Languages and informal learning

A. I am your friend. I don’t work in education. You are talking to me about the idea that we all learn from each other, in all kinds of contexts, and that this can often be richer than more formal classroom based learning. I am sceptical. Tell me about an informal learning experience you have had online in which collaboration was involved, show me a concrete example to help me to see what you mean.

Hi Mary, I got your message, but I thought that it was easier and quicker to talk it on the phone. At least it’s a good excuse to call you. How’s everything?
Really? I’m so glad to hear it! That’s a wonderful news!
Yes, yes, I’ve read your answer, and it really surprises me. I mean, you are a translator…
Well, translators are learning one from the other each day, through forums mostly. You are always very active in forums, always helping, giving advices, suggesting solutions, participating in discussions. And now you are telling me that you do not see how one can learn languages outside a classroom. Ant that the best place where to learn languages is the university. Do you really believe it?
Yes, I knot that  **** was a wonderful teacher and that we somehow own our degree to him. But are you saying that you stopped learning altogether the day you left the university?

No, I do not agree with you: it’s not only “new vocabulary” that you are learning translating. That would mean that when you take the phone to check with me or some other friend if that’s really the meaning of that sentence, or if that expression that you are using is correct or sounds natural in Italian, or we discuss what to do with a cultural reference,  we are not learning anything. Be careful with your answer, because next time you phone me I will remember it! Ha ha ha
What I mean is that we are constantly learning. Sometimes we tend to confuse the concept of studying and learning, but they are two different things. Every day we are learning, one from the other, trough discussion, observation, and more often through unconscious imitation. Don’t you find it beautiful? We are learning machines, we learn as well when we do not want to, we are learning constantly. We only need someone to learn from. Did I convince you?
Fine! I’ve almost managed to convinced you. 2-1 for me in the first round.
Next round. Dong!
May be now you are ready to come with me in Second Life. I warn you: your first 20 minutes may be a bit difficult. But I’m sure you will be soon dancing and chatting with everybody.
Ok, if you do not want, I will not force you to dance. But think about it! You will be able to practice German everyday, and… with native speakers.
No, they are all persons, and it’s not “strange”, it’s very normal and natural. You will see: it will be like being in Berlin again. Did you learn German when we were in Berlin?
Exactly. And how did we learn to speak – to speak at last” – German in Berlin?
Ok, you will be able to do exactly the same here, in SL. Without leaving you house, your friends and your job. So, it’s agreed? Tomorrow at 9.00 pm?
I see, you still want to think about it. Ok, ok. But you know me and I’m stubborn. Very stubborn. Ha ha ha.


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