Swansea University Home - 2010 - 2011


International Trials for Virtual Language Learning Project


The European funded Lifelong Learning project entitled Vill@ge (143370-2008-LLP-GR-KA2-KA2MP) has now completed month-long trails in Hungary, Greece and Great Britain. The Virtual Language Learning environment is designed to take advantage of the second language learning opportunities afforded by 3D virtual environments and has selected Second Life to investigate the nature and scale of learning that takes place. The work it is carrying out is designed for two very different types of potential users of such an environment: young primary school age learners, and university level adults.

The Vill@ge island and Primary Age Learners

The creation of a dedicated language learning and language practice environment has involved the creation of a dedicated island; a virtual island surrounded by virtual sea. The protection required by primary age learners makes such an island an attractive location. Not only can the environment itself be controlled, but access can be restricted.

 

Example of the appearance of the Vill@ge island.

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An example of how language interaction is integrated into the Vill@ge environment is provided by a shopping task in the Vill@ge island’s supermarket. Shopping with a shopping list need not, for a single shopper, involve much language. However, for this task a learner is given the task of shopping with a native speaker. The native speaker has a shopping list while the learner has the shopping basket and must fill it with the items needed. When the name of an item is not known then pointing and naming can make the name clear. This can be done either through speech, using a microphone or headset, or by typing where the messages appear on screen.

 

Supermarket shopping task on the Vill@ge island.

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The Vill@ge island and Adult Learners

Adult learners on the Vill@ge island tend to be more linguistically able than the younger learners and, in the Vill@ge project, and have some specialist language requirements. For these learners virtual banks, travel and estate agency shops and show homes have been constructed. In these locations learners can practise their language within the environment and, as with the young learners, they are set tasks to fulfil. These learners may, for example, to take the role of a bank assistant and have to deal with customer avatars who, within the role-play are trying to open an account or take out money.

 

Inside the Vill@ge bank.

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Language Gains in Second Life

 

Preliminary data drawn from the trails suggests that there are great benefits to be derived from language learning in this environment.

 

  • The volume of communicative language produced by learners in this environment is very large. Comparable data from classroom environments suggest that even in oral classes the volumes of language produced is generally small.
  • The language of this environment is lexically rich which should provide the opportunity for language gains. Comparable data from classroom environments suggests that the environment is often poor.
  • There are measurable gains in vocabulary which appear to be large in scale. The Vill@ge island and its associated tasks appear to comprise a very efficient learning environment.
  • There may also be gains in oral fluency from interaction in this environment.

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