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Virtual? “It’s actually authentic!”

This quote caught my attention, especially as a language teacher myself. For this language instructor in France, her virtual exchange CLICK project makes a teaching dream come true. It makes English language learning “authentic” for the students as she explains in her brief video . We want to enable our students to engage not just in classroom simulated realities but to live the language, to actually immerse themselves in real-life situations.

While a digital approach to language learning is nothing new, what distinguishes CLICK are its genuine cross-cultural interactions. Put simply, there are no substitutions for real exchanges across the language barrier. Or, as Prof. Svab notes, even the best simulations of scenarios are imitations. At Gazelle, virtual exchange fills this void by permitting students to build relationships with international colleagues and to create projects which apply language in analytical and professional contexts. And the final team project is graded in the partnered home courses!

This approach can also effectively produce similar results to study abroad and be more accessible. Too often the prohibitive cost of travel and the lengthy time commitment put immersive language learning out of reach. Much like a well-structured travel study, virtual exchange enables students to focus on what matters, improving their ability to speak a new language in a culturally authentic setting.

And it’s not theoretical! Over one-fourth of our current CLICK cohort of 285 students specify improvement in language skills as the “greatest potential reward” for participation. Our teachers share this emphasis on language. The majority of Gazelle’s international partners teach English as either a primary or secondary component of their courses. In the United States, the increasing proportion of non-native speaking students means that VE could provide similar benefits domestically. In short, the CLICK system combines the best of two worlds. Students have access to the focused activity of a classroom setting and the culturally genuine interactions of study abroad.

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