Virtual Reality and the Affective Filter

What is the affective filter?

One of the most important hypothesis for the effectiveness of language learning through immersion is the Affective Filter Hypothesis1. This hypothesis states that certain affective variables directly correspond to achievement in acquiring a second language. In other words, the attitude and motivation of a student  directly relates to their acquisition of the target language. Learners with a lower affective filter are more open to new input and therefore able to more fully comprehend the input.

The teacher, or the context in which lessons are given, plays a large role in increasing or decreasing the affective filter of a student. Teachers must provide support and a suitable model for imitation while avoiding nagging and punitive actions2. Similarly, the instruction environment must be compelling enough to engage students and create a lower affective filter. Krashen and Terrell point out that activities done in the classroom aimed at acquisition must foster a lowering of the affective filter of the students3. To put it most simply, a student is going to be more successful, if they feel comfortable in their learning environment and if they feel like they are learning things that are engaging.

How virtual reality lowers the affective filter

One the most advantageous aspects of incorporating VR into language learning is the ability for the virtual environment to lower the learner’s affective filter. Through the use of virtual representations, learners are encouraged to experiment with different roles, thereby reducing the affective filter4.

The visual aspect of VR bears a lot of the heavy lifting for reducing the affective filter. Not only does the visual component play a key role in shaping the user’s experience, a content-rich visual environment also promotes interaction and output production5. Another study that explores affective filters in learning English in a virtual world demonstrates that virtual worlds not only provide a space to increase confidence and comfort for second language acquisition, but also remove cultural barriers of learning a language6.

Immerse facilitates the best, filter-reducing learning environment

Our immersive VR environments have the ability to dramatically reduce the affective filter of the student. Unlike regular tutoring that relies on video conferencing for conversation, virtual environments encourage the user to experiment, allowing them to more freely produce outputs in the target language, even if those outputs are incorrect.

Traditional learning environments tend to stifle students’ outputs by focusing on grammatical patterns and pointing out errors without providing meaningful feedback. Not only do these techniques raise the affective filter, they also fail to push students toward further processing to find the correct output. Furthermore, the input one receives from a text-book or dictionary switches the student’s mind out of the target language and encourages translation rather than thinking in the target language7.

Interesting inputs and natural conversation

Immerse takes a revolutionary approach by providing meaningful and interesting inputs via virtual reality. This VR environment provides visual stimuli designed to foster natural conversation and allow students to generate natural output in the target language with a low affective filter. Live tutors supplement the immersive environment, providing meaningful feedback designed to push students toward correct outputs.

By partnering students and tutors within an immersive VR environment, tutors can focus on promoting the available inputs already present in the simulation rather than generating inputs to give to the students. This helps direct focus toward the student and the environment in which the interactions take place.

Lastly, the Immerse tutors are trained in the Immersive Method and understand how to create an engaging and nurturing environment for the learner so as to keep their affective filter low and their learning high!

To learn more about Immerse and visit our website here at and schedule a demo!

  1. Krashen, S. D. and Terrell, T. D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. Pergamon Press.
  2. Krashen, S. D. and Terrell, T. D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. Pergamon Press.
  3. Krashen, S. D. and Terrell, T. D. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. Pergamon Press.
  4. Schwienhorst, K. (2002). Why virtual, why environments? implementing virtual reality concepts in computer-assisted language learning. Simulation & Gaming, 33(2):196–209.
  5. Blasing, M. T. (2010). Second language in second life: Exploring interaction, identity and pedagogical practice in a virtual world. The Slavic and East European Journal, pages 96–117.
  6. Zheng, D., Young, M. F., Brewer, R. A., and Wagner, M. (2009). Attitude and self-efficacy change: English language learning in virtual worlds. CALICO journal, 27(1):205–231.9
  7. Kelly, L. G. (1969). 25 centuries of language teaching ; an inquiry into the science, art,and development of language teaching methodology, 500 B.C.-1969. Newbury House Publishers, Rowley, Mass.

Posted on

January 16, 2019