Chapter 4. Multiuser virtual environments

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Recent work in the area of computer assisted language learning has identified multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) as a beneficial context for second language (L2) pragmatic development. Their potential to mediate individualized learning experiences with just-in-time, personalized feedback is a notable advantage for the learning of L2 pragmatic skills, performance and evaluation strategies, and metapragmatic abilities. However, empirical evidence evaluating their effectiveness for the learning of L2 pragmatics is very limited. This chapter adds to this small body of empirical treatments of L2 pragmatic development in MUVEs. Specifically, it reports on the effectiveness of the use of a synthetic immersive environment (i.e., an MUVE created with an explicit educational orientation) for the development of learners’ apologies in Spanish. Data were collected as part of a larger study addressing L2 pragmatic development in synthetic immersive environments (Sykes, 2008). Utilizing a mixed method, pre-post design, data from twenty-five advanced learners of Spanish were analyzed in terms of participants’ actual pragmalinguistic abilities (pretest/posttest) and perceptive pragmatic abilities (interviews, in-class activities, pre-post survey). Results demonstrate a modest change in pragmatic abilities from pretest to posttest. However, the evidence suggests a strong qualitative shift in learners’ perceptions of their own pragmatic abilities.


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