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December 2017

Is Artificial Intelligence the Future of Language Learning?

Glossika and the rise of AI-guided language study

It seems these days that artificial intelligence (AI) has found its way into every aspect of our daily lives. From the driving of cars to the sweeping of floors, AI has left science fiction long ago to become science reality. And so it should come to no surprise that AI can help us better learn languages.

Imagine achieving basic proficiency in a new language in a few months with only 20 minutes per day of studying, all guided by AI. A recent article in The Next Web entitled “AI-powered language learning promises to fast-track fluency” describes the current situation of AI-enhanced language learning and how Glossika, a language software company, is leading the way.

Fluency first

Glossika CEO Michael Campbell recommends that language learners focus on fluency first and on vocabulary second. Language learners require time (often a lifetime) to expand vocabulary, however building basic “fluency”, which deals with how capable language users are in manipulating sentence structures, takes far less time than building a robust collection of vocabulary.

AI-tailored learning

Unlike traditional approaches which utilise lessons and weekly plans, Glossika attempts to tailor learning material to your specific level and needs. Users select the topics that matter most to them and work at a comfortable pace on their desktops or smartphones. Users of flashcard apps like Anki will recognise the use of spaced repetition, in which items more difficult to the learner are repeated more often while those that are learned successfully are saved for later review.

Sound patterns and exposure

Glossika further teaches by using sound patterns to mimic the way children learn a language: by listening. Frequent exposure is utilised to focus on fluency improvement. Eschewing the grammar books makes this an ideal method for those tired of traditional learning techniques, however it may prove a bit confusing to total beginners who like to start by learning all the rules. A review of Glossika by Fluent Language suggests it works best when paired with traditional learning methods.

An evolving process

Ultimately it seems that Glossika offers a unique learning method that’s guided by AI, however AI only helps the user focus in on the most ideal lessons, ultimately saving precious learning time, but not on instruction itself. Of course, other applications are utilising such techniques as well. Duolingo has long had a process to help users find their ideal difficulty level for study. (It should also be noted that all this is technically “machine learning” and not “true AI”. True AI is much more difficult to achieve technologically and will have more profound impacts on human society. Here we use “AI” in the colloquial sense.)

As time progresses, AI can help language learners save time when studying on their own, however having a human language partner or a good teacher simply can’t be beat. Until AI reaches the capabilities of conversing intelligently with humans, it will be hard to replicate the unpredictability of real human interaction, which is ultimately the core purpose of language learning.

What is certain is that such tools, especially when used in conjunction with traditional learning methods, can vastly help language learners become well-rounded in a language. Students don’t need to choose one method over another, but rather combine their most preferred method with the numerous options out there to create the best comprehensive language program for themselves.

Which is your favorite language learning software? How would you like to see AI utilised in language study? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on language learning articles!

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