As the world becomes increasingly connected, the need to speak and understand foreign languages is more important than ever. The good news is that the way we learn languages has advanced a huge amount, due in part to the internet and how we are all connected in the modern world.
Language learners are not solely relying on taking classes, listening to recordings, reading books and solving tests. The process is getting more engaging and interactive. The best part is that people can connect with native speakers and experience the language in its natural environment.
"Experience the language in its natural environment" - that's called language immersion and is only possible when you travel, right? Wrong! Virtual reality opens new doors to language learning. It allows us to travel around the world without the need to leave our house.
Think about it - you're able to visit a restaurant in Paris through your computer and practice listening and speaking French while you’re there. You can also visit museums, historical sites, landmarks, and all kinds of places in the country of your choice. With the growth of AI speech analysis technology, you’re able to chat with virtual avatars along the way.
Danny Thompson, a language specialist, explains that many language learners are still not aware of virtual reality as an opportunity for language learning: "Educational experts are clear on the fact that we learn things much more efficiently through experience. Being told about something doesn’t work as well."
Danny continues to say, "VR technology has an immersive nature and that makes it perfect for language learning. However, many learners are not aware of this opportunity, so it comes as a pleasant surprise when I mention it. We need to increase the awareness about this."
This article will cover existing VR solutions for language learning and how to best utilise this technology.
Most guides on language immersion don’t mention virtual reality as an option. They focus on the fact that language learners need to be around people who are willing to support. It’s strange to see how many learners are unaware of the possibility to learn a language in virtual reality when they already have access to platforms which make this possible.
We’ll discuss a few of them:
The Mondly VR app, which works on Google’s VR platforms Cardboard and Daydream, is focused on learning foreign languages. It launches you in an environment where you have conversations with virtual characters. The point is for you to boost your self-confidence regarding speaking in real situations.
Currently, the tool offers learners between 30 languages they would like to learn. These include Russian, Japanese, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Arabic, and more. By combining speech recognition, voice chatbot and VR technology, Mondly offers a sense of real immersion. You’ll get instant feedback on pronunciation, as well as suggestions on how to improve your vocabulary. The interactive scenarios make the process fun and enjoyable.
The huge advantage of Mondly is that it transports you into real-life situations, such as giving directions in a cab, or talking with a receptionist in a foreign hotel.
ImmerseMe is another VR-based platform that offers a language learning experience. You can choose from nine languages here: German, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, English, Indonesian, Greek, and Italian.
The tool will launch you in different scenarios that encourage you to practice speaking. For example, you’ll need to buy tapas in Spain, an obento box in Tokyo, or a baguette in Paris. With these practical lessons, you’ll learn how to get along in real situations when you visit the country of your choice.
At the moment, you may choose between two different packages: Student and Traveller. Both packages give you access to all available languages, but the Student package requires institutional affiliation. A Business package will also be available soon, and it will cost around $300 on a yearly basis. It will give you access to all content, including a premium business culture course. Plus, it comes with a dedicated relationship manager feature, as well as Skype support.
English is the major language for communication in the world of international business. VirtualSpeech focusses on this sector, allowing people from around the world to boost their listening and speaking skills in a business context. It’s a mandatory investment in their career growth.
With this course, you learn business English through tutorial classes, and practice different scenarios in VR as you progress through the course. It’s the perfect combination that supports a faster and more effective language learning process.
The platform will prepare you for different business-related situations, such as a job interview, communicating with clients, or meeting with stakeholders. You’ll be launched in realistic scenarios that challenge your ability to express yourself in the most effective way. You’ll get feedback that helps you get better.
VirtualSpeech is focused on improving your communication skills. In other words, their goal is to make you a more confident speaker and better listener. Its voice analysis technology can analyse your pace of voice and pick up hesitation words, giving you feedback on how to speak more clearly.
Of course choosing a tool and signing up for it won’t be enough. You still need to invest a lot of effort in the learning process in order to develop a new skill. The good news is that this learning won’t be in the form of traditional lessons.
Here are a few tips that will make the experience more effective for you.
VR technology gives you a different experience than similar conversations you have with Duolingo and other popular language learning platforms. You get a life-like experience that simulates real situations. Since the tool will give you instant feedback, you won’t have much time to think. You’ll just need to act, just like you would do in a real situation.
The point is to speak up! Don’t be afraid; no one is grading you. Just talk to these virtual characters and let the conversation flow. You’ll make mistakes; that’s for sure. But don’t worry too much about them. They are a natural occurrence in the language learning process. With time and practice, you’ll be getting better. Just keep speaking!
We learn best by being immersed in situations that force us to use a language. However, such situations also overwhelm us. It’s not rare to see someone who does great in a language learning course but is completely stuck when found in a real-life situation that requires them to implement that knowledge. Virtual reality enables us to improve our language skills through practice. Still, you have to challenge yourself!
Through this technology, you’ll be put in real-life situations which may still be overwhelming. You might forget words you know. At first, you’ll be thinking a lot before you finally speak up. That might make you believe that the process is not effective but don’t give up! You have to make an effort and keep practicing.
What makes this process so effective is that it helps you build self-confidence over time. When you really get into a situation that demands language use, you’ll remember you’ve already been in a similar version of it. Although it was a VR experience, you’ll know how to handle it.
Remember, you’re not getting grades when you rely on a platform that supports language learning through virtual reality. This is not a course you can fail. Getting better is the only option. You’re just getting constructive feedback that you will use to get better.
Expect that feedback. Appreciate it. This powerful technology will not only suggest improvements in terms of vocabulary but will also help you become a more confident speaker.
Virtual reality is not replacing standard language learning apps any time soon. Not many people have access to the equipment necessary for this type of immersion. However, these innovations give us a glimpse into the future of language learning. We know one thing for sure, it is going to be awesome!
Steven Wesley is a creative writer and ESL teacher. He is interested in public relations, tech and educational issues. Besides, Steve believes in the mighty power of the pen to change the modern world. Feel free to drop him a line on Twitter and Facebook!