- The realism of immersive VR makes it possible to experience language immersion without traveling to another country.
- There are currently five major VR language learning apps: Immerse, Noun Town, ImmerseMe, Language Lab, and Mondly.
- VR language learning apps are all designed a bit differently, with Immerse being the only one where you can learn live with real people in structured guide-led classes and social events.
If you’ve ever used a VR headset and found yourself thinking how awesome it would be to learn a language in virtual reality, you’re not alone. Read on to find out what makes VR language learning so effective - and which VR apps are worth your time and money.
Why you should be learning a language in VR
Before we talk about what the five leading VR language learning apps have to offer, let’s consider just why virtual reality is such a great medium for learning to speak another language.
VR is by far the most authentic setting for language learning you’ll find aside from going to a country where the language is actually spoken. Being able to see as well as hear language in use, like when a shop attendant holds up merchandise while telling you about it, creates a stronger impression than flashcards or vocabulary exercises ever could. It also lets you hear how the words flow together in a natural conversation.
Learning a language in VR brings better results than traditional language classrooms or mobile apps. The benefits of VR language learning have been attested to by learners, teachers, and researchers alike:
- Lower speaking anxiety
- Increased vocabulary retention
- Improved listening comprehension
- Enhanced cultural learning
5 top apps for learning a language in VR
The Immerse platform was created in 2019 for live language immersion in VR. The direct-to-consumer version was launched in the summer of 2022, offering an all-in-one social VR app for language learners.
Immerse offers a variety of ways to learn and practice: small group classes led by expert instructors, an area for socializing and conversing in the language you’re learning, and various features for solo and multiplayer practice. Immerse lessons combine live instruction and practice in fully interactive, authentic settings. This means you can learn to talk about cooking while preparing a meal with your partner in a fully equipped restaurant kitchen, for instance.
What makes Immerse unique is that you learn with real people. It is currently the one and only live social VR language learning app. Everyone you talk to in Immerse is a real person, so you actually learn to use the language to communicate with others. And the live classes mean that you will never run out of learning content since you’ll meet new people and have fresh conversations every time. There’s also a Discord community with language channels for practicing, posting memes, and sharing tips. Since launching the direct-to-consumer app in the summer of 2022, Immerse has introduced Spanish and French, with English and Japanese coming later in 2023.
Use Immerse to learn how to communicate with other people in the language you’re learning. You’ll build confidence learning to express your own thoughts and ideas, and you’ll become part of a close knit community of Members who share your interest in the language and culture.
2. Noun Town
Noun Town is a new app on the VR language learning scene, launched in December of 2022. It offers gamified learning, setting you on a grayscale island that gradually becomes colorized as you complete tasks. The emphasis is on vocabulary building, but it also teaches some phrases and sentences.
Noun Town scenes are interactive. You can stroll through scenes picking up objects to hear their names, get feedback on your pronunciation of vocabulary words, and interact with chatbots. Your progress through the language material is visual, as more colors are added and more characters are unlocked as you learn.
Noun Town’s greatest strength is perhaps its gamified approach to language learning. The scenes and characters are whimsical, and the app is clearly designed to be fun to play. It is a single player app like Mondly and ImmerseMe, but it has an active Discord community where players can chat with the developers in English.
Use Noun Town as a fun way to learn over 1000 words and phrases in your target language. Noun Town is also for solo play only.
ImmerseMe has also been around for several years, starting as a desktop application in 2018. Nowadays you can also access it via your VR headset by navigating to the website in your headset’s browser and logging in as you would on a computer.
ImmerseMe offers solo practice in VR. In each lesson, you’ll find yourself in a 360° photographic image filmed on location in a place where your language of choice is spoken. You can engage in realistic interactions, such as ordering food in a restaurant or simply having a conversation, by interacting with pre-recorded videos of actors playing various roles. The app recognizes your speech and plays a video of the actor responding to what you said.
What makes the ImmerseMe platform special is that the videos were all filmed on location. The sensation of having traveled to another country to practice is strong, and you get to experience authentic sights and sounds of the location. Because the videos have been filmed in 360 degrees, you can look all around you inside the scene. Like Mondly however, ImmerseMe only offers a solo player mode, so you’ll be practicing with a chat bot, and you can’t fully explore the scene or interact with any of the objects you see.
Use ImmerseMe to imagine yourself on location in another country while you practice listening and speaking.
4. Language Lab
Language Lab, which has been available since late 2021, takes a full immersion approach to language learning. Everything you hear inside the app is in the target language you’ve selected, with no translations or explanations.
In Language Lab, you’ll typically find yourself in a scene with plenty of objects whose names you’ll hear when you handle them. A pre-programed avatar will give you instructions, such as “Put the spoon in the cup,” in the language you’ve selected, and you can manipulate the objects until you manage to follow the instructions.
What’s different about Language Lab is that everything you hear is in the language you’re learning. You’ll associate everything you see and do directly with the new vocabulary as you learn it rather than translating from your first language, and this has a lot of learning benefits. On the other hand, trying to understand another language without any help may cause frustration or anxiety for some.
Use Language Lab if you are a confident or experienced language learner who enjoys a challenge and wants a strong foundation in the vocabulary of a language before trying to use it to communicate.
Mondly was the first language app to use speech recognition, allowing its users to practice conversation by interacting with chatbots. The VR version of the app has been available since 2017.
In a typical Mondly lesson, you’ll select a setting like a restaurant or hotel reception area where you’ll interact with digital avatar chatbots. This allows you to practice skills like ordering in a restaurant, booking a hotel room, and so on.
Mondly’s biggest strongpoint is that it offers a wide range of languages - nearly 30 separate languages at present. It is currently the only VR language app to offer Turkish and Hindi, for example. The downside to this is that there is not a lot of differentiation in settings - you will visit the exact same restaurant scene regardless of which language you are learning.
Use Mondly to practice useful skills like booking a reservation at a hotel or buying a train ticket. Mondly VR is for solo play only, so you will be conversing with chatbot avatars.
Other ways to learn a language in VR
Of course, opportunities to learn a language in VR are not limited just to language apps. Take advantage of these other ways to immerse yourself in a foreign language and even get some conversation practice:
- Join a language exchange, like the JP-EN Language Exchange in VRChat.
- Play a VR game, such as Elixir, which is available in several languages.
- Watch immersive videos in VR, available on many sites such as Youtube.
What are you waiting for?
It has never been easier to access immersive language learning experiences from the comfort of home. You can become a foreign exchange student for an hour a day right in your own home, practicing on your own or even with other learners and native speakers if you choose a social language app like Immerse. The possibilities are pretty much endless. So choose a language, check out the options, and see what works for you!