New developments at the EUROCALL/CALICO HQs in Second Life
As announced a few weeks ago, EUROCALL and CALICO have joined forces in Second Life on EduNation III Island. We have just created a Welcome area, from which you can teleport to the main locations in the two headquarters of our associations, as well as a joint Resources Centre that we are stocking with free resources for teaching and learning. Here is the SLURL of the Welcome area:
I have just finished creating a snapshot wall (with landmarks) in the Resources Centre displaying views of interesting locations covering a variety of languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Italian. There are a few fun links too: Winter Wonderland, Fibber Magee’s Pub in SL Dublin and the Knightsbridge Underground Club where you can dance the night away.
Ralph Sadler has put together some amazing scenes that can be accessed via the base holodeck on the CALICO site, and there is a new Skydeck that can rez really large holodeck scenes. The Resources Centre, the Skydeck and the holodeck on the roof of the EUROCALL HQ are all accessible via the joint teleport system that we have installed.
It appears to be hard to convince teachers that language learning in Second Life is effective until they have tried it. I am currently learning Spanish in anticipation of EUROCALL 2009. I had an introductory lesson in the Ciudad Bonita sim, which is mini-city set up specifically for learners of Spanish. There are a number of activities that are suitable for self-access, but the main purpose of the city is to provide an environment in which teachers can conduct their classes - which have to be paid for. Access to Ciudad Bonita is restricted to registered students of Spanish. My own approach to learning, however, tends to be exploratory. I visit Spanish-speaking sims in which the signs and messages are all in Spanish and where I can meet native Spanish speakers. I have reached the point where I can understand most of what they say, but when I get stuck I switch on my X-Lang translator (for text chat) and then I can match up the English and Spanish. X-Lang is only as efficient as Babel Fish (i.e. it makes lots of mistakes), but it's surprisingly effective at helping you through a dialogue. I have even had a text chat with Mandarin Chinese speakers in Ling’s Chinese City.
There are several sims in SL that are set up for language learning and teaching. Language Lab is the biggest and mainly geared towards EFL teaching to students aged 18-plus, but I have found many others. For example, the Goethe-Institut maintains a sim where you can learn German, and you can learn Japanese in Little Yoshiwara. The Open University has a teaching area too, but they are not using it yet for teaching languages.
We will be holding a Virtual Worlds SIG meeting at EUROCALL 2009 to discuss the way forward, and I will be running a pre-conference workshop for newcomers to Second Life:
See you in Gandía!
Graham Davies, 25 June 2009