Chatbots & Robots: Making Language Learning Exciting

Learning a new language is not everyone’s cup of tea. For some people, the experience can be quite excruciating. Others find it exhilarating as they perceive it as a gateway to other cultures. Fortunately, technology is stepping in to make language learning a pleasant experience for everyone.

Language is one of the most crucial skills in the world. Being multilingual is a way to get around our ethnically diverse world. It has brought about several opportunities in the job market and better travel experiences for travelers. It has also been an income generator for language-related businesses. But these days, chatbots and robots are becoming increasingly popular for language learning.

Learning a new language is not an easy task. It takes dedication, consistency, perseverance, and patience. That being said, it’s worth acknowledging that everybody has their own learning pace and preferred mode of instruction. Learning a language can be easy for those who are exposed to it often. However, traditional language teaching is believed to provide less exposure than what is actually needed. Recent technologies are believed to be altering how we learn a new language.


Language Learning with Chatbots

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Even though chatbots have been around for decades, language-learning chatbots are a recent development. Numerous people around the globe have used Alexa and Siri. There is a positive response from humans to these digital communicators. Despite the fact that chatbots have proven to be wonderful communicating agents, they are still in their early stages of infiltrating the way people learn languages.

Language learning chatbots are designed to teach a language and provide assistance for practicing grammar rules and expanding vocabulary and usually come with an automated friendly character. In addition, they are built to be accessible as websites and mobile apps.

Chatbots like Duolingo, Mondly, Andy, and Mesmerise are the most popular language teaching programs that incorporate chatbots and have been assisting foreign language learners in their learning endeavors. Even though they have shown impressive communication skills, they are generally not designed to interact in a human-like fashion. At least for now.


The Need for Language Learning Chatbots

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For many foreign language learners, the obvious challenge is the limited opportunity to practice the language beyond the class sessions. Even during the classroom sessions, the practice might not be effective. Apparently, students lack the confidence to speak up in front of their peers.

According to a study conducted by the University of Hong Kong, during the earliest development of chatbots as language learning tools, on the Jabberwacky chatbot, it was predicted that chatbots would change attitudes towards learning foreign languages. Based on the results of their research, they reported that students tend to feel more relaxed talking to a computer than to a person, as bots can be designed to be interesting, funny, and entertaining. Once one bot becomes old and familiar, it could be revamped with a brand-new personality. The researchers have also put their bets on the positive communicative experiences these chatbots would offer. They said chatbots would create a renewed interest in learning languages and improve students’ motivation.

Just as they predicted, today language learning chatbots are becoming common. They are preferred because they provide language structures and vocabulary, such as slang and informal expressions, that are not satisfactory to obtain in traditional language teaching. In addition, chatbots provide quick and effective feedback for students’ spelling and grammar. What’s more interesting is that the chatbots don’t get bored or run out of patience. They are willing to repeat a lesson millions of times.

Looking at the rate at which these chatbots are gaining acceptability, it’s evident that more and more people are already psyched about the convenience of learning. What’s more appealing about these chatbot teachers is that: they are readily available on our digital devices, they are ready to chat at any time, they don’t get tired, they don’t make jokes about our mistakes, they are really patient, and they are usually either free or cheap to subscribe to. How cool is that?


Language Learning with Social Robots

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We are all aware that robots are being more widely used in numerous aspects of the industry. They are now being used to facilitate the teaching and learning process, in which one of their most noteworthy applications is in language learning acquisition. Let’s not forget that robots can be programmed and reprogrammed as needed. For that reason, they can deliver a beneficial outcome for everyone.

Several studies indicate that robots have been found to be generally entertaining for learners and have a positive influence on their language skills. And when students run out of interest, it’s possible to reprogram the robots with new personalities and approaches to keep the students’ engagement going. Other studies have shown that robots have not been found to be effective in teaching native-like speech melodies. Their speaking style is robotic; it doesn’t really kick in just like a human.

A recent study conducted in 2021 by the University of Southern Denmark reported that robots may serve well as language instructors, but that their performance depends on, at least to some extent, the speaking style used. For that reason, the researchers predicted that future robotic technologies will focus on enhanced speech synthesis for human-robot interaction.

Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart”. The future of language learning is not only going to be an exciting experience, but it will also be an opportunity to reach out to the hearts of nations.


Illustration: Roman3dArt/Shutterstock


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