Second Life encore

C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron.
(By working at smithing,
you become a blacksmith.)

One thing I didn’t expect when I began exploring Second Life was to improve my French.

During my first few visits, I discovered that residents (as the creators of SL refer to participants) freely give landmarks — in-world links to shops, cities, dance clubs, art galleries, and any other sites they think you might be interested in.

Someone gave me a link to Paris 1900, a sim with a Metro station, sidewalk cafes, broad boulevards, and the Eiffel Tower (at whose top you can get a free parachute and then jump back down). I began chatting with people there, one of whom gave me a link to Gaia, a sort of reception area for French-speaking residents.

After about three months, my ability to read and write French has grown rapidly. I find myself sometimes thinking in French when I’m nowhere near Second Life.

I also recognize some of the difficulties of using another language. It’s far easier to read it than write it; easier to write than to listen; easier to listen than to speak.

While I’d like very much to have more skill than I do, usually I accept my own limitations; talking in another language (even if mainly through typed chat) is much better than not talking in it. And just as I’ll never quite lose the Canadian accent I give to “out” and “about,” I’ll never completely lose my non-native errors. I try to live with them, try to minimize them, and most of the time try to enjoy this unexpectedly valuable aspect of Second Life.

4 thoughts on “Second Life encore

  1. Bonjour !

    La maxime en exergue de votre commentaire est très appropriée au domaine de l’apprentissage des langues. D’autant plus que la langue est un muscle, il nous vous l’utiliser le plus souvent possible! J’ai pour vous une question très simple.
    What is Second Life? The very thick firewalls surrounding my computer don’t allow me to sneek in on Second Life’s webpage and I’m curious to know.
    Your remark on the increasing difficulty faced by the language learners as he goes from reading to writing, and from listening to speaking is very true. To the extend that some will argue that second and foreign language learners should not even try to speak in the first phase of their ”apprentissage”.

  2. Salut, Anne-Marie!

    Second Life is a virtual world, something like the video games you see. You control your own character (your avatar). You can move through the world and interact with others. There are areas for shopping (e.g., to buy clothes or accessories for your avatar), for amusement (I’ve jumped from the top of the Eiffel Tower), for dancing (you and your partner click “poseballs” to activate an animation).

    Some area are open to all; others are private — for example, “sims” (meaning, simulated areas) for people engaged in combat role-play games.

    If you have a computer at home, you should be able to adjust any firewall to let you connect. The software is free to download, so it’s easy enough to try.

    Regarding language, I don’t think I’d argue that people should start with reading and work slowly up to speech. For me, at least, the combination is important. I read a lot (in English), write a lot, hear a lot, speak a lot — and so those activities reinforce each other.

    With French, I think the differences between those modes are more noticeable. E.g., when I chat (type) in French, I’ve got lots more time to think about what I’m saying, and lots more time to take in what you type back. In a conversation, however, your words come at me much faster, and your expectation is that I’ll respond with a speed similar to a native speaker.

    I’d guess that my hear/speak competence is maybe 33% of my read/write competence… but the gap is narrowing, thanks to the kindness of mes amis francophones.

  3. Dave,

    I’ve also found occassion to chat and improve my French in SL. However, I have one problem – I haven’t figured out how to type the special characters (e-acute, c-cedilla, etc.). Any advice on where to find some help on this? Thanks. (IM Krissmas Merryman in world!)

    –Tom Pellitieri, RBS

  4. Tom, if you’re on Windows XP as I am, you can use the language toolbar. I switch from English/US to United States/International.

    Then, for example, when I type an apostrophe, nothing shows. If I then hit space, I get an apostrophe. Hit an E, though, and I get é. Apostrophe-c gives ç. The “backward apostrophe” (next to the 1 in the top row of my keyboard) gives à and è. And so on. There is apparently no oe ligature (as in “coeur”).

    A bit kludgy, but if you do a lot of French chat, it’s not bad.

    More at MS support, Use the Language Bar in XP. Also detailed info here.

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