Following the language curriculum, many teachers place greater emphasis on reading and writing for exam purposes and focus on accuracy over fluency.
Although some students retain the grammar aspects of a language, they lose the ability to speak and listen to the language if this is neglected for an extended period.
As part of her research, Serpil Meri-Yilan from Agri Ibrahim Cecen University inTurkey, examined university students’ interaction and perceptions of language learning in a VR environment.
She found that VR could reshape language learning through motivating and interactive videos and apps such as ImmerseMe.
ImmerseMe is an interactive VR- based language learning app that offers lessons in 360-degrees videos, recorded in various settings such as a bakery, a restaurant, a hotel, a school or in shops.
Offered in 9 languages: German, Spanish, French, English, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Greek and Indonesian, the program uses Google-based sound recognition software which is aimed at helping learners feel like they are having a conversation with a native speaker in the target language.
It allows students to scaffold their fluency and understanding of the target language by working on four learning modes: pronunciation, dictation, translation and immersion.
For students that aren't able to afford student exchange programs for full immersion experiences, the VR program means they will able to experience similar interactive language sessions from their classrooms in Australia.
It also allows students to learn at their own pace without the fear of making mistakes or receiving a bad grade.
Kevin Papin, French Lecturer and Course Coordinator from McGill University in Montréal, Canada, found his students were anxious to speak French out of fear of not being understood or able to understand others.
Papin has created several videos about Montreal for ImmerseMe, and noticed a switch in his student's attitudes towards learning. The VR was a risk-free way to experience and practice French without the fear of embarrassment.
Using it in a Canadian context, Papin was able to prove empirical evidence that ImmerseMe had a statistically significant positive impact on lowering anxiety, improving students, willingness to communicate.
Parkdale Secondary School in Melbourne is among the first public schools in Victoria to introduce ImmerseMe and we have since noticed an increase in motivation to learn a foreign language and interact with native speakers among our Year 7-8 students.
The French teachers hope it will improve their speaking, listening and pronunciation skills and will reinforce the use of the targeted vocabulary.
However, we do believe that VR technology should continue to be used as a learning tool rather than a replacement for a teacher.