Using AI for Learning Languages
I’ve read a lot recently about using AI as a language learning aid, so I thought I’d give it a go. After all, it’s cheaper than a tutor, and always available.
I mostly used (the free version of) ChatGPT as it seemed better than Bard and Bing.
What’s the word?
Quizzing on words, flash-card style, can be useful, but tends to be a bit boring (sorry Anki, Memrise, Quizlet, etc). Instead, ask ChatGPT to define a word. It will explain the word, and you can guess what it is. You can even ask for hints! This worked pretty well, although it does have a habit of saying what the word is even if you tell it not to.
Describe one of the following words without saying which it is: 맡다 목적 문의 미각 및 바라보다 반대하다 발견하다 보고서 본 부담 부분 분야 상상력 서두르다 서류 설득하다 성장하다 소중하다 숲 시각 영양 옛 운동 인내심 일정하다 자원봉사 재료 전달하다 점점 정기적 정작 정치 즐겁다 진정하다 집안일 찬성하다 참을성 청각 촉각 축제 후각
Learn through sentences
Following on from the above, learning word-translation pairs out of context is not really how our brains work. Learning words in context, in sentences, is much better. But finding a list of sentences featuring the words you’re learning can be very time-consuming, especially if you want to sentences to only include the words you’re learning. This also worked pretty well. You can also do a similar thing with grammar.
Create 10 sentences in using only these words: 맡다 목적 문의 미각 및 바라보다 반대하다 발견하다 보고서 본 부담 부분 분야 상상력 서두르다 서류 설득하다 성장하다 소중하다 숲 시각 영양 옛 운동 인내심 일정하다 자원봉사 재료 전달하다 점점 정기적 정작 정치 즐겁다 진정하다 집안일 찬성하다 참을성 청각 촉각 축제 후각.
Additional prompt ideas:
Surround each word from the list in double asterisks, like this
Every sentence must use 성장하다
Write the sentences is 해요체
Each sentence must contain more than one word from the following list
Improve my text
ChatGPT may not be perfect, but you can still dump a bunch of text you write into it and see if it can be improved. This is similar to writing what you want to say in your native language and putting it through a translator. It’s worth trying to understand any differences - you can even ask it to explain, although weirdly I found if I didn’t include “I am learning Korean” in the prompt it didn’t bother to do so. It was a bit hit-or-miss - some of the recommendations were good, some less so, but overall it was helpful (especially with any explanations).
I am learning Korean. Improve the following paragraph to make it sounds more natural in spoken 해요체 Korean. Explain all improvements. 안녕하세요. 저는 영국에 태어난 컨설턴트예요. 10월에 여행으러 한국에 갈 거라서 한국어를 배우고 있어요. 어렵지만 포기하야 안해요.
Some of the questions were okay, but most were pretty bad. Often the question included the answer. It said dog is a synonym for cat. If it does ask a question requiring an answer, it often it misinterprets your answer, and if you ask for the correct answer, sometimes it doesn’t know itself.
Ask me a TOPIK II style reading question.
Give a Korean verb and four possible synonyms. One synonym will be correct, three will be incorrect. Do not give English translations for the words. I will guess the correct synonym.
I didn’t have much success with this either. It had a habit of playing both parts of the conversation, rather than letting me reply. When I did eventually get a back-and-forth going, it had the memory of a goldfish, so the conversation kept going around in circles. Also, there’s no text-to-speech feature (there’s a slight workaround - see below), and a written conversation isn’t as fun. Probably better to practise with a real person using HelloTalk or similar.
Let’s role play a conversation in intermediate-level Korean. You act like a restaurant worker and I’ll act like a customer.
This had the same issues as the above. The “acting” was pretty good, but the exercises were not - often the question included the answer.
I want you to act like an English-speaking Korean tutor. Create an intermediate level tutoring session about cause and effect grammar forms. When I make mistakes, you correct me. Guide the session by providing simple exercises and challenges.
Other useful tools
I love this. A Firefox/Chrome extension that lets you easily translate any highlighted text. It also has text-to-speech. Keyboard shorcut default is Ctrl-Space.
A Firefox/Chrome text-to-speech extension. Make ChatGPT speak! I customised the keyboard shortcut to Ctrl-Alt-Space so I can easily use it with Simple Translate.
Asking ChatGPT how it could be used
I asked ChatGPT to suggest some methods for using it to learn a language:
- Ask questions: Ask ChatGPT questions in the target language to practice reading and writing in that language. You can ask about grammar rules, vocabulary, sentence structure, and more.
- Practice speaking: Use ChatGPT’s text-to-speech function to practice speaking in the target language. You can type in sentences or phrases, and have ChatGPT read them back to you in the correct pronunciation.
- Read articles: Use ChatGPT to read articles or news stories in the target language. This will help improve your reading comprehension and vocabulary.
- Practice writing: Use ChatGPT to practice writing in the target language. You can write short stories, essays, or even just practice writing simple sentences.
- Listen to conversations: Use ChatGPT’s voice recognition function to practice listening to conversations in the target language. You can ask ChatGPT to repeat phrases or sentences, and practice your listening skills.
- Translate: Use ChatGPT to translate words or phrases from the target language into your native language, or vice versa. This will help you build your vocabulary and improve your translation skills.
- Quiz yourself: Use ChatGPT to quiz yourself on grammar rules, vocabulary, and other language concepts. You can ask ChatGPT to generate quizzes, or create your own using the knowledge you’ve gained from your conversations with ChatGPT.
I’m sorry, but as an AI language model, I do not have a text-to-speech function. However, there are many text-to-speech software and services available online that you can use. Some examples include Google Text-to-Speech, Amazon Polly, and Microsoft Azure Speech. You can also find a variety of text-to-speech apps for mobile devices. Simply type “text-to-speech” into your preferred search engine to find some options.
I’m sorry, but ChatGPT does not have a built-in voice recognition function. As an AI language model, I can only process text input and generate text output. However, there are many voice recognition software and applications available that you can use in conjunction with ChatGPT to practice your language skills.
So suggestions 2, 3, and 5 are out. For 6, a dedicated translator is better I’ve found.
The usual AI caveats
- It can (and will) be wrong. You still need to interact with real people - who can also (and will also) be wrong!
- It takes some playing with the prompts to get it to work as you want. For example, it might give both sides of the role play, or it would give the translation even if I asked it not to, or answer the question it sets me. Sometimes it’s best to give a long prompt, other times it’s best to have a few shorter ones. In general, try multiple times, using different wording, and you might get something good. I’m far from a prompt engineer, so perhaps others can get better results than me.