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Song, C.; Shin, S.; Shin, K.S. Foreign Language Learning in Virtual Reality. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/52401 (accessed on 23 June 2024).
Song C, Shin S, Shin KS. Foreign Language Learning in Virtual Reality. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/52401. Accessed June 23, 2024.
Song, Chuanxiang, Seong-Yoon Shin, Kwang Seong Shin. "Foreign Language Learning in Virtual Reality" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/52401 (accessed June 23, 2024).
Song, C., Shin, S., & Shin, K.S. (2023, December 05). Foreign Language Learning in Virtual Reality. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/52401
Song, Chuanxiang, et al. "Foreign Language Learning in Virtual Reality." Encyclopedia. Web. 05 December, 2023.
Foreign Language Learning in Virtual Reality
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With the widespread application of virtual reality (VR) in education, optimizing foreign language learning in VR has become a focal point of research.

virtual reality foreign language learning technology-assisted learning

1. Introduction

1.1. Background of Virtual Reality in Education

Recently, virtual reality (VR) has ascended as a paradigm-shifting apparatus within the scholastic sphere [1]. Once tethered to the intricate tapestry of computer visualization and ludic interfaces, the capacities of VR to craft deep, tridimensional realms are now esteemed for amplifying pedagogical voyages. Primordial inceptions of VR in this domain accentuated realms necessitating volumetric comprehension, epitomized by disciplines like architecture and medicine [2]. However, as techno-evolution burgeons and fiscal exigencies wane, VR’s tendrils now extend into scholastic sanctuaries ranging from foundational pedagogies to apex academic citadels.
The magnetism of VR in pedagogy is anchored in its prowess for engendering experiential tutelage. Herein, scholars meld with the subject matter, not as passive vessels but as vivacious participants. Such immersion transcends mere assimilation, germinating seeds of analytical rumination and solution-oriented sagacity. Moreover, within VR’s embrace, academicians can find solace in exploration, unshackled by tangible repercussions, free to err, and enlightened by subsequent revelations.
Contemporary analyses juxtaposing conventional methodologies with VR-infused curricula unveil myriad accolades. Pupils navigating this nexus unearth heightened spatial sagacity, superior mnemonic tenacity, and a zest for erudition [3]. Nonetheless, the sagacious confluence of VR into the pedagogical matrix mandates meticulous orchestration, harmonizing both techno-artifacts and instructional stratagems.
To encapsulate, VR’s narrative within the academic milieu has metamorphosed from esoteric dalliances to ubiquitous commendation, presaging a renaissance in erudition paradigms. As the techno-tapestry weaves ever complex patterns, prognostications discern an augmented sphere for VR, unveiling avant-garde, efficacious pedagogical conduits [4].

1.2. Importance of Foreign Language Learning

Navigating the vast tapestry of our interwoven global tableau, mastering non-native dialects breaches boundaries beyond mere oratory exchanges. It emerges as a bridge, enlightening one to the tapestry of various civilizations, catalyzing global symbiosis, and amplifying cerebral advancement [5]. The pursuit of linguistic plurality is increasingly heralded as an invaluable asset across an array of arenas, from trade and inter-nation dialogues to scholastic corridors.
Anchoring the global fiscal landscape is the spirit of transnational cooperation. Companies with global footprints actively seek individuals adept at navigating varied linguistic and cultural terrains, ensuring seamless international interactions and discussions [6]. In this epoch of borderless interactions, as entities stretch their global tendrils, the ability to resonate with affiliates, collaborators, and patrons in their vernacular has emerged as an unparalleled edge.
Stepping past the rudiments of lexis and syntax, absorbing a foreign dialect unveils the opulence of assorted cultural tapestries. Such submersion cultivates compassion, whittles down parochial worldviews, and kindles a spirit of universal fellowship. In pedagogic settings, pupils steeped in alien tongues frequently manifest amplified cross-cultural sagacity, equipping them to navigate our kaleidoscopic globe adeptly [7].
Ample scholarly explorations highlight the cerebral windfalls accompanying bi- or multilingual prowess. Venturing into alien dialects is linked with honed analytical faculties, fortified mnemonic resilience, and amplified juggling capabilities. Additionally, it is conjectured to forestall mental stagnation in the twilight years [8].
In summation, the imperatives of absorbing foreign dialects are multifarious, echoing across fiscal, cultural, and cerebral dimensions. With the crescendo of global entwining, the value placed upon polyglot denizens shall inexorably surge, accentuating the exigency for trailblazing and potent linguistic assimilation modalities.

2. Virtual Reality in Educational Settings

In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has metamorphosed from an esoteric tech forte essentially tethered to digital gaming to a pivotal catalyst echoing in myriad arenas, notably education [9]. The enveloping quintessence of VR, distinguished by its adeptness to craft tangible or envisioned terrains while endorsing user engagements, heralds a seismic recalibration in educational elucidation and absorption modalities [10].
Historical retrospections unveil monumental strides in pedagogic apparatuses. Commencing from the chalk-dusted epochs, transcending the advent of luminary projectors, and culminating in the digital renaissance festooned with interactive boards and cybernetic learning spheres, each juncture has bequeathed augmented interactivity and captivation [11]. VR has emerged as the contemporary and arguably the most poignant stride in this evolutionary mosaic [12]. It bestows a panoramic, multisensory pedagogic odyssey, obliterating the fetters of planar portrayals.
The gamut of VR’s applicability in pedagogic precincts is expansive and multifarious [13]. Take, for instance, the annals of yesteryears; learners can be ethereally ferried to bygone empires, meandering through the cobblestones of Roman piazzas or beholding the monumental ascendancy of Egyptian pyramids [14]. Labyrinthine organic cycles or meticulous surgical choreographies can be envisioned and rehearsed without real-world liabilities in natural philosophy and medicinal arts [15]. Cartographic tutorials might unfurl as phantasmal sojourns to far-flung geographies, while aspirant architects can saunter through their nascent edifices [16].
Venturing beyond canonical syllabi, VR unveils prodigious prospects in specialized pedagogy [17]. Bespoke VR sagas can be sculpted for scholars grappling with cognitive hurdles, autism spectrum nuances, or kinesthetic encumbrances, endowing them with an egalitarian scholastic milieu, often elusive in traditional cadences [18].
Nevertheless, weaving VR into scholastic tapestries is full of quandaries [19]. The inaugural expenditure tethered to VR paraphernalia might be exorbitant for specific academies. The quest for crafting superlative scholastic narratives that resonate technologically and pedagogically persists [20]. Pedagogues necessitate adeptness in maneuvering VR arsenals, coupled with simmering discourses on digital engagement and their conceivable reverberations on learners [21].
While VR unfurls an avant-garde horizon for pedagogy, its judicious melding mandates an equilibrium, cognizant of its merits and impediments [22]. With the inexorable march of tech innovation and augmented accessibility, one can prognosticate that VR’s imprint on education shall burgeon, sculpting pedagogic futures [23].
The distribution of virtual reality applications across various educational domains is illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Distribution of Virtual Reality Applications across Various Educational Domains.

3. Foreign Language Learning Theories

The endeavor to grasp a foreign language has always been an academic challenge and a personal goal [24]. Over time, multiple theories have been proposed to demystify the intricacies of language learning. These perspectives shed light on the intricacies of language acquisition and help educators tailor their teaching techniques more effectively [25].
Behaviorist Theory: Inspired by B.F. Skinner’s research, it suggests that language learning is about forming habits [26]. It hinges on repetition and positive reinforcement, implying that correct language use becomes second nature with consistent affirmation. The age-old method of rote learning, with repetitive exercises in grammar and vocabulary, is a by-product of this school of thought.
Innate theory, as Noam Chomsky advocates, posits that humans possess an inherent inclination to acquire languages from birth [27]. He introduced the concept of the ‘Language Acquisition Device’ (LAD), a prewired facility in our brains that simplifies the language learning process. It contradicts the behaviorist standpoint, focusing instead on the innate human knack to grasp intricate linguistic constructs.
Cognitive Theory: From this vantage, language acquisition is a sophisticated cognitive task wherein learners actively piece together their linguistic understanding [28]. It suggests that learners tap into their preexisting knowledge base and cognitive tools to theorize about their target language, refining these theories as they delve deeper.
Sociocultural Theory: Based on Lev Vygotsky’s insights, this theory emphasizes that social engagements are integral to cognitive growth [29]. It posits that language learning is deeply intertwined with societal interactions, collective endeavors, and cultural nuances.
Input Hypothesis: Stephen Krashen’s theory underscores the significance of understandable linguistic input [30]. Krashen suggests that language learners are most effective in absorbing a language when they can comprehend the linguistic information they encounter. The crux here is to expose students to content slightly beyond their current mastery level.
Affective Filter Hypothesis: Another of Krashen’s contributions, this hypothesis accentuates the role of emotions like motivation, anxiety, and self-assurance in language learning. A favorable emotional environment can “lower the affective filter,” making it easier for learners to absorb and process language.
Incorporating VR into this landscape offers a fresh dimension to these theories [24]. VR’s enveloping environments can offer a plethora of contextual cues, aligning well with the input hypothesis. Its interactive scenarios can stimulate social engagements, echoing the tenets of sociocultural theory. Furthermore, VR’s captivating nature can positively influence learners’ emotions, potentially optimizing conditions for language assimilation.
It is essential for educators and tech developers to grasp these theories, especially when sculpting VR-infused language learning modules. Grounding VR tools in solid educational theories can magnify their potential, paving the way for more impactful language education [25].

4. Previous Works on Technology-Assisted Language Learning

Incorporating technology into language education is by no means a fresh endeavor. Over the years, technological advancements have persistently reshaped language teaching, introducing fresh tools and methods to enrich the educational journey [31].
Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL): Introduced in the 1960s, CALL signified the initial notable fusion of technology into language education [32]. The primary versions of CALL were largely text-focused drills. However, as technology developed, these transformed to embrace multimedia features, interactive tasks, and virtual simulations [33]. Numerous studies have established that CALL can tailor learning experiences to individual preferences, enabling students to learn at a rhythm that suits them.
Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL): The proliferation of smartphones and tablets ushered in a new phase of language education [34]. MALL apps like Duolingo and Babbel employ game-like features to capture the users’ interest. These platforms offer concise lessons, prompt feedback, and are tailored to cater to contemporary learners.
Online Language Portals: Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and iTalki have democratized access to language resources, featuring courses from global institutions and native speakers [35]. Such websites amalgamate video sessions, interactive tests, peer interactions, and on-the-spot feedback to craft a holistic learning ambiance.
Virtual Worlds and MMORPGs: Virtual realms like Second Life and specific MMORPGs geared toward language learning offer learners’ virtual spaces to apply language skills in lifelike situations [36]. They enable genuine interactions, allowing learners to hone their speaking, listening, and cultural comprehension.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Language Learning: AR supplements the natural environment with computer-generated enhancements [37]. Tools like Google Translate’s real-time camera translation illustrates the potential of AR in language learning. AR integrates language learning into daily routines by converting routine situations into learning moments.

Virtual Reality (VR) in Language Education: The shift towards VR in language learning is the next logical step in this technological evolution [31]. VR’s unparalleled immersive quality allows learners to engage with languages within contextually appropriate virtual scenarios. Preliminary studies into VR-supported language education are encouraging, indicating heightened learner enthusiasm, involvement, and recall [33].
However, while the potential of technology in education is vast, it is crucial to perceive it as an enabler rather than an ultimate solution [31]. The success of any tech-driven language learning system is contingent on its judicious blend into a broader educational strategy. As VR starts to take a more central role in language teaching, comprehending its strengths and challenges, as seen through past technological evolutions, becomes crucial.

5. Key Features of Effective VR Language Learning

The infusion of virtual reality (VR) into language education has ushered in many avenues to enrich and optimize the learning journey [38]. Nevertheless, the efficacy of VR applications can vary widely. Several paramount constituents underscore VR’s efficacy in linguistic pedagogy:
Immersive Experiences: A hallmark of VR is its capability to craft authentic, enveloping settings [39]. This deep immersion transports learners to settings—a lively urban square or a serene coffee shop—where they can exercise their linguistic skills in situations that mirror reality.
Contextual Learning: VR’s prowess in simulating diverse situations bestows learners with context-rich instances to employ language constructs, bolstering both recall and practical application [40].
Interactive NPCs (Non-Player Characters): These characters, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), emulate human interactions, granting learners opportunities to hone their dialogic skills. Progressive VR platforms harness AI-powered NPCs, which modify their interactions, presenting an evolving dialogue companion.
Instantaneous Feedback: Timely feedback is instrumental for grasping a language. In VR, learners can obtain on-the-spot guidance on facets like pronunciation, lexicon usage, or syntactic patterns, facilitating swift adaptation and refinement.
Multisensory Engagement: Beyond mere visual and auditory cues, sophisticated VR configurations might integrate touch feedback, deepening the educational immersion [39]. Such a comprehensive sensory engagement caters to diverse learning predilections and amplifies memory anchoring.
Collaborative Endeavors: VR environments accommodating multiple users empower learners to engage with peers or tutors contemporaneously. These shared interactions can kindle group tasks, discussions, or dramatization exercises, enhancing communicative prowess.
Tailored Learning Journeys: A learning trajectory tailored to a student’s linguistic level and learning inclination can amplify the potency of VR experiences [40]. VR platforms that tweak the content, challenge level, or feedback mechanisms in sync with individual learners promise optimal pedagogical outcomes.
Cultural Immersion: Beyond linguistic mechanics, VR can immerse learners in the cultural fabric, allowing them to virtually partake in global festivities, customs, or mundane routines [38]. Such immersive sessions cultivate cultural cognizance and appreciation, critical facets of holistic language instruction.
While VR promises to revolutionize language pedagogy, its success is in seamlessly integrating these vital elements. Collaborative endeavors between educators and tech creators, focusing on these attributes, can ensure that learners not only master linguistic nuances but also gain profound insights into the cultural tapestry intertwined with the language. As discussed in Table 1, key features of effective virtual reality (VR) language learning include immersive environments, interactive content, adaptive learning paths, real-time feedback, multi-modal learning, and collaborative learning spaces. These elements contribute to the enhancement of language education through VR technology.
Table 1. Key features of effective virtual reality (VR) language learning.

Key Features

Description

Immersive Environment

Engages learners by simulating real-world scenarios, enhancing retention and comprehension.

Interactive Content

Allows learners to actively participate, promoting active learning and better understanding.

Adaptive Learning Paths

Adjusts content based on learner’s progress, ensuring personalized learning experiences.

Real-time Feedback

Provides immediate feedback on performance, enabling learners to correct mistakes and improve.

Multi-modal Learning

Incorporates visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles, catering to diverse learners.

Collaborative Learning Spaces

Facilitates peer-to-peer interactions and collaborative tasks in a virtual setting.

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