Vocabulary Acquisition in New and Learned Contexts Using Immersive Virtual Reality


  • Thérèse Bergsma University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
  • Mariët Theune University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands
  • Robby van Delden University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands




vocabulary acquisition, immersive VR, learned context, new context, dynamic representation, language learning


Vocabulary acquisition is important for learning a language. Language learners need multiple encounters with a word to add unknown word aspects to their word knowledge or to strengthen their knowledge of previously learned word aspects. Combining vocabulary acquisition with immersive virtual reality (IVR) makes it possible to have such multiple encounters. In IVR, objects representing target words can be shown in the same virtual environment as they were first encountered (learned context), but also in a new virtual environment (new context). To investigate learning words in either a new or learned context in IVR we built Wics (words in context system). We used Wics to carry out an experiment in which participants could learn 32 Japanese words, represented by 3D objects, in three sessions. In the second and third learning session all words were shown in either a new context, with a changed environment and a changed visual representation of the word objects, or a learned context, where only the placement of the objects was changed. Performance scores for an immediate and a delayed post-test (one week later) revealed no significant differences in performance between conditions. However, there was a tendency towards participants spending more time on learning the words in the learned context condition. We believe Wics to be the first IVR system to provide learners with multiple learning sessions to provide multiple encounters with the same words in different contexts, where learners have control over their own explorative learning, and where the post-tests are inside IVR.