Last Updated: November 21, 2023
- The fear of speaking a foreign language (Foreign Language Anxiety) is extremely common. Even advanced speakers experience it sometimes!
- Overcoming Foreign Language Anxiety is necessary in order to achieve fluency in a language.
- Research has demonstrated that language learners tend to experience much less Foreign Language Anxiety when learning in VR.
Fear of 'sounding dumb' is real
Do you dream about being able to speak Spanish but freeze up every time you get the chance to try? Have you been learning English for a while, but you don’t speak because you are worried nobody will understand you? Does the mere thought of speaking French to another human being terrify you?
Your palms get sweaty, your heart starts racing, and you open your mouth, but none of the words and phrases you spent so long memorizing come out.
If so, you’re experiencing foreign language anxiety, or FLA for short.
FLA is extremely common.
Who isn’t scared to put themselves out there in a foreign language?
It can be really intimidating.
So much so, that the vast majority of language learners struggle with FLA to a certain extent, even if they do not experience anxiety in other facets of their life.
Even very advanced speakers, including language teachers themselves, often struggle with FLA.
Alas though, speaking practice is key to learning a foreign language.
Memorizing words and phrases via phone apps will only take you so far.
You need to be able to put that language to use to really become fluent.
So, let’s dig more into some of the reasons why people experience FLA and why we believe you’ll be less likely to experience it inside Immerse.
What causes anxiety?
Research shows that FLA is a common problem, but what causes it?
Why are so many people paralyzed by fear when speaking a foreign language?
The reasons vary from learner to learner.
- For some, their backgrounds and personalities make them more prone to experiencing FLA.
- For others, they’re afraid of performing in front of their peers or being negatively perceived by others.
- For some, it’s more about being a perfectionist and being afraid of failing or making mistakes.
- For many, it’s because they don’t like their accent — even though we bet that native speakers of the language would disagree.
The list of reasons goes on and on.
How to overcome your fear of fluency failure
But, regardless of the why behind your FLA, how can you overcome it?
Recent research on VR and language learning offers some hope!
Studies have repeatedly found that language learners report lower anxiety in VR when compared to other learning environments.
Some have even measured heart rate and cortisol levels and found that language learners have lower physiological anxiety when doing speaking activities in VR. That’s pretty amazing!
Researchers have also interviewed language learners to find out why they have lower anxiety in VR, and the responses are interesting.
For many, being in VR feels more fun, like a game. Because of this, VR feels like a safer space to practice the language and make mistakes.
Others say that using avatars lowers anxiety.
This makes sense.
When you are represented by an avatar, no one can see the real you.
Your identity is concealed, and you don’t have to worry as much about looking silly in front of other students if you make a mistake.
Communicating via avatars also removes some social cues that are known to contribute to anxiety such as eye contact.
How to learn without fear holding you back
All of this means that learning Spanish, French, or English via immersion learning in VR could be the first key step to really overcoming your anxiety.
So put on your headset, customize your avatar, and start talking!
The more you do it, the easier it will become.
And remember, if you do make a mistake, your experienced Guides are there to help turn it into a learning moment. ♥️