Autonomous Technology-Assisted Language Learning/Interaction
The 21st century has often been coined as the “Age of Communication” with the rapid development of cell phones, the internet, e-mail, satellite communications, instant messenger programs, and new technologies such as voice over IP. These progressions have made communication across incredible distances exceptionally affordable and available. In the field of autonomous technology assisted language learning (ATALL), one should remember that “autonomous” means “self-sufficient”, not “solo”. This new framework of communication supports individualized and independent learning within a network of peers around the world that provides interactions through extensive use of online learning and other technologies(Ng & Nicholas 2007).
Instead of being limited to basic input and output exercises, the learner can link up with a native speaker of the target language and engage in real time or asynchronous conversations. This can be done through text, audio, and video in a variety of formats. Numerous websites and programs also provide simple networking tools with user profiles so that one can find the ideal match for his/her interaction. Massively-multiplayer environments such as Second Life also provide a virtual world for interaction that is alive twenty-four hours a day. The format and setup of the interaction can therefore be easily customized to the learner’s schedule and preferences.
Interestingly, interaction via online methods has also shown certain advantages over face to face conversation. Beyond the simplicity of sitting down at two separate computers instead of physically bringing two people to the same location, it also provides a more comfortable environment that can make learners more willing to communicate (Freiermuth & Jarrell 2006). Similar to how some people prefer writing a letter instead of dealing with a face to face confrontation, online communication by e-mail or even in a chatroom can remove the stress of being physically in front of a person. The learner no longer has to worry about his/her physical appearance or “filling in the silence”, and can better focus on the language and communication.
Through the use of technology, the lone autonomous language learner can now tap into a plethora of methods for authentic interactions. It lets him/her use and practice the target language the way it was originally created: for free communication and expression of ideas between two different beings.
The following programs provide synchronous video and audio communication from computer to computer. Most also provide text chat and many provide file sharing and other interactive features.
- Flash Communication Server (official website)
- FlashMeeting (official website)
- Hexagon (official website)
- iChat AV (official website)
- iVisit (official website)
- MSN Messenger (official website)
- NetMeeting (official website)
- PalTalk (official website)
- Tipic (official website): open source H.323 video conferencing
- VRVS (Video Room Videoconferencing System) (official website)
- Skype ((official website)
- Windows Messenger (official website)
- Yahoo Messenger (official website)
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This is an article analyzing the effectiveness of virtual environments and language learning. Babel M
- Second Life . Second Life Educators mailing list (SLED)
- There 
- Cyber Town
- HiPiHi (Chinese Second Life)
- Exactly like Second Life, but Chinese is the main language.
- HiPiHi World = Social virtual environment designed for public interactions and meetings
- HiPiHi Home = Similar to CyWorld for personal space for private communication**
- Seems to be primarily marketed towards females
- HiPiHi literally means the world exists because of you.
These programs and services may prove useful in finding language exchange (eTandem) partners and communicating with them. In addition, many of the programs communication programs listed above offer user directories that allow users to search for persons living in a particular country and/or speaking a particular language.
Click the title link to access the list.