In the ancient and multicultural Babylon, people of huge diversity and from numberless nations, all lived together. Opposite to this way of life in the classical ancient world 5 ½ thousand years ago, the Christian/Old Testament tradition tells us about God’s punishment of the human arrogance, which denied any longer to follow the natural language that the creator had spoken by developing this, our world.
Genesis 11:7-9(King James Version):
7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
9Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
From here we get the heritage of a myth with seven themes about Babel, containing Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylon system, City of Sin, Semiramis, the Tower, Apocalypse and linguistic confusion. All used not to tell the historical truth concerning Babylon but the truth about a civilization that needs the Babel myth in order to understand itself.
What has all this to do with language learning e. g. in Second Life (sl) anno 2009?
At BABEL Language School, the attempt is done, to bridge the gap between the cultural identities through the use of visual material both in classrooms and through the use of archetypal impacts in the environment such as our animals, but also through a new and open architecture which leads the thoughts forward to new possibilities in an enlightened world.
On one side: The creation of new virtual worlds (vws) is time expensive and object to a particular critic of giving up too many former ways of human communication, arguments similar to the day when the TV appeared. Some enter the caveat that vws push to the megalomania of putting our real world’s rules and laws out of order.
On the other hand: The use of virtual worlds has the likeable aspect of being democratically and geographically reachable. In sl for our avatar it’s also possible to achieve new horizons of personal existence, to get a new range of socializing competencies, which is build on the picture of the avatar in the corresponding part, a kind of alternative and supplemental identity; in a way “homo virtualis”.
On one side: We are bound to national and cultural vanes and, as stated in one society, we as good citizens are expected to make contributions to our society. We can’t carry out and maybe not even capture multiple ways of living as they are found on our planet. So, language borders prevent us from taking too much irrelevant information into account, which would weaken our mental health.
On the other side: The world of art has inspired to follow up the myth of Babel in numerous paintings and sculptures; the world of music has prompted pictures of people with their joy and sorrow, photographically documented world wide; and the world of music and opera have always given us common references and motivation to explore the other and to get together again. Virtual Worlds can help us to achieve that end result with language learning being one of the ways how we can explore these possibilities.