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Now You Can Learn a New Language with Chatbots!

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Did you know that chatbots are now being used to learn new languages?

When chatbots first appeared, they were used mostly for business to improve customer experience, but now they are being used to learn a new language! There is already a good example: The Duolingo app available on in Google Play and iTunes teaches users more than 30 languages. Users can learn to write, listen and speak a new language from the app during their work breaks, commutes, airport waiting time and long-distance travels. No more attending a physical class and no more boredom during commutes and travel.

Learning a language always requires the learner to use what has been learned in a conversational context in order to reinforce the lesson. However, when a person is learning a new language online, there is no one to speak to in order to practice. That is why Duolingo introduced chatbots in its app in 2016 to enable learners to have AI-powered conversations. The chatbots are programmed to hold conversations.

Which languages are available?

When the Duolingo chatbots were first introduced, they were available for users who wanted to learn Spanish, German and French. Now people can learn more than 30 languages for free. All that is required is internet connection because the chatbot’s intelligence is based in the cloud.

Is it difficult to learn through Duolingo?

It is easy to learn with Duolingo app because the lessons are designed to feel like a game. The learner loses a life when he fails a lesson and gains points when he gets it right. Lessons are presented in bite sizes to avoid overwhelm. The learners listen and practice speaking the language and can keep track of their progress.

To make talking to the chatbots slightly more interesting, the designer of the bots made an effort to give different bots different personalities. There is Renee the Driver, Officer Ada and Chef Robert, who offer a variety of conversations. They respond differently to the learner’s answers and will correct the learner when necessary. With all of the bots, the learner has an opportunity to hold a conversation that feels real.

The bots bring flexibility to the answers that is not available in most language-learning software. For example, there are many ways to greet someone and the bots recognise most of the ways. When a learner is stuck, Duolingo offers a “help my reply” button with a number of suggested answers.

What are Duolingo stories?

Now the Duolingo app has been updated with more than 100 stories which make learning a new language entertaining and fun. They complement the language courses and they come to life with audio voiceover and interactive moments that test understanding. They are short, interactive and were designed to help users with reading and listening comprehension.

Some of the stories are stand-alone while others have many parts that can be used over the process of learning a new language. Learners can choose from original fiction, non-fiction (e.g. biographies) and classic titles available in the public domain. The learners are required to translate the stories and complete sentences as they follow a story. Each time users get a correct answer or successfully complete a story, they earn in-app experience points on Duolingo.

Are the stories available in all languages?

The stories are available only in German, Portuguese, French and Spanish for English-speaking learners and also in English only for Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish speakers. Gradually other languages will be added. Another limitation is that Duolingo stories are available in the Stories Feature on the web, and on iOS only. The company will soon release the stories for Android.

How much does learning on a language on Duolingo cost?

Duolingo has made language education free and accessible to all. Because it is free and easily accessible on the web, Android and iOS, it has become the most popular way to learn a language online. Duolingo is the most downloaded “education” app on Google Play and iTunes with more than 300 million users globally.

What happens if a learner can speak the language a bit?

Learners can take a placement test if they are familiar with a language. The test will determine where they can start. Then from there they can set daily goals for what they want to achieve.

Final take: Chatbots can do a lot more than you think

One of my latest favorite apps is the “Dentist chatbot” which is specifically aimed at helping dentists to better serve patients 24/7 without the need for human assistants. Yet in every sector, you now see specific chatbots. As Avi Benezra said: “Developers sell these bots for millions on the open market – or some earn even more by selling the same bots multiple times on a non-exclusive basis on the SnatchBot bot store. These bots can then be fine-tuned or used just as they were bought.” As far as the Duolingo chatbot is concerned: it is quite easy to develop a similar bot for education institutions – especially given that advanced chatbot platforms that use AI are actually capable of delivering an even more rewarding experience. Suggested reading: “No coding chatbots with Avi Benezra”

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