Recently, some professors asked me about using Second Life to augment second language acquisition classes.  So, I dove into old emails, landmarks, can websites to pull together a rough list of some of the opportunities that exist either formally or informally.  Forgive me if your particular institution or event is not listed – and add it in the comments, please.  While there are some lists available (wikis and blogs), many have become out of date – which is just frustrating for someone who wants to do a quick dip into the pool of possibilities.

I’m offering this short selection to get the reader started in thinking about Second Life (and other virtual worlds) as locations for instruction and practice.   For those students who are particularly good with technology, they can also be locations where students prepare and present their understanding of language and culture.

Conferences

Yes, Virginia, there is a conference devoted to the topic.  SLanguages is free and held in Second Life.  This year, it is almost upon us – October 15 & 16, 2010.

Electric Village Online also has annual gatherings and work sessions.

Multiple Language Sites

Several language education groups work with multiple languages or with language acquisition pedagogy in general.  Also, Second Life has multiple sims where English is not the locally spoken language.  I provide three here to get the reader started:  the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Avatar Languages, and BABEL Language School (Link to location in SL).

Spanish Language

Instituto Espanol is an immersive language and culture site. They have a nightclub in Second Life with information and opportunities for practice.  Spanish language and location reproductions are relatively common in Second Life, offering students locations and situations in which they will need to use their language skills to navigate the space and interact with objects and people. I am including this YouTube video for a quick overview of some of the Spanish sims.

Penn State also is using Second Life to enhance their Spanish courses at Penn State Isle, and you can find objects for free there to enhance or start your own Second Life educational effort.

German Language

The Volkshochschule runs several dozen events each week, focusing on different topics and vocabulary sets.  The Goethe Institut also has an installation in world, and there is a virtual Berlin (modern) as well as 1920s version available for Second Life residents.

Chinese (Mandarin) Language

Chinese is taught at Chinese Island under the auspices of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.  The University of Hawai’i also has a Chinese School in Second Life.

Italian

At Bryn Mawr, a professor is experimenting with using Second Life to enhance Italian courses at the Experience Italy sim.

ESL

English as a second language is taught (or courses enhanced) at many locations in Second Life.  Places like English City, Languagelab, and Virtuoland HQ all offer opportunities to see how English is taught and practiced in this virtual world and could even be a practice ground for some of your ESL preservice teachers.

Informal Practice Opportunities

If you have read many of my blog posts,  you realize that I have a love-hate relationship with Second Life that has gone on almost as long as the platform has been available to the public.  It has many defects, but it also provides us many opportunities.

One opportunity that I relish is the fact that I can end up in an area where I do not speak the local language.  As a native English speaker in the middle of the United States, I rarely am forced out of my language comfort zone.  But in Second Life it happens fairly frequently (often enough that I keep a text-based translator in inventory for emergencies).

A wide variety of well-educated young people are roaming around this virtual world, creating sites in their own language, and they do not automatically agree with the idea that English is the default language of the web.  This means that your students can go interact in a space in a rather authentic manner.  This is not always easy for them; in fact, they will run into non-formal, slang fairly often.    But if they are serious about being ready to go to another country, these informal situations may be instructive.

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