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Using the Oculus Rift to learn foreign languages

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I was doing some research on the Oculus Rift the other day when this thought occurred to me. It's often said that complete immersion is the best way to learn a foreign language. But if you're like me, you probably can't afford to go to that country, let alone stay there long enough to pick up the language. I don't personally own the OR, but could it, in theory, be used to simulate another country and teach the language and culture of said country?

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How is that different from a normal video game set in a foreign country? Nothing in the idea relates to the actual Oculus.

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How is that different from a normal video game set in a foreign country? Nothing in the idea relates to the actual Oculus.

I suppose that's true. As I said, I don't own the Oculus, but I assume if something like this was made specifically for it, it would feel more immersive, like you're actually there. I'm going by the reviews and videos I've seen, but I guess it could just be hype. Also, most games set in foreign countries aren't trying to teach you the culture or language; they're focused on the story (if it's that type of game). Sure, you might learn a bit, but certainly not enough to call yourself an expert. Like watching an anime with English subtitles and saying you know Japanese.

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Being immersed in a foreign culture means waking up and going to sleep there every day, that when you go to the store to buy milk, or when you get on a bus, the people are speaking a foreign language to you. That no matter what you do, you're surrounded 24 hours a day by this foreign country and it's people.

If you can take the rift off, then it doesn't achieve this goal :(

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Being immersed in a foreign culture means waking up and going to sleep there every day, that when you go to the store to buy milk, or when you get on a bus, the people are speaking a foreign language to you. That no matter what you do, you're surrounded 24 hours a day by this foreign country and it's people.

If you can take the rift off, then it doesn't achieve this goal sad.png

Of course. Something like this would and could not replace living in say, Italy or Spain, but it could be a good and interesting substitute, as opposed to buying a book. While you may be able to take the OR off (unless you glue it to your head smile.png ), the illusion of being immersed, even for an hour, would be more effective than sitting in a classroom or reading a book. That's my opinion at least. Everybody learns differently, but as much as I like reading, I would much rather use something like this to learn a foreign language.

 

I plan to eventually move to Japan, but before then I'd like to have a good understanding of the language. Reading walls of text just doesn't do it for me.

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The key is getting feedback from it. It's not enough to just set Skyrim into Japanese and play through the game constantly. You won't learn much beyond the words for "weapon" and "armor". The game isn't actively trying to teach you the language. You can't ask the NPC "Hey, wait, what does 'buki' mean?" You need an environment that's reacting specifically to what you're trying to say/do.

In other words, you either need to meet up with native speakers of that language online who have the patience to help teach you, or have the software be smart enough to handle conversations in natural language and be able to help you out when you make mistakes (which would be an incredibly tall order - natural language and generating meaningful responses are pretty difficult for software!).

So, I think it's more of a software or community involvement thing than a VR thing. Though it *would* be cool to do that in a low-cost VR environment. Edited by Nypyren

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The issue is that a game or piece of software simply isn't an adequate replacement for a natural language speaker, and the kind of immersion Oculus actually offers is very different to the type being referred to when learning languages.

 

Learning languages through immersion happens because you are essentially forced to; there is no alternative to your situation (other than leave), so you must adapt and learn.

 

The 'illusion of being immersed' is not a substitute. I genuinely do not believe that software is an adequate substitute to interacting with a natural language speaker, and probably won't be for many years. If someone suggests to me that it is, I can only assume that they have never actually tried to learn another language.

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The key is getting feedback from it. It's not enough to just set Skyrim into Japanese and play through the game constantly. You won't learn much beyond the words for "weapon" and "armor". The game isn't actively trying to teach you the language. You can't ask the NPC "Hey, wait, what does 'buki' mean?" You need an environment that's reacting specifically to what you're trying to say/do.

 

Skyrim + feudal Japan = awesomeness :) But yeah, knowing the words means nothing if you don't know how to use them.

 


In other words, you either need to meet up with native speakers of that language online who have the patience to help teach you, or have the software be smart enough to handle conversations in natural language and be able to help you out when you make mistakes (which would be an incredibly tall order - natural language and generating meaningful responses are pretty difficult for software!).

 

So, basically, an MMO-esque system or super smart AI?

 


The 'illusion of being immersed' is not a substitute. I genuinely do not believe that software is an adequate substitute to interacting with a natural language speaker, and probably won't be for many years.

 

I agree. At this point in time, technology and AI are not advanced enough to simulate a (believable) virtual reality. Perhaps I should not have phrased like I did. The Oculus is obviously not 'true' VR, and is far from it. This discussion is purely hypothetical.

 


If someone suggests to me that it is, I can only assume that they have never actually tried to learn another language.

 

Were you referring to me, or was this a general statement? I'm studying Japanese on the side, but it's not a priority at the moment.

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Learning a new language is a good bit of work. I don't think that adding a bunch of video game-style tasks would necessarily be of that much value to mastering the syntax and vocabulary of a language that you don't know at all yet, at least not compared with formal study and practice. I agree with posters above in that I don't think you'll get the benefits of immersion from something like this, which leaves the learner with little benefit  over more traditional methods.

 

If you really want to learn a new language without going to a country in which it's spoken, I think you'd be better off with classes or Rosetta Stone and then finding native-speaker conversation partners online.

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