How VR Language Learning Works: The Wondrous World of Immersion

Immerse insights:

  • The realism of virtual reality lets you learn a language in naturalistic contexts and gain the confidence that you can use what you’ve learned out in the real world too.
  • Immerse provides convenient, ongoing immersion in Spanish and French so you don’t have to save up vacation days for a one-time chance to use the language with other people.
  • VR language learning has been demonstrated to reduce foreign language anxiety and lead to better language learning results than traditional learning methods.

If you’ve been following the news about VR in education, you may be wondering about language learning in VR. What is it really like to learn a language in virtual reality? Is it just a fun new gimmick, or can you really learn a language in VR?

Read on to find out what VR language learning is all about and how it actually works.

VR: The natural way to learn a language?

“VR” and “natural” might not seem like words that belong together. In a well designed VR language platform, however, they go hand in hand.

A carefully constructed virtual world creates a sense of realism, immersing you in a space where you can interact with people and objects naturally in the ways that you would out in the real world. This lets your brain activate its full language learning network so you can learn a new language in much the same way you learned your first.

That’s why at Immerse, learning is immersive, interactive, and community driven. Everyone you meet in Immerse is a real person, and you get to grow your language skills through live interactions with other Members and our professional language Guides.

What does an Immerse lesson look like? You’ll find yourself in a home, a city park, a doctor’s office, or some other highly realistic scene filled with objects you can pick up and use. With the help from your Guide, you’ll learn some language and then use it to carry out tasks with  your fellow Members in the scene. Take an order from another Member at the fast food restaurant and see how quickly you can ring up their meal and serve it to them. Make your way through airport security and learn how to answer the security agent’s questions. By the end of the lesson, you’ll likely feel confident you’re ready to negotiate the same interactions in real life.

VR language learning platforms like Immerse didn’t spring up overnight. VR technology has been around much longer than most people realize, and it has already been enhancing training and education programs for decades.

VR technology unlocks language immersion

VR technology provides a new context for a tried-and-true language learning technique: language immersion.

Immersion is regarded by many as the most effective form of language learning. In an immersion setting, learners are surrounded by language used in context and they gain an understanding of the language as it is naturally used around them. Immersion may be combined with language instruction, or it may consist simply of frequent, contextualized exposure to language in use.

The benefits of learning a language through immersion are many. Building spoken communication skills right from the start is hugely beneficial for anyone whose ultimate goal is to achieve fluency.

Unfortunately, opportunities to engage in language immersion have historically been limited, since you either need the resources to live abroad for a while or the good fortune to have a language immersion program in your area.

VR technology has turned out to be a total gamechanger, making live language immersion experiences possible anywhere there’s internet and much more affordable to more people. VR language immersion opportunities can be as casual as making new friends on VR social platforms or as organized as learning with a VR language app.

There are already several VR language apps available. With the exception of Immerse, however, they are single-user experiences where you are isolated and talk to a chatbot avatar, or watch a recording of a person and respond by clicking or speaking pre-scripted multiple-choice answers. They also often lack true interactivity with the environment and objects.

Yet research has shown that social learning and interacting with people and things in the environment are very important for successful language immersion.

That's where Immerse comes in.

How Immerse helps you make the most of language immersion in VR

Development of the Immerse platform was guided by scientific research on VR language learning and pedagogy, and we continue to partner with over 20 university researchers to conduct research on our app. Based on this research, we have created a VR immersion experience that maximizes the potential of virtual reality to foster language learning through immersion.

Because the research shows the importance of social interaction for language learning, Immerse offers live, expert-led VR language lessons where Members can experience immersion together in Spanish or French language and culture.

And because studies have demonstrated that learners understand vocabulary better and remember it longer when they can interact with their environment, Immerse scenes are filled with objects that you can pick up and use as you learn to talk about them in Spanish or French.

Immerse VR language classes bring you immersion that fits into your daily life. Instead of saving up your vacation time and money for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the country where the language is spoken, Immerse lets you access language immersion day after day, week after week, year after year, right from your own home or office. (By all means, we encourage you to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip too, though!)

Today, Immerse can be accessed through our desktop app to make language learning accessible to more learners (you can launch this app directly from your browser without downloading anything), while at the same time offering more immersive and embodied VR experiences to those who have access to and enjoy using VR headsets.

A banner inviting you to click and sign up for a free membership for the Immerse virtual world for language learning and community. It includes a free expert instructor-led class so that you can experience immersive language learning as part of the Immerse program. You can access Immerse with the VR app if you have a Meta Quest 2 headset, or through your web browser on a Mac or PC.