About virtualonlinelanguagelearning

Virtual Online Language Learning discusses didactical, methodical and personal experiences and impacts of the use of virtual learning environments & social media with a particular focus in the field of language learning in the virtual world of Second Life.

Language Learning on top of the list

Language Learning on top of the user list in virtual worlds

From a study in May 2012 we can make the conclusion, that foreign language learning with 25% is the most frequented field of the educational use in virtual worlds (Kim, Lee, Thomas, 12). Of all educational ventures, the most are carried out in the Second Life metaverse with 35% (Kim, Lee, Thomas, 9).   

Figure 7: Analysis of reasearch fields using virtual worlds by majors

Kim, Lee, Thomas, p. 12

Reliable data go back to 2006, which means that just at the time, when BABEL Language School was established by Mike Meltzer early in 2007, many others have made their entrance and have consolidated in the field of foreign language learning since.

Homo virtualis

We still are very concrete in our thinking: Eventually nations have a strong identification with their languages, landscapes, heritage and boundaries etc. In virtual worlds our identification could reside e.g. in the present multiculturality, the creation of virtual spaces, the online history and the absence of uncrossable borders, which we act in between and from. The research focus on virtual worlds in these years “is now focussing on understanding the immersive characteristics of virtual worlds, such as making learners feel as if there exists an online learning space” (Kim, Lee, Thomas, 15).

When will we feel, that also our mental orientation in an online existence will claim a substitute for or an extension of a former “national” feeling from us individuals behind the avatar, who act and develop so much in virtual worlds?

Bon voyage, Mike – from this study you have something to meet and contribute with, when you now travel to Bulgaria with it’s strong traditional national feelings.

Sahoon H. Kim, Jiyeon Lee Lee, Michael K. Thomas: “Between Purpose and Method: A Review of Educational Research on 3D Virtual Worlds.” Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 5 (2012) 1: 2-15. Retrieved February 17, 2013 from:



New skills using social media and “Is One Life Enough?”

Virtual Online Language Learning stays in touch with the latest improvements of the use of social media and has sent Mike Meltzer to school to bring back new skills. Mike will attend the online module from Dublin Institute of Technology, DIT, and post about new skills and experiences from his current student daily life for the next 10 weeks here.

The module has the title “Is One Life Enough?” and that’s indeed a question, which we always have been dealing with at this blog. We believe we know the answer already, but let’s send Mike our best wishes for his study and his courage to leave the teacher position for a while 🙂

See more: “Is One Life Enough?”

Personal meeting and environment

A virtual world like Second Life lets you appear in a way you want. The avatar, your personal replacement, can carry out a special style in hairdressing, clothes, shape and accessories. The visible profile of your avatar can be filled out by your purposes or wishes for being there; also containing pictures of places you want to tell others about. There also are a lot of groups to choose between and to join. 

Communication is in face to face chat – written or oral – while getting a first impression of the other’s virtual appearance or in long distance instant messaging or group talks. In an educational perspective, the interaction can be adjusted by poses, gestures, whether or not using lip synchronization or the typing avatar animation in talks to optimize the use in class. Instant messaging and group chat is a good tool for making class appointments and for the exchange of information.

The environment of classrooms can get highly inspiring and so can field trips in near or far areas. There are plenty of places in Second Life, which are created by demographical groups of residents, reflecting the places they live at, for educational visits. We can there e.g. talk about what we see and experience in a very concrete approach. Also the near circumstances can invite to educational visits – talking about the colors and plants and maybe animals we meet on our walk through a park around. In a classroom we have numberless and better options than in real life to expose cultural and language training material for the use of engaged students. Basically all visual and audio material can be stored in media boards to keep the red thread in chapters to work through. Additionally on video screens actual input from e. g. broadcasting stations can be shown and there can be objects and chalk boards present, to display the correct writing and even to trigger the proper pronunciation of topics in focus.

Babylon and BABEL Language School

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.

Educational Media

Organisation of learning materials in Second Life

BABEL Language School - March 2009

To support the students’ learning process, this school – BABEL Language School –  has chosen to implement the instruction in equipped classrooms. The set up in classrooms covers actual Media Boards, Study Boards showing grammatical structures, video screens for displaying web based podcasts, like a broadcasted news program or a popular science episode from tv-stations web pages.  Not all residents of Second Life have a place where they can put training material and practice. These avatars like to get back to classrooms between classes, in order to deepen what is learned.

The normal communication is written chat, which generally gives the students fairly good writing skills, but according to the teacher’s planning also talk via the built-in function “voice”, which corresponds to speak with each other through Skype, is incorperated in language courses. In all cases, the used teaching materials will also be sent out to the students’ avatars to use for homework. System limitations are so, that students will need to be in Second Life to work with the lesson material. Often they will draw their homework on the so-called “note cards” and send them to the teacher’s avatar. Guten Tag - Deutsch 1.1.5 - BLLB










Media Board, containing the material of 4-6 lesssons. In the top frame the controls for browsing through and playing the related  audio content are found. Furthermore there are buttons to let the Media Board board give out a task notecard and to open a webpage with an online dictionary. At the bottom of a frame, the user goes through the pages of the chapter.

Hello Language Enthusiasts!

Welcome to Virtual Online Language Learning’s Blog!

Exploring, exchanging and discussing contempory methods for long distance language instruction  – with particular focus on the use of the online universe Second Life –  is the prior intention of this blog.

Best wishes for the appearances of all of us in virtual worlds!

☺  Virtual Online Language Learning