M. Macedonia, I. Groher, F. Roithmayr: Intelligent Virtual Agents as Language Trainers Facilitate Multilingualism, Front. Psychol. 5:295, 2014, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00295.


In this paper we introduce a new generation of language trainers: intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) with human appearance and the capability to teach foreign language vocabulary. We report results from studies that we have conducted with Billie, an IVA employed as a vocabulary trainer, as well as research findings on the acceptance of the agent as a trainer by adults and children. The results show that Billie can train humans as well as a human teacher can and that both adults and children accept the IVA as a trainer. The advantages of IVAs are multiple. First, their teaching methods can be based on neuropsychological research findings concerning memory and learning practice. Second, virtual teachers can provide individualized training. Third, they coach users during training, are always supportive, and motivate learners to train. Fourth, agents will reside in the user’s mobile devices and thus be at the user’s disposal everywhere and anytime. Agents in apps will make foreign language training accessible to anybody at low cost. This will enable people around the world, including physically, financially and geographically disadvantaged persons, to learn a foreign language and help to facilitate multilingualism.