It feels like we’ve been hearing about an AI takeover for years and years. It sounded like sci-fi to most of us (especially if you grew up watching The Terminator movies). But recent developments have made it seem more realistic. But forget the movies you watched as a kid — AI isn’t here to destroy the planet (yet).
The new batches of AI can help you with a bunch of things from productivity to personal finance. And most exciting of all, language learning. It’s a great tool for language learning but can’t replace face-to-face practice. Read about how to use AI to learn a new language.
How you can use AI to learn a language
Before we break down the pros and cons of AI language learning, let’s go over some of the ways it’s useful for language learners.
1. Quick corrections and feedback
Knowing where you’re making mistakes is an important part of learning a language. When you’re doing self-study, this is difficult. AI can now fill in for teachers and tutors by giving you feedback and making corrections.
For example, Busuu has started to roll out AI corrections in your language courses — you can still get amazing feedback from the huge community of native speakers. But now you get to combine that with AI-powered feedback.
Finding enough people to practice speaking with is a big challenge for language learners. One of the best uses of AI — especially the natural language processing AI like ChatGPT — is that you can practice conversations anytime and anywhere. Tell the AI you’re a language learner who wants to practice casual (or business or academic) conversations and off you go. The more context you give the AI, the better its responses will be.
Check out the screenshot below for an example on how to set up conversation practice taken from the unpaid version of ChatGPT:
3. Pronunciation feedback
Some AIs work on audio input. They can listen to you speak your new language, analyze your pronunciation, and give you feedback. Think of it like a virtual speaking tutor. For all the times you want pronunciation feedback but you’re not in class, AI can help out.
4. Flashcards and spaced repetition
Spaced repetition is a great way to learn vocabulary. Using AI, tools like Busuu’s Vocabulary Review, combine AI and flashcards so you can do spaced repetition on your mobile device.
AI is also great for showing you what words you need to study. Busuu’s Smart Review gives you a tailored revision tool. So you know what to spend time practicing.
5. Grammar review
It’s not just vocabulary, pronunciation, and conversation practice that AI is great for. It’s also excellent for helping you out with grammar. Busuu’s Grammar Review predicts what grammar you need to review and practice. So you spend your time focusing on the grammar structures that really matter to you.
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Advantages of AI language learning
There’s no doubt about it — AI is a fantastic tool for language learners. It’s one of the most significant developments in language learning in decades. Here are the advantages of using AI to learn a language.
Language learning apps like Busuu have already started to break down barriers to language learning: Anyone with a mobile device and an internet connection can learn a new language. AI is going to continue this trend. More people than ever will get the chance to become fluent in a second, third, or fourth language. All of those knowledge and skills are just a few taps and swipes away.
AI is great at tailoring language learning experiences to your needs. Like in the screenshot above, if you give AIs enough context they can become great conversation partners. AI can also learn your preferences, learning styles, and the things you struggle with to give you proper personalized language education.
Take spaced repetition for instance. The AI knows the words you’ve recently learned. And it also knows the best time to show you those words again. Gone are the days of rote memorization of word lists. The AI knows what words you need to study and when.
AI-enabled apps are available for you to use wherever you are, whenever you want. You can learn a language completely on your own schedule. You can chat with a chatbot on your morning commute. Or you can review vocabulary on a coffee break. All with the personalization AI provides.
You also save a bunch of time. No traveling to a language school. No looking online for practice partners. With AI, you can get started straight away. This is not saying AI is going to replace those things (because it isn’t). But it’s a great and convenient way to supplement your face-to-face learning.
4. Continuous feedback
Feedback is essential for growth. When you’re out in the real world practicing your new language skills, you get immediate feedback. For example, you visit Barcelona and order coffee in Spanish for the first time. The waiter looks at you funny and switches to English. When people don’t understand you (or when they do) is immediate feedback that you’re doing something wrong or right.
But what do you do when you don’t have native speakers to test your skills out on? You can turn to AI. It gives you immediate feedback on pronunciation, grammar, and word choice. Feedback that you can get anytime anyplace. It’s like having your own unbelievably flexible language tutor.
Disadvantages of AI language learning
But it isn’t all perfect. Despite all of these advantages, AI has its limitations. If you don’t believe me, I even asked ChatGPT what it thinks. And it agrees.
Check out the screenshot below which shows the response of ChatGPT when asked for the limitations of AI for language learning:
1. Lack of human interaction
No matter how great AI becomes it will never replace human interaction. Language is a tool for social interaction and communication. That’s it. AI interactions are just replicas. They’re a great way to supplement your learning but they’ll never beat the real thing.
Meeting and practicing with fellow language learners or native speakers does not only lead to better language skills. It also leads to friendships. Real-life conversations go off on tangents. You can get sucked down rabbit holes sharing memories. Conversing with AI will never have this level of richness.
Learning a language is also about learning a new culture. Sure, AI could summarize a culture for you. But it lacks the depth of learning through interactions with a native speaker. If your focus is only on improving your language skills, AI is great. If you want meaningful interactions in the real world, you need to practice with real people.
Luckily, Busuu makes it easy to find people to connect with, via a big community of language learners and native speakers, engaging video bites, helpful learning exercises and engaging lessons.
Busuu’s video bites showcase real-life interactions, local nuances, and colloquial expressions that foster authentic human connection, making the language learning experience not only educational but also authentic and deeply immersive.
Learning exercises and lessons on the Busuu app feature native speakers in genuine conversations, designed to facilitate meaningful interactions with fellow language enthusiasts, promoting peer-to-peer learning and providing opportunities for users to apply what they've learned in a supportive and engaging environment.
Through this emphasis on authentic human connection and real people content, Busuu is able to transcend traditional methods of language learning, ensuring that users not only acquire language skills but also become a part of a global community that values cultural exchange and genuine human connections.
2. Limited cultural context
There’s a famous saying you might have heard:
“If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.”
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
OK, Ludwig Wittgenstein wasn’t talking about natural language processing AI when he said this. And he was largely making a philosophical point here about the importance of culture and shared context.
But it’s an interesting quote to think about when discussing AI. If someone’s worldview is so different from our own, we wouldn’t understand their perspective, their references, or any of the statements they make. This is essential for effective communication.
But how does that connect to AI? Well, it’s impossible for AI to capture all the nuances and subtleties of culture, humor, local customs, and other things essential to understanding each other. AI might be able to teach you how to use the language. But it can’t teach you how to navigate complicated cultures and customs. For that, you need to get out into the real world and interact with people and cultures.
And how do you do that you may ask. With Busuu’s community of course. Busuu combines the power of AI with a community of language learners and native speakers. You get the benefits of AI but none of the drawbacks.
AI is great (but it’s not enough on its own)
AI is a fantastic tool for language learners. You get accessibility, personalization, convenience, and continuous feedback. But it can’t replace human interactions. It can’t teach you about cultures on any meaningful level. It isn’t enough on its own. For best results, combine AI language learning with traditional methods. Find language exchange partners, participate in language immersion programs abroad, and join a community of language learners and native speakers.
Master a new language with Busuu
With Busuu, language learning is just a few swipes away. Practice with native speakers, complete free online courses, and learn in your own way, on your own schedule.
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