First VR language app immerses users in real-life situations

Anyone that has ever attempted to learn a language from scratch knows that there is a huge gulf between learning the vocabulary and the grammar, and actually being able to converse with another human being.

It is widely thought that the best way to learn how to speak effectively in another language is to throw yourself into situations where you are forced to talk with native speakers. A wide variety of apps and services have come up with their own ways of trying to simulate this kind of experience.

Could VR could be the most effective way of doing this? Mondly, the language app with over 20 million global downloads, has launched the world’s first VR language app for Google Daydream.

The app creates experiences that allow users to take part in realistic conversations with virtual characters in 30 different languages. The app blends together a host of cutting edge technologies – speech recognition, chatbots and VR – to create an immersive way for users to gain feedback on their pronunciation and suggestions for how to widen their vocabulary.

“From our experience, the biggest things that keep people from actually speaking and using new languages are fear and lack of life-like practice,” said Mondly CEO Alex IIiescu.

“MondlyVR overcomes these barriers and quickly gets learners comfortable and speaking in real life situations. We're filling the conversational gap of traditional language education."

Immersive learning

At the moment the Mondly app offers users a choice of five scenarios where they test their skills. These scenarios include making a new friend on a train, giving directions to a taxi driver and ordering food in a restaurant.

The idea is that users should be getting comfortable with the conversational use of the language they want to learn as soon as possible. Traditionally, someone who is learning a language will take up to six months to get to a stage where they are able to engage in conversations.

Yet experts tend to agree that immersion is the best way of learning. Previously, this meant getting yourself a teacher or getting on a plane and annoying the locals of Parisian cafes, but immersive experiences is exactly what VR is designed to provide.

A recent study by Georgetown University neuroscientist Michael Ullman demonstrates this. Language learning subjects were split into two groups, one that studied in a formal classroom setting and one that was taught through immersion.

After five months, both groups had learnt a great deal of the language, but the immersed students displayed the full brain patterns of a native speaker.

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