Osmosis is a biological term, which describes “the tendency of a fluid, usually water, to pass through a semipermeable membrane into a solution where the solvent concentration is higher, thus equalizing the concentrations of materials on either side of the membrane”, this process do not require input of energy.
Osmosis it’s also a word used to describe a situation when you learn something without really seeking that knowledge. The gain of knowledge happens through assimilation, in a natural pace and without conscious effort.
In my opinion, it can be a quite efficient method. And why I think this?
As most Brazilians students I had English classes since my first grade. But unfortunately, year after year, what I learned was some basic vocabulary like colors, family members, some animals names, the verb “to be” and ask names or where someone is. Nothing really useful! So at the end of the high school I had almost the same English level that I had when I was 10. Not very promising, huh?
But something happened… an addiction actually: TV series. I’m totally freak addicted in American TV series. At first, I watched them dubbed, but after finishing high school, having nothing to do and finally having a cable TV, I started to watch the series subtitled. So, I probably used to watch 3 to 5 hours of series by day. After 2 months, I had watch at least 240 hours of TV, all in English.
One day, by accident I put on the CNN channel, which is not subtitled. Instead of the news, they were showing some special program about underdevelopment world and NGO’s. To my surprise, I could understand what people say, not 100%,but 80%, something very good for someone who always had hate English classes and never put any effort to learn it.
Suddenly, I became interested in English, but not enough to study it. I was only paying a little more attention in what I heard on TV and in songs. I believe that watching so many series took me to the intermediate level. One year and half later I decided take English a little more serious, given that I was studying International Relations in the University. So, I went to a language school, where after a test, they put me in the lower intermediary level.
What, sincerely, frustrated me a little bit. But I started to attend the classes and I realize two things: my grammar was very poor (quite horrendous actually) and my speaking skills were only okay. But I had a much richer vocabulary and my listening ability were way better than my colleagues, as result after completing one semester I quit. Not because the course was too hard, but the other way around, was too easy. Despite my poor grammar, I was able to catch up my classmates and I had the feeling that they slowed me down.
So, instead of paying every month for the classes, I take the money and saved it. After 2 years, I was able to pay for an exchange program and I stayed 3 months in the USA. I have to confess I didn’t had the discipline to study, (I used to study only occasionally). But since the day when I watched CNN, I kept in touch with the language reading, listening and of course watching series and movies.
I believe I did pretty well in US, of course, could be much better, but I was able to communicate without problems, even without putting effort in learning English. So, if your goal it’s to communicate (making a lot of mistakes), osmosis method can help.
How to learn a language by osmosis?
Watch TV and movies in the target language
Of course this would be my first advice, the language in television and movies are the most natural you can hear outside the country. The actors speak clearly and in normal pace. They use slangs and idioms.
DVD’s movies in your target language are great material to your language learning. First, you can watch the movie with the original audio, with subtitles in your own language, paying close attention to what you hear. Then, you should watch it with the subtitles also in your target language. Finally, after getting used to language and probably learning by heart the lines of the movie, you can finally watch the film with the original audio, without any subtitle.
Listening to music
It’s an obvious and fun way to practice an idiom; you can choose your type of music and listen it anywhere. A great idea is translate the lyrics. So, you can improve your listening, speaking, vocabulary and writing.
I actually never used this method, but I heard from a lot of Brazilians that videogames was the reason to them learn English. Often, the games are not translated to Portuguese. So, the gamers must translate them in order to understand the tips and the story better. It’s great way to build vocabulary and moreover help in your reading skills.
Is the perfect method to assimilate the language, since your whole environment will be in the target language. To be part of the local community you’re going to be forced to speak. And sometimes this is the little push that we make us a language learner.
Using this method actively you’ll be thinking in your target language before you realize. At least, for my learning style, leaning by osmosis fits me quite well. My last advice it’s to mix this method with others more traditional (yes, books and drills). But, if you’re a polyglot nerd you’ll end up enjoy it.