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Zon: the MMO that teaches you to speak Chinese

Samuel Axon

A team of developers supported by Michigan State University and the Office of the Chinese Language Council International have spent the past few years piecing together Zon -- a browser-based virtual world wherein users can learn the Mandarin Chinese language. The game is currently in its open beta phase; you can sign up to play right now.

Users create an avatar and then find themselves in a representation of Beijing International Airport. From there, they may interact with NPCs and other world objects to learn more about Chinese language and culture, as well as communicate with other players to practice their language skills. As they progress through the system, they move up in rank from Tourist to Resident, and finally to Citizen -- at which point they may create their own content for the world.

We learned of Zon through the blog of Areae president Raph Koster, who had an interesting anecdote to add. During his stint at SOE, the company worked with college campuses to use EverQuest II for total immersion language education. So this is not a new idea -- just a really cool one!

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