A report came out today on Science Daily
about a collaborative effort between researchers in Mexico and Jordan to develop a life simulation that helps students learn English as a non-native language. Despite the cheesy pun in the title of their article, the researchers are not using Second Life
, but rather they have created their own simulation town (called Realtown, because they apparently love irony).
Currently, the simulation allows for students to read signs, speak (or type) to NPCs, with the ultimate goal of navigating the town and reaching particular destinations. Realtown includes various background noises in order to enhance realism. The team eventually wants to expand the town to include up to forty different buildings, each with its own purpose and goals, as well as its own NPCs with whom to converse.
The article uses the term "virtual reality," and while it's not what you think of when you hear the phrase (no gigantic headset and gloves, as far as I can tell), it might still be an apt description of their creation. Still, whether or not the term "virtual reality" applies isn't terribly important; what's interesting is whether or not the new language tutor will enhance comprehension among the students. Those tests are currently underway, with results to come in the future. What do you think, can being in a world with visual and audio cues help to learn a language better, or will Rosetta Stone
reign supreme over the realm of language software?