M3 – Literature Review

In a 2007 report, the Modern Language Association (MLA) remarked that “deep cultural knowledge and linguistic competence are equally necessary if one wishes to understand people and their communities” (p. 2) and that the goal of foreign language instruction should be to produce “educated speakers who have deep translingual and transcultural competence” (p. 3). Though aimed specifically at American higher education, the MLA’s recommendations have implications for world language instruction in much broader contexts.This transcultural competence, long considered a lesser byproduct of linguistic competence, is being more commonly recognized as an integral component of world language courses. To this end, several international bodies have updated their standards to include transcultural competence as a pillar of language instruction (National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project, 2015; American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 2017; Council of Europe, 2001).

Though defined in numerous ways (see Byram, 1997; Fantini, 2000; Risager, 2007; Bennett, 2009; Liddicoat & Scarino, 2013), transcultural, cross-cultural, or intercultural competence (henceforth referred to as intercultural communicative competence (ICC)) in the context of education can generally be considered as:

a combination of attitudes, knowledge, understanding and skills applied through action which enables one, either singly or together with others, to:

— understand and respect people who are perceived to have different cultural affiliations from oneself;

— respond appropriately, effectively and respectfully when interacting and communicating with such people;

— establish positive and constructive relationships with such people;

— understand oneself and one’s own multiple cultural affiliations through encounters with cultural “difference.” (Huber & Reynolds, 2014, pp. 16–17).

Within the world language classroom, this manifests as a learner’s “ability to evaluate, critically and on the basis of explicit criteria, perspectives, practices and products in one’s own and other cultures and countries” (Byram, 1997, p. 53). Beyond the classroom, learners are able to “communicate and interact with cultural competence in order to participate in multilingual communities” as well as “collaborate in their community and the globalized world” (National Standards, 2015, p. 1). Critical to this endeavor is the simultaneous reflective introspection and outward community involvement. By recognizing that language education is not simply a tool for use in limited contexts, but meaningful in developing their identity, students will come to value the knowledge, attitude, and skills on a personal, actionable level (Byram & Wagner, 2018).

Inarguably, the primary means of developing ICC is through positive cross-cultural contact – interactions that necessitate mediation of knowledge, skills, awareness, and language proficiency (Fantini, 2000; Bennett, 2009). This can prove challenging in traditional school settings for both procedural and logistical reasons. First, ICC development is an on-going and lengthy process, as reflected in various models of stages or phases experienced by intercultural learners (Hoopes, 1979; Gochenour & Janeway, 1993; Bennett, 1993). Semester-length and even year-long courses may not provide enough meaningful interaction to provoke, notice, or measure ICC development. Additionally, classrooms by nature consist of a disproportionate number of learners and native speakers. Moreover, the instructor may be neither a native speaker of the language he or she teaches, nor a member of a culture wherein the target language is spoken. Thus facilitating these cross-cultural interactions could prove unattainable within many classroom contexts.

One potential solution to these problems is telecollaboration, a means of connecting students to native speakers via “institutionalized, electronically mediated intercultural communication under the guidance of a linguacultural expert (i.e., a teacher) for the purposes of foreign language learning and the development of intercultural competence” (Belz, 2003, p. 2). These collaborative partnerships can take many forms, all with varying degrees of formality, learner autonomy and responsibility, learner characteristics (e.g. language proficiency, learning goals, etc.), means of interaction, and institutional support (O’Dowd, 2016; Akiyama & Cunningham, 2018). Within formal educational settings, most programs pair groups of university-level learners who engage in both synchronous and asynchronous bilingual-bicultural exchanges through information exchange tasks (Akiyama & Cunningham, 2018). Though there still remains a need for study diversity and standardized reporting in future research (Akiyama & Cunningham, 2018), as well as implementation of deeper “critical collaboration” (O’Dowd, 2016), as a whole, telecollaboration has proven an effective approach to improving language skills (Canto & van den Bergh, 2013; Kato & Mori, 2016) and developing intercultural competence (Furstenberg, Levet, English, & Maillet, 2001; Belz, 2003; Helm & Guth, 2010).

Despite its impact on attaining the primary goals of world language courses, telecollaboration remains underutilized in the vast majority of curricula. Though not nearly as technologically restricted as it used to be thanks to widespread Internet access and the ever growing list of communicative tools and resources, telecollaborative exchanges are still not without logistical limitations. There may be low availability of target language speakers, high technological requirements and/or lack of funding, time zone differences, inflexible course structure, and so forth. Moreover, students with telecollaborative peers rarely get to meet in person and shared experiences to build more meaningful relationships are limited.

As an emerging technology, virtual reality (VR) may not only aid in addressing some of these issues, but further enhance existing telecollaboration programs. As a concept, “virtual reality” has existed and evolved over the past few decades. In the broadest of terms it encompasses “any simulated, artificial, or synthetic environment that creates a convincing presentation of a desired space” (Kessler, 2018). This has included online virtual environments (LMSs, etc.), online virtual worlds (MMOs, Second Life, etc.), augmented and mixed reality, and “second wave” immersive VR that uses head-mounted displays (HMDs). Within the domain of language learning, numerous studies have investigated the potential of these diverse technologies, examining synthetic immersive environments (Sykes, Oskoz, & Thorne, 2008; O’Brien & Levy, 2008), online virtual worlds (Shih & Yang, 2008; Sykes & Reinhardt, 2012; Sykes, 2013; Lan & Liao, 2018), and mixed reality (Yang, Chen, & Jeng , 2009; Ho, Nelson, & Müeller-Wittig, 2011). For the purposes of this project, however, VR will be defined as an experience made immersive through the use of a HMD that occurs within either A) a computer-generated environment wherein the user may actively engage with the surroundings, or B) a 360° video-based environment wherein the user passively observes pre-generated content.

Such immersive experiences offer unique affordances for language learning and ICC development. In recent examinations of the future directions of the field, many authors have noted the potential of VR as a multimodal tool that students can use to develop multiliteracies, access authentic texts, engage in social exploration, enhance intercultural understanding, and practice culturally appropriate tasks in ways that would otherwise only be possible by traveling (Blyth, 2018; Sykes, 2018b; Kessler, 2018). For both learners and instructors, VR content is becoming more readily customizable allowing experiences to be tailored to students’ individual needs. Additionally, VR experiences are heightened by enhancing the user’s sense of presence (Lane, Hays, Auerbach, & Core, 2010; Chen, Warden, Tai, Chen, & Chao, 2011; Villani, Repetto, Cipresso, & Riva, 2012; North & North, 2016) and engagement (Hussein & Nätterdal, 2015). This sense of presence also extends to social interactions, as there are many existing and cutting-edge technologies that enable immersive virtual telepresence (Riva, Botella, Légeron, & Optale, 2004; Panettieri, 2007; Beck, Kunert, Kulik, & Froehlich, 2013; McGill, Williamson, & Brewster, 2016; Fairchild, Campion, García, Wolff, Fernando, & Roberts, 2017). Though more advanced immersive virtual telepresence systems remain gated behind advanced technological and infrastructure requirements, the advent of 5G and similar networks suggests that these technologies may soon become mainstream (Orlosky, Kiyokawa, & Takemura, 2017).

Yet in spite of such promise and calls for further research, immersive VR in even its most accessible commercial form (e.g. Google Cardboard) remains to be evaluated within the context of language education (Lin & Lan, 2015). Existing studies of immersive VR are limited to university education and adult training across the sciences and medical field (Freina & Ott, 2015). Though these subjects may more easily lend themselves to the simulations initially envisioned for VR, that is not to say that language-focused equivalents do not already exist. The Center for the Advanced Study of Language (CASL) at the University of Maryland, for example, has designed a video-based VR experience to train advanced listening skills (Tare, Golonka, Clark, & Varshney, 2017). However, evaluation is warranted to both measure and guide future pedagogical interventions.


American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (2017). NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements: Performance Indicators for Language Learners. Available from, https://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/CanDos/Intercultural%20Can-Do_Statements.pdf

Akiyama, Y. & Cunningham, D. (2018). Synthesizing the Practice of SCMC-based Telecollaboration: A Scoping Review. CALICO Journal, 35(1), 49-76.

Barrette, C. M., & Paesani, K. (2018). Conceptualizing cultural literacy through student learning outcomes assessment. Foreign Language Annals.

Beck, S., Kunert, A., Kulik, A., & Froehlich, B. (2013). Immersive group-to-group telepresence. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 19(4), 616-625.

Belz, J. A. (2003). Linguistic perspectives on the development of intercultural competence in telecollaboration.

Bennett, M. J. (1993) Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. In Paige, R. M. (Ed.). (1993). Education for the intercultural experience (pp. 21-71). Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Bennett, M. J. (2009). Defining, measuring, and facilitating intercultural learning: A conceptual introduction to the intercultural education double supplement.

Blyth, C. (2018). Immersive technologies and language learning. Foreign Language Annals, 51(1), 225-232.

Bohinski, C. A., & Leventhal, Y. (2015). Rethinking the ICC framework: Transformation and telecollaboration. Foreign Language Annals, 48(3), 521-534.

Borghetti, C. (2017). Is there really a need for assessing intercultural competence?: Some ethical issues. Journal of Intercultural Communication, (44).

Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and assessing intercultural communicative competence. Multilingual Matters.

Byram, M., & Wagner, M. (2018). Making a difference: Language teaching for intercultural and international dialogue. Foreign Language Annals, 51(1), 140-151.

Canto, S., Jauregi, K., & van den Bergh, H. (2013). Integrating cross-cultural interaction through video-communication and virtual worlds in foreign language teaching programs: is there an added value?. ReCALL, 25(1), 105-121.

Chen, J. F., Warden, C. A., Tai, D. W. S., Chen, F. S., & Chao, C. Y. (2011). Level of abstraction and feelings of presence in virtual space: Business English negotiation in Open Wonderland. Computers & Education, 57(3), 2126-2134.

Council of Europe. Council for Cultural Co-operation. Education Committee. Modern Languages Division. (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge university press.

Deardorff, D. K. (2006). Identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of internationalization. Journal of studies in international education, 10(3), 241-266.

Deardorff, D. K. (2011). Assessing intercultural competence. New directions for institutional research, 2011(149), 65-79.

Fairchild, A. J., Campion, S. P., García, A. S., Wolff, R., Fernando, T., & Roberts, D. J. (2017). A mixed reality telepresence system for collaborative space operation. IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology, 27(4), 814-827.

Fantini, A. E. (2000). A central concern: Developing intercultural competence. SIT occasional papers series, 1, 25-42.

Fantini, A., & Tirmizi, A. (2006). Exploring and assessing intercultural competence.

Freina, L., & Ott, M. (2015, January). A literature review on immersive virtual reality in education: state of the art and perspectives. In The International Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for Education (Vol. 1, p. 133). ” Carol I” National Defence University.

Furstenberg, G., Levet, S., English, K., & Maillet, K. (2001). Giving a virtual voice to the silent language of culture: The Cultura project. Language Learning and Technology 5(1), 55–102.

Gochenour, T., & Janeway, A. (1993). Seven concepts in cross-cultural interaction: A training design. Beyond Experience: An Experiential Approach to Cross-Cultural Education, 1-9.

Helm, F., & Guth, S. (2010). The multifarious goals of telecollaboration 2.0: Theoretical and practical implications. In S. Guth & F. Helm (Eds.), Telecollaboration 2.0: Language, literacies, and intercultural learning in the 21st century (pp. 69–106). New York: Peter Lang.

Ho, C. M., Nelson, M. E., & Müeller-Wittig, W. (2011). Design and implementation of a student-generated virtual museum in a language curriculum to enhance collaborative multimodal meaning-making. Computers & Education, 57(1), 1083-1097.

Hoopes, D. S. (1979). Intercultural communication concepts and the psychology of intercultural experience. Multicultural education: A cross cultural training approach, 10-38.

Huber, J., & Reynolds, C. (Eds). (2014). Developing intercultural competence through education. Strasbourg: Council of Europe. Retrieved June 26, 2018, from https://book.coe.int/eur/en/pestalozzi-series/6073-pdf-developing-intercultural-competence-through-education-pestalozzi-series-no-3.html

Hussein, M., & Nätterdal, C. (2015). The Benefits of Virtual Reality in Education – A Comparison Study. Retrieved from GUPEA Digital Theses. http://hdl.handle.net/2077/39977

Kato, F., Spring, R., & Mori, C. (2016). Mutually Beneficial Foreign Language Learning: Creating Meaningful Interactions Through Video‐Synchronous Computer‐Mediated Communication. Foreign Language Annals, 49(2), 355-366.

Kessler, G. (2018). Technology and the future of language teaching. Foreign Language Annals, 51(1), 205-218.

Lan, Y. J., & Liao, C. Y. (2018). The effects of 3D immersion on CSL students’ listening comprehension. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 12(1), 35-46.

Lane, H. C., Hays, M. J., Auerbach, D., & Core, M. G. (2010, June). Investigating the relationship between presence and learning in a serious game. In International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems (pp. 274-284). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Lewis, T., & O’Dowd, R. (2016). 2 Online Intercultural Exchange and Foreign Language Learning. Online intercultural exchange: Policy, pedagogy, practice, 4, 21.

Liddicoat, A. J., & Scarino, A. (2013). Intercultural language teaching and learning. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lin, T. J., & Lan, Y. J. (2015). Language Learning in Virtual Reality Environments: Past, Present, and Future. Educational Technology & Society, 18(4), 486-497.

McGill, M., Williamson, J. H., & Brewster, S. (2016). Examining the role of smart TVs and VR HMDs in synchronous at-a-distance media consumption. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 23(5), 33.

Michelson, K. (2018). Teaching culture as a relational process through a multiliteracies-based global simulation. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 31(1), 1-20.

Modern Language Association of America. (2007). Foreign languages and higher education: New structures for a changed world. MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages. New York: Author.

National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project. (NSFLEP). (2015). World-readiness standards for learning languages (W-RSLL). Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from http://www.actfl.org/publications/all/world-readiness-standards-learning-languages

North, M. M., & North, S. M. (2016). A comparative study of sense of presence of traditional virtual reality and immersive environments. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 20.

O’Brien, M. G., & Levy, R. M. (2008). Exploration through virtual reality: Encounters with the target culture. Canadian Modern Language Review, 64(4), 663-691.

O’Dowd, R. (2016). Emerging trends and new directions in telecollaborative learning. CALICO Journal, 33(3).

Orlosky, J., Kiyokawa, K., & Takemura, H. (2017). Virtual and augmented reality on the 5G highway. Journal of Information Processing, 25, 133-141.

Panettieri, J. C. (2007). Brave New World. Campus Technology, 20(5), 26.

Reitz, L., Sohny, A., & Lochmann, G. (2016). VR-based gamification of communication training and oral examination in a second language. International Journal of Game-Based Learning (IJGBL), 6(2), 46-61.

Risager, K. (2007). Language and culture pedagogy. From a national to a transnational paradigm. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Riva, G., Botella, C., Légeron, P., & Optale, G. (2004). 13 Immersive Virtual Telepresence: Virtual Reality meets eHealth.

Schulz, R. A. (2007). The challenge of assessing cultural understanding in the context of foreign language instruction. Foreign Language Annals, 40(1), 9-26.

Shih, Y. C., & Yang, M. T. (2008). A collaborative virtual environment for situated language learning using VEC3D. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 11(1).

Sinicrope, C., Norris, J., & Watanabe, Y. (2007). Understanding and assessing intercultural competence: A summary of theory, research, and practice (technical report for the foreign language program evaluation project). University of Hawai’i Second Language Studies Paper 26 (1).

Sykes, J. (2013). Multiuser virtual environments: Learner apologies in Spanish. In N. Taguchi & J. Sykes (Eds.), Technology in interlanguage pragmatics research and teaching (pp. 71–100). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Language Learning and Teaching Series.

Sykes, J. M. (2018a). Interlanguage Pragmatics, Curricular Innovation, and Digital Technologies. CALICO Journal, 35(2).

Sykes, J. M. (2018b). Digital games and language teaching and learning. Foreign Language Annals, 51(1), 219-224.

Sykes, J., Oskoz, A., & Thorne, S. L. (2008). Web 2.0, synthetic immersive environments, and the future of language education. CALICO Journal, 25, 528–546.

Sykes, J., & Reinhardt, J. (2012). Language at play: Digital games in second and foreign language teaching and learning. In J. Liskin-Gasparro & M. Lacorte (Series Eds.), Theory and practice in second language classroom instruction (pp. 1–157). New York: Pearson-Prentice Hall.

Tare, M., Golonka, E., Clark, M., & Varshney, A. (2017). Virtual Environments for Foreign Language Learning: 360-degree Cinematic Virtual Reality. Available from, https://www.casl.umd.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/CASL_VR_052017_embassy.pdf

Villani, D., Repetto, C., Cipresso, P., & Riva, G. (2012). May I experience more presence in doing the same thing in virtual reality than in reality? An answer from a simulated job interview. Interacting with Computers, 24(4), 265-272.

Yang, J. C., Chen, C. H., & Jeng, M. C. (2010). Integrating video-capture virtual reality technology into a physically interactive learning environment for English learning. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1346-1356.

Zarraonandia, T., Díaz, P., Aedo, I., & Montero, A. (2016, June). Immersive End User Development for Virtual Reality. In Proceedings of the International Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces (pp. 346-347). ACM.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s