A new VR app allows people to converse in “real life” situations
We live in a world that is increasingly connected, and the ability to speak more than one language can be quite valuable. While for many years people learned languages by reading books, listening to recordings, and taking classes, apps on smartphones have allowed many people to study with far more convenience; easily portable technology now allows learners to, at any time they desire, hear phrases spoken by native speakers and receive feedback on their own pronunciation of foreign words.
Recently, a new type of app for teaching languages has hit the market – utilizing an approach that seems to have significant promise for many students. Learn Languages VR by Mondly, a new virtual reality foreign-language teaching app, enhances the language learning experience by placing people into situations in which they need to use the language. By wearing a VR headset, Mondly transported me into a cab in which I conversed with the driver in Spanish, and then into a foreign hotel with a Spanish-speaking receptionist checking me in; my interactions with these “people” were similar to those that one would experience in real life. Because of the VR technology, the experience felt quite lifelike – far more “real” than similar “conversations” that I have had while using other foreign language learning apps. I suspect that for many people, experiencing the use of a language in a virtual reality session may help them remember the content better than they would using less “realistic feeling” learning kits.
Of course, VR based language training will not entirely replace other apps anytime soon. Apps like Drops, Duolingo, Memrise, Mondly’s non-VR app, and others allow people to study foreign languages pretty much anywhere that has Internet connectivity including, for many folks, during their daily commutes to and from work or school. Virtual reality, in its current iteration, is obviously more limited; practicing a foreign language while wearing a VR headset may be awkward (and dangerous) if one tried to use it on a public bus or train.
That said, for people serious about learning a foreign language, VR might make their studies more successful and efficient. It could also supplement the learning done on busses and trains. The VR app by Mondly supports learning in 28 languages, and includes several free scenarios, with others available for costs as low as $1.99.