The international project NIFLAR, Networked Interaction in Foreign Language Acquisition and Research, has received a grant from the European Union. The University of Utrecht coordinates this project, in which eight universities cooperate in and outside Europe and which has started on 1 January 2009. The aim of NIFLAR is to make foreign language education more authentic and interactive through innovative e-learning environments.
Within the NIFLAR project two environments are being developed in which students can directly communicate with native speakers. In the first place a video web communication environment in which students from various countries can talk with each other, work together and share files (for example photos, presentations, films). Their discussion partners are native speaker student teachers , who in this way have the opportunity to communicate with real foreign language learners and give them feedback.
Secondly, Second Life-like 3D Virtual Worlds will be introduced that focus on foreign language education. In such an environment students from different countries can ‘meet’ each other and carry out activities and assignments together. For this, researchers develop pedagogical tasks in which intercultural awareness and authentic social interaction play a much larger role than in present-day language education.
The development of educational material and ICT environments is one aspect of NIFLAR. The other is research on what is happening exactly in these environments. Previous experiments with digital applications show that these new methods can work very well. Further research may further substantiate this first impression.