Depending on who you ask, opinions tend to vary regarding the easiest and quickest way to learn a new language, from reading books to special apps to watching a lot of TV in the language you hope to learn. However, experts have pointed to immersion being a far more effective way of absorbing, understanding, and eventually fluently speaking a new language, over and above other tips and tricks.
Quinn Taber, CEO of Immerse, has taken these expert findings and created a new virtual world purpose-built for immersive language learning. “The human brain is programmed to learn from doing, especially when it comes to language,” says Taber. Through immersive instruction, the Immerse platform has leveraged the power of the Metaverse via three key pillars of immersive language learning: language, culture, and community.
According to a 2021 meta-analysis, immersing oneself in realistic scenarios where live conversations with native speakers are available provides a far more effective approach to learning a new language. With other popular language-learning programs and apps, true realistic immersion is not possible. Instead, the instruction is based on rote memorization of words and phrases and listening.
Realistic scenarios where one can practice speaking the language they are learning allows learners to start building fluency immediately. Through Immerse’s platform and its integrated VR capabilities, language learners can have real-world conversations with native speakers and jump right into realistic scenarios in which they can use the language — no more learning words and phrases that no one would genuinely use in day-to-day speaking.
While watching television shows in a language one is trying to learn may be a part of an overall learning experience, it doesn’t offer the more effective experience immersion can provide, nor may it be the best kind of language input to learn from. “Under the right circumstances, watching TV or other media in another language can be a good way to familiarize yourself with the sounds, the vocabulary, and even some of the cultural aspects of that language,” says Taber, “but on its own, TV is not a great way to learn. You can’t learn a language from passive input alone — you need to speak and use it for genuine communication with other people.”
However, there can be benefits to listening to TV in a new language when learning it. “Native speakers of a language often speak it very quickly,” says Taber. “Even if you don’t know what all the words they’re saying mean, challenging yourself to catch as many as possible will help improve both your listening skills and your confidence. Afterward, you’ll likely find that it’s much easier to understand the slower speech coming from your language teacher or language app.”
TV can also be a way to observe how a new language is used in a social context. Things like apologies, formalities, slang, and even body language can easily be picked up by watching TV in a foreign language. “For example,” Taber explains, “someone learning Spanish might know that the language has both informal and formal and informal ways of saying ‘you,’ but not when these differences come into play during a real conversation. So, when full immersion with fluent speakers isn’t an option, watching them interact with one another through a medium like TV can help language learners better understand these nuances.”
While TV lacks the interaction and complete immersion needed to best learn fluency in a language, it can still help supplement language learning and has a role to play in overall language immersion.
Authentic cultural experiences
To remove barriers to human connection, language learners need to absorb the culture behind the language, not just the words. Learning about the greater culture of the language speakers allows the learner to absorb the language, improve fluency, and be able to better communicate with native speakers.
For example, many of the words, phrases, and ways of speaking that we may have learned in traditional high school language classes often do not match the way native speakers speak with one another face-to-face. There is context, nuance, slang terms, and phrasing that is missing from a non-immersive learning environment, standing in the way of eventual true fluency.
“You can’t learn a language from passive input alone, you need to speak and use it for genuine communication with other people,” Taber explains. “Actively creating sentences to express your ideas requires skills that you can’t practice just by listening to others.”
For most of us, the way we initially learned to speak our native language was through an immersive upbringing — being surrounded by other native speakers, hearing those we knew and loved speaking the language with one another, and being spoken to in that language by others in our community. According to the American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages, community is one of the five core components that drives successfully learning a language, along with communications, culture, connections, and comparisons.
“Much like our upbringing allowed us to learn our native language, Immerse offers language learning in the Metaverse for a more community-driven, embodied learning experience,” explains Taber. Through Immerse, a total sensory experience is combined with a community aspect that allows for ongoing practice to greatly improve learners’ fluency.
“Whatever your work schedule or your geographic location, you can go into the Metaverse any time and find someone to practice with,” Taber says. “Immerse makes it possible to meet up and chat with people from around the world right from the comfort of your own home.”
The emergence of the Metaverse as a social media standard has allowed immersion learning to take on a whole new look and feel. Now, language learners do not have to leave their homes in order to fully dive into a culture or a speaking environment that is realistic, relevant, and effective.
The way we learn best is being leveraged within the world of language learning. Through innovations like Immerse, surrounding oneself with speaking and hearing a language — along with participating in using the language in a real-world environment — can lead to more people learning languages and a more connected global community.