World Language learning, "situated" in the virtual world

thanks to Web 2.0 tools.

Think of it. No more artificial contextualization for second language learning. It can happen in Second Life at no extra cost. Who needs a trip to Europe anymore?

It used to be that a foreign language teachers had to “virtualize” learning environments for students. Engaging them in situated “languaging” took everything a learner-centered, socio-constructivist teacher could manage. I recall what it was like when I taught four levels of high school French pre-internet. It meant constant scouring of media sources for my students: I subscribed to French periodicals, sought out the best French films, built, constant displays of L2 realia, and setting up “snail-mail” pen pals between my classes and their French counterparts. Even if when the contacts were reliable, and even though “air-mail” meant quick, it could still be a week or more of lag-time between of student correspondents. Yes, life-long friendships developed, cultural understandings did take place–but before the read/write web it was a lot more work.

In the EU right now they’re “e-twinning” to mutual advantage. Why don’t American public schools do something similar with schools in L2 countries? Tele-communications have never been more available nor cheaper than now. Waiting around puts off cultural understanding when the world sorely needs it.

Way back in 1996, in his End of Education, Neil Postman describes a joke then in frequency on the planet:

Our failure [at L2 learning] is something of a worldwide embarrassment… What do we call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. Two languages? Bilingual. One language? An American.

OUch. Not so funny, given the last eight years or so, is it?

Let’s use the tools we can to take our kids to a more educated place.

One response to “World Language learning, "situated" in the virtual world”

  1. HiI thought I would mention that if you are interested in the use of 3D virtual worlds in language education, then you may like to attend the SLanguages conference in May 2009. You can find more info at I hope to see you there!


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