Immerse insights:

  • A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Computer Assisted Language Learning found that learning in VR improved language students’ vocabulary scores by 92.80%. 
  • The study compared a group of students learning in VR to a group learning in a traditional classroom and found that the VR group improved 35.16% more than the classroom group. 
  • A delayed post-test showed that the VR group retained 32% more than the classroom group two weeks later. 

Vocabulary is a key building block of language learning. Students with limited  vocabulary struggle to express themselves adequately in the language they are learning. 

Researchers in the field of Computer Assisted Language Learning have argued that VR could provide an ideal environment for vocabulary learning, as it creates opportunities for contextualized learning. 

A figure labeled "proposed theoretical framework of VR-based vocabulary learning" and consisting of a small circle labeled "Vocabulary learning and retention" surround by a larger circle divided into three sections labeled Immersive Learning, Situated Learning, and Sociocultural Learning

But what does the data show? Does VR actually improve vocabulary learning? Researchers from the Southwest University in China and the University of Technology Sydney in Australia conducted a study to find out. 

What did the researchers do?

The researchers wanted to know if VR could help students learn Mandarin Chinese vocabulary. They also wanted to understand students’ perceptions of using VR as a tool to learn new words.

To answer these two questions, they designed a control-experimental study comparing students learning in VR to students learning in a traditional classroom. Specifically, they split 30 students into two groups. The first group used VR to learn a list of 30 new words related to basic communication about travel. The second group followed a traditional textbook-based approach to learn the same words. 

The main hall of a busy train station with hundreds of travelers coming and going past signs written in Chinese and English
Knowledge of basic vocabulary is useful for travelers

The researchers evaluated students’ vocabulary learning using a pre/post/delayed post-test approach. In other words, they tested their vocabulary two weeks before the VR learning experience, immediately after the experience, and again two weeks later. They also evaluated the students’ perceptions towards learning in VR by conducting one-on-one interviews.  

What did the researchers find?

Upon comparing students’ vocabulary scores, the researchers found that the VR group significantly outperformed the control group. Specifically, the VR group improved their scores from the pre- to the post-test by 15.01 points (or by 92.80%). On the other hand, the classroom group only improved their scores by 7.32 points (or 57.64%). 

When it came to vocabulary retention, the VR group was also found to significantly outperform the classroom group and to remember 35.16% more than their counterparts. These two findings led the researchers to conclude that “Participants with VR-based learning experience outperformed those taught with a traditional learning approach” and that “Participants in the experimental [VR] group had better vocabulary retention, leading to better performance [...] long term” (Chen & Yuan, 2023, p. 13). 

The researchers also analyzed participants' interview data to understand their perceptions of using VR to learn vocabulary. Participants reported that VR provided an authentic immersive learning context and a high degree of interactivity with avatars and virtual objects, both of which contributed to their vocabulary learning. 

A banner that says Immerse: Start your free 14-day trial today and shows a thumbs up in front of a shelf filled with books, flags, a globe, and a Quest 3 VR headset

VR vocabulary learning in Immerse

This study is one of many showing that learning foreign language vocabulary in VR is more effective than learning it through more traditional means. 

Immerse is a virtual world designed specifically for the purpose of learning a language in VR. It is the only VR language app that provides both social and environmental interaction so learners can benefit from the additional learning advantages of social interaction and embodiment.

To learn more about the research on the effectiveness of the Immerse virtual world for language learning for vocabulary learning, check out this blog

Or for more research on the effectiveness of VR and Immerse for language learning generally, please visit the Immerse Research page.

Research Source:

Chen, C., & Yuan, Y. (2023). Effectiveness of virtual reality on Chinese as a second language vocabulary learning: Perceptions from international students. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 1-29.