If asked to explain the best way to learn a foreign language, most people would quickly answer, "Live in an environment where that language is spoken."  In such an environment, learners often acquire language skills quickly and comprehensively.  This occurs both because of the increased use of the language and because it is used in "real" ways.  The conversations in an immersion experience tend to be informal, social conversations which are strongly connected to popular culture and issues that are personally meaningful.  The artificiality of many classroom dialogs is removed in this type of environment.

  IRC Français is a project designed to provide language learners with this type of an environment.  Throughout the design process, we have focused on creating an environment in which conversation is informal and playful -- a "third place," encouraging discussion that is both personally interesting and educational.  While IRC Français specifically focuses on the French language, we could easily extend this idea to other languages.

  This project is being conducted by James M. Hudson, a Ph.D. student in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is performing this research under the guidance of Amy S. Bruckman with extensive input from the Electronic Learning Communities research group.