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How Virtual Role-Play Can Bolster Cross-cultural Understanding

The skill of conversing with those from various cultural backgrounds is vital to success in everyday life. In past years, virtual role-play tools have aimed to strengthen this skill in students, workers, and more.

One notable technology Alelo, which means ‘language’ in Hawaii, is designed to offer conversational practice in Mandarin. Having already been introduced in Virtual Virginia, Alelo has been praised by many students for its ability to mimic a realistic environment in an engaging manner. Using this application, students are able to improve their cultural nuance as well as language acquisition. Alelo may therefore be able to tackle the lack of teachers teaching Chinese while allowing more students to enroll in certain classes.

To advance this, Alelo has been used in RoboKind’s robot for the RALL-E project. By utilizing speech recognition, RALL-E can effectively communicate with all levels of Chinese speakers. Especially for beginners, the comfortable learning setting motivates learners to continue practicing, and then receive constructive feedback after each interaction.

This junction of AI, virtual role-playing, and robotics can be employed both inside and outside of the classroom - and that is what makes it so powerful.

Another way Alelo has been used was in English as second language courses. To make this version, researchers conducted interviews with immigrants. Gathering real opinions on this allowed them to pinpoint the most important cultural issues Alelo should address. The final result was an Alelo that worked with multiple languages, providing tips on how to handle novel and potentially scary situations as a foreigner.

However, Alelo has also been used in military training. In teaching etiquette in situations like toasts during Chinese banquets, soldiers thus felt more acquainted with their surroundings and mentally calm.

As illustrated, Alelo is a niche technology with interesting applications. Its ability to heighten cultural awareness is something that can truly enrich relationships between humans, garnering respect and compassion for one another.


Written by Amanda Y

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