Full immersion language learning research

Research at Immerse

Learn about our research team, partners, and ongoing studies.

become a partner

The 3 pillars of language immersion

Authentic cultural experiences
Authentically experience new cultures

Prominent VR language learning researchers from Harvard University (2020)2 and Carnegie Mellon University (2021)3 have shown that VR is an optimal way for language learners to learn about culture - a key to improving fluency and removing barriers to human connection.
2. Mills, N., Courtney, M., Dede, C., Dressen, A., & Gant, R. (2020). Culture and vision in virtual reality narratives. Foreign Language Annals, 53(4), 733-760.
3. Caspar, S. (2021). Insider spaces: Hands-on with XR in the global languages and cultures room.
CALICO Journal, 38(1), 128-150.

A vibrant and welcoming community
Grow alongside an international community

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (2022)4, community is one of the five core components that drives successful language learning. Immerse is focused on helping Members create a thriving community of learners who share a similar passion to experience the most in life through language and cultural fluency.
4. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (2022). World Readiness Standards for Language Learning. Alexandria, VA: ACTFL.

We combined all 3 to create the world's first language immersion platform
We combined all 3 to create the world's first language immersion platform

Our Research Team

Meet the minds leading our in-house research initiatives

Nergiz KernNergiz Kern

Nergiz Kern

Immersive Learning Specialist

Nergiz Kern obtained her MA in Educational Technology and TESOL from the University of Manchester, where she specialized in online, blended and multimedia course development and teaching. In addition, she earned a postgraduate certificate in teaching in multi-user virtual environments. She has over 20 years of experience teaching internationally and virtually at universities and in the private sector, and she has trained hundreds of other language education professionals to teach in VR, including the language department of the UN. She is a pioneer in the field of language teaching in virtual reality, having begun in 2008 when the practice was extremely new, and has published book chapters and articles in professional magazines on educational technology and teaching in VR. She is well-known in the language education and VR community and is regularly invited to speak on educational podcasts, webinars, and panel discussions. In addition to immersive learning, her professional interests include other emerging technologies such as Web 3.0 and AI and their evolving impact on language education.

Miranda NovashMiranda Novash

Miranda Novash

Immersive Learning Specialist

Miranda Novash obtained her MA in TESOL from the Applied Linguistics department at Portland State University, where she was awarded the James R. Nattinger Teaching Fellowship. For her master’s thesis, she conducted research examining language choice in immersion schools and presented her findings at the annual conference of the American Association for Applied Linguistics. She has spent over twenty years teaching ESL to international students, including several cohorts of Fulbright scholars, and has also taught German in an immersion setting. She has ample experience in language testing and has worked creating test materials used in college-placement English examinations in Japan. She also has worked extensively as an English writing teacher and uses these skills at Immerse to summarize language learning research findings for Immerse staff and Members. She is a member of AAAL and TESOL, and she believes in VR’s potential for language learning and values the opportunity to participate in the development of world-class language learning technology in her role as Research Assistant at Immerse.

Tricia ThrasherTricia Thrasher

Tricia Thrasher

Research and English Program Manager

Dr. Tricia Thrasher obtained her PhD in French and Second Language Acquisition Teacher Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is passionate about maximizing VR’s efficacy for Education and has both taught and trained language teachers to teach French and ESL using VR and other emerging technologies. During her doctoral studies, she received grant funding from organizations such as Duolingo, Language Learning, and NFMLTA to conduct research examining the efficacy of virtual reality for language learning. Her dissertation, which received the ACTFL Award for Doctoral Dissertation Research in World Language Education, was the first study to empirically demonstrate how VR benefits learners’ physiological anxiety (measured via salivary cortisol and heart rate) and, in turn, speaking performance. She frequently presents her research at national and international conferences and has authored several articles in high-impact, peer-reviewed academic journals. She is also currently Chair of the CALICO Immersive Realities Special Interest Group, a group of language learning scholars dedicated to understanding how XR technology benefits learning.

Studies also show that virtual reality (VR):

Creates immersive, contextualized, experiential learning. 

Neuroscience research by Li & Jeong(2020)5 found that your brain processes language learning in immersive VR in the same way as when you learn your first language! This builds stronger neurological pathways for long-term fluency.

A recent eye-tracking study by Bacca-Acosta et al.(2023)6 even showed that English language learners learned prepositions significantly better in VR than on a desktop application. This is because VR can  offer a fully contextualized learning experience.
5. Li, P. & Jeong, H. (2020). The social brain on language: Grounding second language learning in social interaction.
NPJ Science of Learning, 5(8).
6. Bacca-Acosta, J., Tejada, J., Lampropoulos, G., Avila, C. (2023). A comparative eye-tracking study between a virtual reality system and a desktop environment for learning the prepositions of place in English,
CALICO Journal, 40(1), 68-90.

Reduces distractions that exist in other learning contexts.

One of the most prominent researchers in VR and language learning from the University of North Texas (2019)7 has repeatedly found that VR benefits learning by reducing distractions since it fully immerses learners in the learning context. This means that, in Immerse, you will be able to fully focus on the language you are learning and won’t be tempted to check your phone or be distracted by other things going on around you.
7. Kaplan-Rakowski, R. & Meseberg, K. (2019). Immersive media and their future. In R. Branch, H. Lee, & S. Tseng (Eds.) Educational Media and Technology Yearbook. Springer.

Improves confidence and reduces anxiety.

A recent meta-analysis (2020)8 examining previous research on foreign language anxiety and learning reported that anxiety has consistently been found to be detrimental to language learning. However, recent research conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2022)9 found that being represented by an avatar in VR significantly reduces both perceived and physiological anxiety. This allows you to become fluent faster.
8. Botes, E., Dewaele, J. M., & Greiff, S. (2020). The foreign language classroom anxiety scale and academic achievement: An overview of the prevailing literature and a meta-analysis. Journal for the Psychology of Language Learning, 2(1), 26-56.
9. Thrasher, T. (2022). The impact of virtual reality on L2 French learners' language anxiety and oral comprehensibility.
CALICO Journal, 39(2), 219-238.

Supports social learning. 

Research from the University of California, Santa Barbara (2022)10 argues that social learning within VR leads to better and more practical language skills that transfer to real world situations. In Immerse, you build social connections by interacting in real-time with a global community of other language learners and expert speakers.
10. Chun, D., Karimi, H., Sañosa, D. (2022). Traveling by headset: Immersive VR for language learning. CALICO Journal, 39(2), 129-149.

research symposium presentations

Research Findings

A snapshot of the ongoing research each of our partners are conducting

a word from our partners


Hear about the positive impact of our research

Earth and Rocket ImageEarth and Rocket Image

Support Provided to Our Research Partners

Hexagon 1

Feedback and guidance when choosing the research methodologies for your project.

Hexagon 2

Free access to the Immerse platform for the duration of the research project.

Hexagon 3

Teacher and student training materials (PDF guides, videos, etc.) that show how to use the app.

Hexagon 4

Suggestions regarding where to apply for research funding and who to contact at your university for support. (Unfortunately, we cannot provide VR hardware or fund research.)  

Why do we do research?

Hexagon 1

To ensure the development of our metaverse language-learning platform is grounded in evidence-based VR research

Hexagon 2

To identify specific VR features particularly suited for high-quality language learning

Hexagon 3

To inform ongoing VR research and teaching pedagogies through the dissemination of our findings

Man In a VR set

Featured Research Content

VR Headset Mockup

Become a Research Partner