Why Learn Language in Virtual Reality

It might not be intuitive to everyone that virtual reality (VR) is the best language learning environment. Many people haven’t had the opportunity to experience it for themselves, and so might still be a little skeptical. So if you’re dubious or simply curious, here are just a few reasons why everyone should learn language in virtual reality:

VR is an Immersive Environment

First off, VR is an immersive environment. You are completely immersed in a foreign location- so much so that it feels like reality.  It is no secret today that immersion is the best way to learn a language1, and some studies have even found that fluency is impossible without language immersion experiences.2 However, immersion has never been a practical possibility for people until now. VR allows you to immerse in your target language at home!

It is more engaging to learn language in virtual reality

Second, learning in VR is far more engaging than any other method. Regardless of what you’re studying, you must engage with the material to really learn it. The renowned linguist Stephen Krashen is well known for advocating the use of compelling input in language learning, because learners will learn much more if the material is interesting.3And in my humble opinion, it doesn’t get more compelling than the virtually limitless freedom of virtual reality!4

It is more motivating to learn language in virtual reality

The increased engagement for VR education leads to greater motivation to learn. This is not only supported by research;5 it is also intuitively obvious. Of course you will be more motivated to learn a language in an exciting environment instead of endlessly flipping flashcards or videoconferencing!

It prevents stress and embarrassment to learn language in virtual reality

Experts agree that negative feelings like stress and embarrassment inhibit language learning. In fact, Krashen also proposed the affective filter hypothesis to explain the importance of being at ease while learning language. In VR, a space is created in which the learners are comfortable and engaged (as Krashen would say, their affective filter is lowered) and willing to make mistakes.6

Memorization and recall are much easier if language is acquired in virtual reality

This again is fairly intuitive. If you learn the language in a similar environment to that in which you’ll use it, it’ll be easier to recall.7 Especially because our VR system is so multimodal, using sounds, text, and actions along with the images, what you learn sticks with you.8

There you have it! Those were just a few reasons why virtual reality is the best language learning environment. If you’d like to see what learning language in VR is really like, check out immerse.online and schedule a demo. I promise it will blow your mind!

  1. For more information, see JB Carroll’s groundbreaking study on study abroad and language immersion: Carroll, John B. (1967). Foreign language proficiency levels attained by language majors near graduation from college. Foreign Language Annals 1.131-51. Laboratory for Research in Instruction, Graduate School of Education Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED013343.pdf
  2. 2. Rifkin, B. (2005), A Ceiling Effect in Traditional Classroom Foreign Language Instruction: Data from Russian. The Modern Language Journal, 89: 3-18. doi:10.1111/j.0026-7902.2005.00262.x See also JB Carroll’s landmark study on study abroad and language learning: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED013343.pdf
  3. As Krashen said in his article “The End of Motivation”, “Instead of trying to motivate our students by urging them to work hard and reminding them how important it is to know English, let’s take advantage of the natural process, and make sure they have access to input that they find compelling, in class and outside of class.”
  4. A study by Schweinhorst in 2002 explains that VR is the way to engaged learning, and specifically states that immersive VR leads to “higher cognitive engagement than traditional classroom learning.” It seems like this would be common sense!
  5. Find Pennington (1996) from http://ptc-pku.yolasite.com/resources/English/a%20hand%20book%20of%20applied%20lingusitic.pdf#page=642because it says learning on a computer increases motivation because it’s less threatening. Can also cite in the next point.
  6. Attitude and Self-Efficacy articles says in abstract, “ virtual worlds may provide a space for English language learners(ELLs) in the United States and other countries to increase confidence and comfort and to overcome cultural barriers for learning English.”
  7. This idea isn’t new. If you’d like to learn more about context dependent memory, check out the original study on the subject: Goddenn, D. R. and Baddelay, A. D. (1975), Context-Dependent Memory in Two Natural Environments: On Land and Underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66: 325-331. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8295.1975.tb01468.x
  8. If you’re interested in learning more about multimodal learning, consider: Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia learning (2nd ed). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Posted on

October 10, 2018