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Virtual Worlds for Language Learning

From Theory to Practice


Randall Sadler

This book focuses on one area in the field of Computer-Mediated Communication that has recently exploded in popularity – Virtual Worlds. Virtual Worlds are online multiplayer three-dimensional environments where avatars represent their real world counterparts. In particular, this text explores the potential for these environments to be used for language learning and telecollaboration. After providing an introduction and history of the area, this volume examines learning theories – both old and new – that apply to the use of Virtual Worlds and language learning. The book also examines some of the most popular Virtual Worlds currently available, including a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each. The Virtual World of Second Life is explored in depth, including research examining how users of this world are using language there, and how they are using it to enhance their second language skills.


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Chapter 4: Virtual Worlds, Spaces, and Faces 79


79 Chapter 4: Virtual Worlds, Spaces, and Faces And just as a daydreamer forgets his actual surroundings, and sees other reali- ties, so Pollack drifted, detached, his subconscious interpreting the status of the West Coast communications and data services as a vague thicket for his conscious mind to inspect and interrogate for the safest path […] (Vernor Vinge, Portal, 1986). Introduction As demonstrated in Chapter 2, there are a variety of Virtual Worlds currently available, many of them with strong potential for language learning. However, as discussed in the previous chapter, it is also clear that the vast majority of the research currently being conducted on this topic is taking place in Second Life. This is no doubt partly due to the wide array of educational, social, and collaborative envi- ronments available there, as will be discussed in Chapter 5 of this text, and also due to the large and diverse user base and large virtual landmass of that VW. Because of this popularity, this chapter will take examples from SL, starting with an examination of the languages currently represented in that VW, and continuing with an examina- tion of the results of a survey which looked at language use and lan- guage learning in Second Life. The chapter concludes with a deeper discussion of the role of the avatar in VWs. 80 An Overview of Languages in Virtual Worlds: Second Life In Chapter 2 I discussed the difficulty of gathering concrete and reli- able data relating to the user numbers...

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