approach to learning a language in order to ascertain whether it is a worthy cause. With the students to which we introduced this type of learning, we found that they were much better able to connect to the language and were, thus, better able to converse. In one particular case, we showed this approach to our friend who just moved to the United States from Venezuela. In that case, she had to learn English quickly and effectively. While they had had basic English classes at school in Venezuela, she was still often lost in daily conversation. By showing her movies, music, articles, and books, as well as having daily conversation with her on the phone and through social media, her English skills have improved drastically, and she actually feels comfortable in daily conversation and in the classroom.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

The next step is to make the platform itself a reality. While we have proved that the concept is incredibly effective, the task at hand is to create a website that includes as many languages as possible, with the help of other foreign-language speakers. We are also considering creating an app in order to really scale the project. Another step is to make connections globally with those who speak foreign languages to create a functional conversation and discussion platform for language-learners to use.
Beyond this, it is important to spread the awareness that such a program exists and is incredibly effective. Once our platform is up and running, we will engage in social media campaigns and spread the word of our immersion program.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

A resource that would be required immediately is certainly more team members. Finding others both locally and globally who speak a variety of foreign languages would be incredibly useful as we strive the build the best platform and resources possible for each and every language. In addition, a website, and, in the future, an app are other resources that we will need in order to create an accessible platform. Funding would also be useful as a means to maintain our operations and pay foreign-language speakers for their time on phone calls and discussion forums. While, in the future, we plan to monetize the platform with ads to cover those types of costs, we need short-term support before the platform gets off the ground and gains a user base.

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

Other changemakers and young leaders would certainly be great partners in our effort to immerse everyone in a language experience. Without a doubt, changemakers who come from foreign countries or who speak other languages could be very critical in expanding our team and our curriculum. We would need them to compile resources onto our online platform and engage in conversations and discussion with language-learners. Furthermore, if their projects take place in other countries or involve a knowledge of other languages, we could include their projects as potential immersion opportunities for our students to get involved with. This way, our platform could ensure that their team is expanded as well, as our students hop on board. Overall, this would create a situation in which our projects are able to contribute to each others, creating double the positive impact for the world. Other young people are also welcome on board to serve both as learners themselves to test out our immersion programs and as curriculum develops as well. They would contribute vastly to our cause by ensuring the effectiveness of our program and creating the best and most abundant resources possible.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • LGBTQ community

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4 comments

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Photo of Selma N
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Your project sounds amazing and has a lot of potential! My project RISE (Refugee International Support Effort) is working towards distributing creative outlet items throughout refugee camps in order to instill hope and mental well being. It would be amazing to bring a program like yours to refugee camps! Learning new languages could help with the readjustment process. We should definitely collaborate! Please feel free to contact me.
My email is: selma@supportrise.org

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