The Impact of Virtual Reality on L2 French Learners’ Language Anxiety and Oral Comprehensibility

An Exploratory Study


  • Tricia Thrasher University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign



virtual reality, foreign language anxiety, French, oral production, physiological measures


Winner of the CALICO Journal Best Article award 2022

Research has noted that virtual reality (VR) environments can lessen language learners’ foreign language anxiety (FLA). However, previous research has relied primarily on participants’ qualitative opinions, leading to a lack of studies empirically assessing how VR impacts anxiety and, consequently, second language (L2) oral production. This pilot study addresses these gaps by exploring how VR influences the self-reported and physiological FLA and oral comprehensibility of 25 L2 French learners. Participants completed four comparable interpersonal consensus building tasks over eight weeks: two in the social VR application, vTime XR™, and two in a traditional classroom. Immediately following each task, participants self-assessed their anxiety. Moreover, a subsample of participants’ self-reported anxiety data was complemented with a physiological indicator of anxiety, salivary cortisol, to evaluate using this biomarker in FLA research. Participants’ speech for all tasks was rated by four native French speakers for comprehensibility. Descriptive statistics are presented. Self-reported anxiety and cortisol data indicated that participants were less anxious in VR and throughout the eight weeks. A positive correlation was found between self-reported and cortisol data, indicating consistency between these two anxiety measures. Finally, raters found participants to be more comprehensible in VR and when they self-reported lower anxiety.

Author Biography

  • Tricia Thrasher, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

    Tricia Thrasher is a PhD candidate in the department of French and Italian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her primary research interests include immersive technologies for language learning, foreign language anxiety and oral production, and subjective and objective anxiety measurements.


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How to Cite

Thrasher, T. (2022). The Impact of Virtual Reality on L2 French Learners’ Language Anxiety and Oral Comprehensibility: An Exploratory Study. CALICO Journal, 39(2), 219–238.