Abstract: Currently a hundred million or more people around the world regularly log onto virtual worlds such as Second Life. Second Life allows participants the ability to communicate and interact in a 3D immersive environment. This gives students learning a foreign or second language unprecedented access to meet and communicate with native speakers of the language they are learning anywhere in the world at nearly any time day or night. The technology available on Second Life also gives teachers the ability to hold classes on Second Life, give assignments, collect homework and give tests. This paper describes an exploratory attempt to use Second Life to teach university EFL students how to use Second Life to talk to native English speakers and to prepare for their midterm and final test by using the Avatar Classroom on Second Life.
Keywords: Second Life, EFL, virtual worlds, Avatar Classroom, English teaching,
People all over the world invest large amounts of money and time in learning English as a foreign language. Many students are able to become proficient in reading and listening since these two skills are relatively easier to acquire, whereas learning to speak in English proves to be a much more challenging mission to accomplish. Often this process of learning how to orally express oneself in a foreign language requires a sympathetic and patient conversation partner expert in the target language to talk to. In fact, it is claimed that English “as a subsequent language is first and foremost affected by the quality…of available mentor(s) or in their absence interlocutor(s).” (Janik, 2004, p. 199).
Finding English conversational partners for students to practice speaking with can presemt a problem in many parts of the world. First of all, there may be very few native English speakers to talk to and given the large ratio of students to teachers in a typical classroom a student may only have a few minutes to speak in English during a typical class period. Furthermore, speaking to a native teacher may be an anxiety provoking event, to an EFL student, especially considering the power a teacher may have over a student. The problem may also be compounded, by large classroom sizes, since it will take a great deal of courage for a student to speak up when many other classmates are listening in.
Putting students into groups to practice talking to each other in English can also be problematic. The students may find it awkward and embarrassing to talk to another student in what is to both of them a foreign language. Unfortunately, the temptation to stay inside the comfort zone of their own native language is just too great for most students to overcome. These problems combined together repeat and replay in many classrooms to produce an educational setting in which it is very difficult for a student to learn to speak English comfortably and fluently. It points to a need for an environment for EFL learners to practice communicating in English free from the anxieties of a typical classroom.
The opportunity for English learners to speak to native speakers from around the world quickly, cheaply and easily has recently resulted from the creation of virtual worlds on the 3D internet (Shih & Yang, 2008). Thanks to advancements in high tech computer science and applications, everyday 50 to 70 million people around the world log into virtual worlds either to participate in large scale games or as a social network. One of the most popular non-game Multiple User Virtual Environments (or MUVEs), Second Life, allows these users to communicate either in text or in voice.
Second Life (SL) is an online 3D virtual worlds created by the residents who inhabit it. The platform was originally created by Philip Rosedale at Linden Lab in 2004. In January of...