The Best Online Language Teacher
It’s no question that the world is delving deeper into a state of extensive globalization. Apart from the increased prominence of trade, diplomacy, and our world’s interconnected global economy, the twenty-first century seems to be the period in which cross-cultural exchange is starting to flourish at an unprecedented level. As the United States populace begins to show greater interest in other countries, there is a natural tendency for more people to engage with different languages. There is one complication with this, however.
Many of the languages popular with younger generations, such as Japanese and Korean, are not typically taught in the standard U.S. curriculum. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop language learners from pursuing their language of interest. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Preply, only 31% of people who study foreign languages are forced to for educational purposes. The remaining 69% do it for independent growth or personal interest. It seems, then, that there is a large need for good language learning resources outside of the classroom. Tutors and paid educational or cultural organizations may provide high quality, attractive alternatives, but the reality of life is that many people do not have the financial resources or time to engage with languages in such a way. A much cheaper substitute is online resources: this means YouTube videos, articles, and online forums. However, internet videos and articles are rarely — if ever — truly incorporate interactiveness (an essential part of learning a new language), and online forums can be a tedious and inefficient means of learning a language — one where the student has little control over. But with recent innovations in the field of machine learning, there is now an effective, customizable guide perfectly tuned for the task of teaching new languages: AI chatbots.
By now, ChatGPT and other generative AI chatbots are household names. The basic idea is that the user can input a question, statement, or any type of text input, and the chatbot will output a response. It’s a fairly simple concept but highly effective when it comes to learning in an interactive and engaging way. Firstly, chatbots like ChatGPT do not just generate random replies. Before being released into the internet, these AI models were fed millions of input data — text scraped from all over the internet — from which they learned patterns and connections between different concepts. This means that generative AI models can recognize the user’s intention to an impressive degree and can identify the most statistically likely answer to the question. As a result, these chatbots are highly interactive and customizable based on the user’s inputs, or prompts. In addition, the data fed into these chatbots comprise high quality research and books, resources that the AI is able to keep in mind while generating responses. Therefore, responses are not only highly specialized towards whatever question users input, but they are also highly educated and reflect a strong understanding of the subject. The only caveat is that AI tools like ChatGPT 3 were created before 2023, and as such, the data they were trained on could be out of date. Regardless, the vast majority of information is still relevant, and as such, these chatbots still serve as amazing tools to use for language learning. Let’s see how this would work practically.
AI Chatbots as Study Plan GenerAI CHATBOTS AS STUDY PLAN GENERATORS
To put it succinctly, AI chatbots are great at creating study plans. During the training process, these large AI models have absorbed a multitude of data related to various subjects, study materials, and learning resources and processes. As a result, they not only know a lot about the subject at hand, but they are also privy to outlines for learning which are designed to maximize effectiveness. An example of how to use an AI chatbot in this way is provided below. The example, which was taken from ChatGPT, includes the user input and AI output.
INPUT: Generate a 5-week study plan for learning French.
OUTPUT: Here's a five-week study plan to help you learn French:
- Start with the basics: Learn greetings, introductions, and common phrases.
- Focus on pronunciation: Practice the French sounds and work on improving your accent.
- Learn essential vocabulary: Begin with everyday words related to food, family, numbers, and basic objects.
- Study grammar: Start with basic sentence structures, verb conjugations (present tense), and articles.
- Expand vocabulary: Learn more words and phrases related to hobbies, professions, and daily activities.
- Work on listening skills: Listen to French podcasts, music, or watch short videos with subtitles to improve comprehension.
- Grammar practice: Review verb conjugations in different tenses (past, future), and study basic noun and adjective agreement.
- Practice speaking: Engage in simple conversations with language exchange partners or tutors.
- Develop reading skills: Read short texts or articles in French, gradually increasing the difficulty level. Use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words.
- Build vocabulary: Focus on thematic vocabulary related to travel, shopping, and weather.
- Grammar review: Study more complex sentence structures, indirect object pronouns, and common irregular verbs.
- Writing practice: Start writing short paragraphs or journal entries in French, focusing on grammar accuracy and vocabulary usage.
- Cultural exploration: Learn about French culture, traditions, and landmarks. Watch French movies or TV shows with subtitles to immerse yourself in the language.
- Advanced vocabulary: Expand your vocabulary by learning words related to art, literature, and current events.
- Grammar focus: Review more advanced verb tenses like the conditional and subjunctive mood.
- Conversation practice: Engage in more extended conversations with native speakers or participate in language exchange groups.
- Consolidate your skills: Review all the topics covered in the previous weeks, paying attention to any areas where you need further practice.
- Test yourself: Take online quizzes or mock exams to assess your progress and identify areas for improvement.
- Focus on fluency: Practice speaking French more naturally, paying attention to idiomatic expressions and colloquial phrases.
- Finalize your study plan: Reflect on your learning experience and set goals for further improvement. Consider continuing with more advanced resources or enrolling in a language course if desired.
Remember to allocate dedicated study time each day, practice regularly, and immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. Consistency and practice are key to progressing in your French language journey.
Indeed, ChatGPT was able to provide an extremely extensive response. The best part is that learners can continuously regenerate responses until a desired study plan is returned. Moreover, users can add additional requirements to the prompt. This can mean doing as little as appending phrases like “remember to space out tests every X days” in order to steer the AI chatbot to the best direction (it’s recommended that users actually append this very statement, since reassessing one’s learning through tests is a necessary way to improve and truly absorb something as grandiose and elaborate as a new language). The prompt provided in the example above is streamlined through a prompt tool found here. You can, however, migrate it to ChatGPT by accessing the prompt through the “Show Prompt” button.
PERSONAL OFFICE HOURS
Besides providing a study plan, generative AI chatbots can also do the teaching itself. The vast amount of training data fed into AI models enable them to be near experts in almost every area. As a result, users can ask them questions whenever convenient and always expect a high-quality response. You can effectively think of this as a personal office hour, with the main differences being that the AI doesn’t have a time-sensitive schedule like an instructor, and no matter what, the AI will not judge you for “dumb” or seemingly unrelated questions. Here is another prompt tool for using AI in this way, and below is another sample input and output from ChatGPT. Note that users should include the language in question whenever using the prompt tool.
INPUT: Describe the neuter case in latin in a highly detailed and comprehensive explanation. Use clear concise language. Do so at a beginner level.
OUTPUT: In Latin, the neuter case is one of the grammatical cases used to indicate the role and function of nouns and pronouns in a sentence. It is called "neuter" because it is used for words that are neither masculine nor feminine.
The neuter case has a distinct form for both singular and plural nouns and pronouns. In the singular, neuter nouns usually end in "-um" or "-ium," while neuter pronouns end in "-ud" or "-us." In the plural, neuter nouns end in "-a" or "-ia," while neuter pronouns end in "-ud" or "-a." For example, the word "corpus" (body) is a neuter noun in the singular, and "corpora" is its plural form.
The neuter case is primarily used to indicate objects, things, concepts, or abstract ideas. It is not used for people or animals with a specific gender. When a noun or pronoun is in the neuter case, it usually takes on the same form for both the subject and the object in a sentence.
In terms of sentence structure, neuter nouns and pronouns in the nominative case (the subject of a sentence) are often followed by a verb. For example, "Corpus sanum est" means "The body is healthy," where "corpus" is the neuter noun in the nominative case.
In the accusative case (the direct object of a sentence), neuter nouns and pronouns usually receive the action of the verb. For instance, "Videre lucem" means "To see the light," where "lucem" is the neuter noun in the accusative case.
The neuter case can also be used with prepositions to indicate location, time, or other relationships. For example, "In horto" means "In the garden," where "horto" is the neuter noun in the ablative case.
It's important to note that nouns and pronouns in the neuter case do not change their form based on grammatical gender or agreement with other words in the sentence. They maintain the same form regardless of the case they are in.
Overall, the neuter case in Latin is used for nouns and pronouns that represent objects, things, concepts, or abstract ideas. It has specific endings for singular and plural forms and is used in various grammatical functions such as subjects, objects, and prepositional phrases.
The best part is that students can ask effectively an infinite number follow-up questions to ensure that they completely comprehend any topic.
Even if AI still doesn’t seem like the right tool, it can still help with one’s language learning journey. Armed with a strong knowledge of everything online — including language learning resources — AI chatbots can provide high quality recommendations for other language tools to use. Though the chatbots themselves do not tend to provide personal opinions about which is best, they can provide summaries of general sentiments from which students can then use to make an educated decision themselves. Here is a prompt tool for an AI resource finder, and below is another example of the prompt in action.
INPUT: List the 5 best online resources for learning conversational Greek.
OUTPUT: Here are five highly regarded online resources for learning conversational Greek:
- Duolingo: Duolingo offers a comprehensive Greek course that covers vocabulary, grammar, and conversational phrases. It provides interactive exercises and assessments to reinforce your learning.
- Glossika: Glossika offers an audio-intensive language learning method that focuses on natural language patterns. Their Greek course includes conversational dialogues and repetition exercises to help improve your speaking skills.
- iTalki: iTalki is a language learning platform that connects you with native Greek speakers for one-on-one language lessons via video chat. This allows you to practice conversational Greek with a language tutor or conversation partner.
- LanguageTransfer: LanguageTransfer provides free audio courses that explain the fundamentals of Greek conversation. Their "Complete Greek" course helps you learn the language through explanations and comparisons to English.
- FluentU: FluentU is an immersive language learning platform that utilizes authentic Greek videos, such as movie clips, music videos, and news reports. It provides interactive subtitles, vocabulary lists, and quizzes to enhance your listening and comprehension skills.
These resources offer a range of approaches to learning conversational Greek, from interactive exercises to audio courses and live language practice. Exploring a combination of these resources can greatly support your progress in speaking and understanding Greek.
In general, AI can serve as a knowledgeable, understanding, and accommodating teacher perfect for studying a new language by yourself. Some things to note, however, is that as in depth the AI training process is, AI models may still make mistakes depending on how specific and obscure a question is. Additionally, they offer very little human connection or emotion which might impede the actual engagingness of the learning process. But when it comes to an easily-accessible yet high quality resource for the task of teaching oneself a language, there is no doubt that AI comes second to none.