As an international student, it can be practical for you to learn a new language. For example, researchers from the University of Chicago have demonstrated that thinking about your problems in a foreign language allows you to make more logical decisions as you don’t have a rich palette of words to cloud your thinking.
When you learn a new language, it can also open the door to more job opportunities, in addition to enriching your study abroad experience when you can mix and mingle with a wider group of people outside your usual social circle.
Understandably, schools recognise that students will benefit from proficiency in more than one language. However, these schools are transforming how students learn a new language through virtual reality (VR):
Four schools where you can learn a new language through VR
1. Universidad de La Sabana
If you are a student from the Medicine and Psychology school, you would have heard about and experienced the content and language integrated learning (CLIL) programme.
According to the university’s website, this project uses VR to help medicine and psychology students in two ways. It simplifies the scientific concepts they learned in class, such as action potential, synapsis, human ear and eye. VR allows students to interact, manipulate, and practice with the content in an immersive environment using a VR headset and joysticks.
This study also explores how learners can integrate content learning with vocabularies presented in English within a VR learning environment. As part of the project, a survey and questionnaire help the university gauge whether students have become more proficient with the English language.
2. Catawba Valley Community College
On December 29, 2021, WCNC-TV reported that Catawba Valley Community College uses VR headsets to provide an immersive learning environment for students learning English as their second language (ESL).
The Virtual Language Experience Programme launched in the fall of 2021 to elevate the way students learn English by transporting them into real-world scenarios. Katie Bowan, an ESL instructor, shared in her interview with WCNC-TV: “I have loved leading my ESL students in virtual reality learning.”
“Using VR, I can take my students to all kinds of ‘real-world’ places that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible in the classroom. The students have been practising their English at virtual restaurants, airports, car dealerships, hotels, and a doctor’s office. The students are having fun and getting to use new language skills in all kinds of practical ways.”
3. University of Sheffield
The Virtual Reality English Course is the result of a partnership between the University of Sheffield and Immerse VR, a start-up that uses VR to create an immersive experience for users to learn new languages. Launched in October 2020, this research collaboration investigated how VR could help remote learners located in Japan learn English.
Currently, students can choose to start their course on October 14, 2022, or January 23, 2023. This course will last eight weeks, and there will be two hours of lessons each week. Through VR, students will learn to speak English in different social settings, such as hotels, cafes, restaurants, parks and many more, to build their confidence in the language.
4. Simon Fraser University
As part of the English Language and Culture Program (ELC), international students at the university have a chance to polish their English skills in an exciting manner.
Through a partnership with Virto, a Vancouver start-up, the university is testing its new language-learning app, Argotian. It is a game that combines VR and artificial intelligence technologies to create an innovative learning experience, according to the university’s website.
Students learn English by solving the mystery of a missing painting. They do so by interacting with various characters in a VR environment where they can practice communication skills. The system also produces transcripts and analytics so instructors can evaluate a student’s progress.