Friday, 28 May 2010

Informal learning

I've been wanting to write about this topic for a while now...

I remember reading about informal learning during my training, and not really grasping the concept; I'd find it difficult to envisage the shape it would take, especially.
I'm now listening to an interview (well, listening and watching...attending) in Second Life and it finally prompted me to come here and express my thoughts and feelings...Because it is in Second life (SL) that I've finally understood the value and the concept of informal language learning.

In SL there are informal learning programs (yes...bordering on oxymoron, I know!); for example, Virtlantis holds tea-time sessions from Monday to Friday where you can speak in English and there are no preset topics. There's also a "teach me -teach you" program where people interested in learning and/or practising other languages can pair up with someone interested in their language (for example: I'd like to practise my German and a German speaker would like to learn English or Spanish -then we can pair up).

But SL offers cultural and linguistic informal learning opportunities with no previous organisation as well ,and that's one of the things I love the most about it. I visited a Japanese tea house and spent about two hours speaking in English with a geisha apprentice; during the conversation I learned some Japanese words...I wanted to thank her in her own language and so I asked, then I started using it -she also named the different stages in her learning in Japanese and explained what they consisted in. I saved the chat log and now can consult it if I don't remember. All the words came up out of curiosity...just like when I meet one of my seconda lingua group mates: he's Italian and so we speak in Italian but when I don't know how to say something I ask (first I guess!! If he understands sometimes I let it be some other times I want to know and ask). Italianiamo is the project we both belong to and where we met, and it's also a space for informal learning. Our coordinator is a teacher, but the activities involve creating and filming a story in SL in Italian. Group members are both native speakers and non-native speakers with an intermediate level of proficiency as the threshold. We discuss plot, characters, scenery, create the dialogs....all in Italian.

I love all these opportunities -what I notice after reading my own post here is that informal learning seems to require a high degree of involvement, you need to take an active role (or at least that's the way I'm doing it). I could probably count the number of times I've said "I asked" and get quite a high number!!!

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