Virtually Enhanced Languages (VEL)

Virtually Enhanced Languages – Home

The Challenge

Two key challenges faced by Australians in the present century are technology and foreign languages. Technology in general, and communications technology particularly , is becoming increasingly pervasive in all aspects of our lives. There is no shortage of new and exciting hardware, software, and platforms at our disposal for use in everyday life, in business and in indeed in education.  The challenge we face is how to best use digital technology to value add to the student learning experience and learning outcomes with an eye to increasing our competitiveness in the global market.  Likewise, the need for skills in languages other than English is becoming more pressing as neighbouring economies come to play an increasingly important part in Australia’s future prosperity. Mobilising digital technology to enhance language learning is at the heart of Virtually Enhanced Languages.

Funded by the Australian Federal Government Office for Learning and Teaching, Virtually Enhanced Languages (VEL) builds on eight years of experience using online 3D multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) to enhance tertiary level Chinese language and culture learning. The aim of VEL is to promote the use of 3D MUVEs in tertiary Chinese language education, make available shareable technical and pedagogical resources, and to foster a community of practice to support ongoing sustainable development.

For more information on the VEL project and to access free resources and collaborative opportunities provided through the project, please visit the VEL website at:

Virtually Enhanced Languages – Home


Virtual Prato



If you enjoy the sense of suspense and adventure that questing in virtual worlds like Second Life can engender and you would like to learn a little about the history of a real treasure in the real city of Prato, this is the quest for you.

This is a very sad time for the city of Prato. A very important holy relic is missing and everyone is in shock. Maybe you could help us solve the mystery and find out what happened to the thousand year old relic? We really hope you will help!

The start of the quest that will take you to many well known locations in Virtual Prato is here:



To visit Virtual Prato please enter Second Life and then click the SLURL link below:


 Virtual Prato – a quick tour

Virtual Prato is a project aimed at creating a new orientation experience for Monash students travelling to the Monash Centre in Prato, Italy to undertake studies towards their degrees.

Virtual Prato is a 3D virtual environment modelled on the real-life city of Prato, where Monash University’s Prato Centre is located. While some small details have been changed to accommodate programming in Second Life, almost everything you see is a reproduction of true-to-life Prato!

Currently a series of five tasks have been designed to assist students become familiar with the Monash Centre, the immediate surrounds and some nearby famous historical sites.  The tasks are designed to replicate some of the things a student needs to do when they first arrive in the real Prato. They include:

  • On arrival at the Orientation Area:
    • obtain a Virtual Prato HUD (heads-up-display – a kind of on-screen menu bar)
    • learn how to use the various functions provided in the HUD
    • learn some basic Second Life skills (if they are first time users)
    • collect and read information on the tasks to be completed
  • Find the student lounge & once in the lounge find information about the location of the nearest working ATM (which is in the same location as the real ATM near the real Centre)
  • Find the ATM and withdraw virtual Euros to enable the completion of later tasks
  • Find and visit the site of the emperor’s castle, a famous historical landmark near the Centre
    • As with the real site, historical information about the castle is available for viewing at the virtual site
    • Students are required to take a “selfie” photo and then using the inbuilt email function in the Second Life viewer, email their selfie to a Monash staff member with a brief description in Italian (or in English for students not studying Italian) of where the selfie was taken
  • Locate the famous Il Magnifico café bar near the Centre. Il Magnifico is staffed by two interactive non-player characters (NPCs) with whom student have to interact and using their knowledge of basic Italian:
    • Order a cappuccino and a croissant (which requires students to pay first)
    • Sit down and order a meal (which doesn’t require payment)
  • Find and visit the famous Duomo di Prato (the Prato Cathedral) and
    • learn about the cathedral, its history and its unique features using the Virtual Prato HUD to interact with the information station located by the entrance to the cathedral
    • take a selfie and email it with a brief description in Italian (or English for students not studying Italian) to Monash staff
  • (Under Construction) Find the local railway station and
    • find out how to buy a  train ticket
    • note down train departure times and destinations

Construction of a “virtual” Prato is ongoing. The following machinima show the early stages of development.

Via Pugliesi in Second Life

Via Pugliesi in Google Earth

Duomo di Prato Second Life

Duomo di Prato Google Earth

To visit Virtual Prato click the following SLURL: 





LCNAU Arabia: Language learning through cultural experiences in a virtual world

The project was completed in September 2012. I would like to give a huge thank you to one of the most wonderful collaborators you could ever work with, Dr Christina Mayer, Head of Arabic Studies at the University of Melbourne. Throughout the process Christina was an inspiration and a brilliant mentor. Thank you also to her team of colleagues and students who all helped to make the project a great success.

The following video shows some snapshots of the scenarios, dialogues and tools that made up the project. The video shows me rather than students for privacy reasons.

The university scenario in the video shows meeting both the boy Khamal and his sister Samira. However, as I was the only one in the video I had to do something that would never be done in Arabic culture. It would not be right for a woman to meet a male in such a way. This was only done to demonstrate the scenario. In the project the participating students were encouraged to try out both gender roles so that they would be aware of the linguistic and cultural difference.

The lunch scenario was designed for two students to do at once, one male and one female. However, in the video it only shows one participant…..me.

The following machinima is of the early stages of the development of the virtual environment in Second Life for the Arabia project.

 Sometimes evening meals in Cairo are eaten sitting on the floor, especially when space is at a premium.

 Graffiti is a part of every urban landscape, and Cairo is no exception.

 Apartments are often used as a place of business, especially for professionals like doctors.

Test look for Baw-wab.

 A mock up of an outdoor canteen at our virtual Cairo University.

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