Learning Languages in Virtual Worlds

If you studied a foreign language in school, you might recall that the textbook would have you simulate real-world experiences:  shopping in a supermarket, schmoozing at a cocktail hour, and so on.  Ideally, your teacher would have the class role-play these situations. (Everybody would be very embarrassed, and you probably hoped you wouldn’t be called.)

Educational video companies also created simple dramatic scenarios (often soap-opera like, to spool out the lessons across many class sessions) to help immerse the student in language.

Teaching language in a virtual world/simulation environment seems like an almost obvious application:  a safe environment where students can interact with each other and use the language they’re learning.  A significant challenge, of course, is constructing a robust enough natural language interface to create a seamless — rather than clunky and frustrating — immersion.

Further progress is being made in this arena with the partnership that has been announced between Middlebury Interactive Languages and Muzzy Lane Software.

We spotlighted Muzzy Lane’s 3D game engine and authoring environment in our book End to End Game Development, and their new Sandstone platform is a further step in creating browser-based online multiplayer 3D environments.

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