Teaching Language and Culture with a Virtual Reality Game

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Discusses the use of computers in language learning and speculates about the future. Stresses the importance of cultural context in understanding future language tuition, and ponders how we can achieve this using future tools. Mentions the benefits language learning brings to people outside of just language comprehension - understanding of different viewpoints, ability to locate oneself from another point of view, and to comprehend others dynamically, even if words are translated, context might be missed and require interpretation.


  • virtual immersion to refer to the perception of being physically present in a nonphysical yet culturally authentic, environment (Oliva & Pollastrini, 1995).

Key points

  • “Language specialists who employ the term in the metaphorical sense of being surrounded by language and culture are typically describing a kind of enhanced language learning that one experiences in either a dual-language program (Potowski, 2007) or a study abroad program (Kinginger, 2011)”
  • Today, language educators tend to think of immersion as the perception that “is created by surrounding the user in images, sound or other stimuli that provide an engrossing total environment“ (Wikipedia, immersion virtual reality)
  • software called InterChange, a component of the Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment developed in the Department of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Texas at Austin (Bump, 1990). Beauvois (1992) and Kelm (1992) … Their main finding was that CACD led to increased participation and language production, especially among shy students
  • improved motivation (Beauvois, 1997, 1998; Kern, 1995; Oliva & Pollastrini, 1995)
  • Thorne (2008), MMOGs such as World of Warcraft, a popular online role-playing game,

provide rich opportunities for “immersion in linguistic, cultural and task-based settings” (p. 316)

  • global simulation (Dupuy, 2006; Levine, 2004; Michelson & Dupuy, 2014) turns the foreign language class into its own immersive, fictional environment. Levine (2004) described global simulation as “simultaneously an approach, a set of classroom techniques, and the conceptual framework for a syllabus ”(p. 26). An excellent example of global simulation was described by Michelson and Dupuy (2014) in their study of an intermediate French language course that required the students to play the role of a particular character and to enact discourse styles appropriate to their characters’ persona. Following the work of Debyser's (1980) apartment building scenario, L’ Immeuble, originally created for language arts curricula in France, Michelson and Dupuy (2014) set their simulation in an apartment building on a commercial street in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. The students were required to enact the roles of the residents and to discuss with each other the events and topics of their characters ’everyday lives: urban living, family relations, workplace issues, and so forth
  • increased global interconnectivity (Institute for the Future, 2017)
  • This means that teachers will need to continue their emphasis on language learning and teaching in terms of human sense-making — that is, the critical capacity for negotiating meaning on the fly with others.
  • Second, in a globally connected world, teachers will need to stress the ability to make meaning with others from vastly different backgrounds. As social diversity increases, students should be required to develop communication skills in all academic classrooms, including foreign language classrooms, in order to transcend differences and identify points of connection
  • the challenge of teaching a socially constituted knowledge of language use based on foreign sociocultural factors that do not occur in the context of the classroom. How is it even possible to teach intercultural communicative competence (Byram, 1997) when the foreign context is largely missing?
  • Kramsch and Andersen (1999) summed up the issue like this: “The problem with learning a language from live context is that context itself cannot be learned, it can only be experienced” (p. 33).


  • Language learning has other merits besides learning a language
  • Games have been used to enhance and encourage learning
  • As more resources come online, it will change the role of teachers from providing meaning to moderating experience and guiding students through tailored experiences
  • Cultural context will be a question that needs answering going forward.

Further reading