STUDENTS of English at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) are practising their language skills with people from around the world through Internet. HKUST students are joining specialised Internet discussion groups or tapping into a virtual reality environment, MOO, where people talk in real time. 'Talking on the MOO encourages fluency and vocabulary as it is real-time and it forces you to think much faster,' said HKUST language instructor Sarah Carmichael, who monitors students' progress by requesting a weekly sample of an Internet 'conversation'. Richard Pemberton, a senior instructor and co-ordinator of HKUST's Self-Access Centre for language learning, said the practice had faced criticism. 'People have questioned the value of learners talking to learners, but as long as people are using the language, they are benefiting.'