We asked YOU about your opinion!
Since we are all thinking about Artificial Intelligence (AI), we wanted to know what everyone has to say about it. We reached out using social media and collected some various ideas and opinions on the topic. Some people chose to include their names and others opted to remain anonymous. Thanks to the people who participated!
Question 1: What are the biggest challenges that AI (like ChatGPT for example) is posing to language teachers? How are you dealing with these challenges or how do you plan to deal with these challenges?
AI has the potential to replace teachers in some activities such as grammar drills and proficiency assessments. However, we can embrace the use of AI while maintaining the quality of language instruction by focusing on skills that are not easily automated by AI, such as cultural competence, critical thinking, and creativity. We should use AI to provide personalized feedback to students and analyze student performance data, which can be particularly useful in introductory language classes where students may not receive enough individualized attention. Language teachers should also develop expertise in areas where AI is less likely to replace them, such as developing a deeper understanding of topics like language testing and assessment, program development, and teacher training and professional development. -Douglas W. Canfield, University of Tennessee
The biggest challenge is motivating students to learn when they feel like technology gives them an easy way out. I am trying to teach my students how to integrate AI into their own work and distill the advantages of human cognition.
Plagiarism is the biggest concern with AI. The best way to deal with this issue is to give students different kinds of homework assignments and/or try more in-class assessments. I do not teach translation, but translation teachers have a lot to consider in light of these tools. Giving students at-home translation homework is probably not ideal in the age of AI. -Betul Czerkawski, University of Arizona
I think the main challenge to language teaching has come from Google Translate. ChatGPT presents similar challenges, like students translating their essays into Russian. The only way I see to overcome any potential challenges with ChatGPT is to speak about it directly with language learners. Like with Google Translate, we can demonstrate productive uses of ChatGPT and discuss detriments to language learning from using it incorrectly (or for cheating).
It is getting more difficult to tell the difference between students’ and AI-generated texts, especially those who have reached a minimum competency level in a given language. In my program, I’ve focused on making writing a process where the students have to write essays in class, then revise and expand them later. This ensures that the instructors have a baseline to compare students’ subsequent revisions to and also forces students to notice their mistakes and figure out how to correct them. I believe it also reduces cheating since the students are monitored writing their assignments in real time about topics that are personal to themselves. Overall, I’ve seen better writing as a result of this process.
AI at present poses no challenges to language teachers that long-available machine translation tools do not. I do not plan in the short term to deal with AI in any different manner, i.e., it already falls under unacceptable online/electronic resources per our standard syllabus policy banning usage. In my institutional context this suffices. In the longer term, should beneficial sides to AI use in curriculum development and various parts of the taught curriculum become clear, I will integrate it as appropriate. -Adam Oberlin, Princeton University
Language teachers have had to wrestle with the challenge posed by electronic translators, by which we can’t be sure if students are expressing themselves in their own words. AI presents a new challenge in which we can’t be sure if students are expressing their own cultural or intercultural learning or ideas. In teaching an introductory course in Hispanic literature and literary analysis, I came across cases where students had looked up a response to a prompt using AI. The cases I identified were the ones with clear and bizarre errors, and I think that ChatGPT is more likely (for now) to make these kinds of mistakes with foreign language texts, especially those that aren’t universally famous, and with responses in languages other than English. However, I don’t know how many other responses that I didn’t catch might have been generated by AI. I imagine the same problem turns up for other kinds of cultural texts or practices which students are asked to study and respond to.
Question 2: What are the most important benefits of AI for language teachers? How are you taking advantage of these opportunities or how do you plan to take advantage of these opportunities?
I think the most important benefits of AI for language teachers include personalized learning, increased efficiency in grading and assessment, and access to a vast array of language resources. I use AI algorithms to analyze a student’s assessments and provide personalized feedback and recommendations for improvement. This is especially valuable in lower-division classes where individualized attention is limited. AI also provides access to a vast array of language resources, including online dictionaries, translation tools, and language learning apps and content of all sorts. -Douglas W. Canfield, University of Tennessee
Students can chat with ChatGPT in Russian to improve writing and reading skills. They can ask ChatGPT about certain stereotypes or cultural phenomena (e.g., Это правда, что русские любят чай? – “Is it true that Russians love tea?”). To make sure they are getting accurate info, they can be asked to do independent research to confirm or disprove ChatGPT’s answers. ChatGPT can also help explain some grammatical concepts (e.g., try asking ChatGPT the following: “русские любит чай (Russians love tea) – is that grammatically correct?”). I think careful task design and open conversations about academic honesty and the learning process are very important in taking advantage of ChatGPT.
Offering options for autonomous learning to students, creating assignments, showing examples of coherent texts, adjusting texts to a lower level, giving access to language learning to students who might struggle with writing.
One benefit of AI for language teachers could be for essay or speech analysis for students at higher language abilities. AI applications generate grammatical sentences, but the resulting text may not always make cohesive sense. Students could review a work produced by AI and critically analyze it for content and organization. Another benefit could be for the creation of audio exams when a teacher doesn’t have access to a native speaker. There are AI programs that can read texts in a given accent and sound more human than robot-like and make the test questions sound more authentic.
Quickly conduct comprehensive literature reviews, speech recognition for students with disabilities, speed up routine tasks, assistance with writing related tasks, brainstorming ideas. -Betul Czerkawski, University of Arizona
This may provide an opportunity to engage students who have social anxiety and find it easier to interact with the target language using technology.
Conversation practice! I am the founder of lingostar.ai which uses LLMs (large language models) like ChatGPT to provide live, unscripted conversation practice about any topic with an AI (EN, ES, and FR). -Anthony Spadafino, Lingostar.ai
I have used it for helping me think through titles and descriptors for presentations, I use it as a starting point for ideas upon which I will expand. I tend to ask for multiple examples to help me get my creativity flowing and then put things in my words. It helps me to clarify my ideas and what I’m really looking for, as well as to think more critically about concepts. -Lauren Rosen, University of Wisconsin
I guess the main benefit would be to prepare students for a future in which human thought will be mediated by technology. I don’t love the idea but I know that it’s inevitable. People talk about how the product of a thought process and investigation can be strongest in a human-AI collaboration; so far I have stuck with human-human collaborations to enrich learning.
Question 3: Have you been using AI in your language classes or in your lesson planning process? How have you used it?
I am using AI to help me write texts, to occasionally help me develop overall lesson plans around texts, and to prepare assessments of many different kinds. I also use it to put in suggestions from students for silly stories. I typically don’t use anything straight from AI, but, when I need to have a complete lesson plan with assessments, it’s helpful to have something to tweak. It’s rather like looking at someone else’s lesson plans, and making them work for myself. I appreciate that AI can create tables of multiple choice questions on a text, or fill in the blank, or many other options that would otherwise take me a lot of time to create. It can also change the formality level of a text, or the tense, or even the perspective. I can have everything I want in a blisteringly fast response. I am no longer in a situation where I must produce lesson plans for review, but if I were, I would be very tempted to always let AI make them for me.
Among other things, I have used AI tools to help me take complicated sentences in the target language and create a version that has simpler language. It can be a useful to help students understand complex sections of authentic texts.
I used Q-Chatbot (Quizlet)–in the Quiz or test mode—it seemed to stretch the learners to go beyond just memorizing definitions by asking for examples, etc. I’ve explored using it to make suggestions for revisions on student writing in order to see what kind of suggestions it would offer beyond grammar/vocabulary corrections. And I have input writing prompts to see how it responds.
Not yet, but I have heard about a tool called Lingostar.io – they are building educational technology around AI. The tool will help teachers assign tasks for target-language conversations with AI and to keep track of student progress. I would like to try out this tool in the future, although I am also thinking about ways to use ChatGPT in other ways.
I have been using AI mostly for my own research, but I am planning to use it for syllabus design and learning activity design in the next school year. -Betul Czerkawski, University of Arizona
Question 4: Do you have any other thoughts about AI and language learning/teaching?
There is a need for a “Ped-AI-gogy”, training teachers to understand the tool and use it in the classroom. Only this way can they talk to students about it and use it as a tool to complement their teaching.
It isn’t going away, just like cellphones. We need to teach how to use it well just like translators. It is already being used in a number of ways in industry, so teaching it will be an essential part of student learning. It’s also important to start teaching students what it’s not and where the human is still necessary. Asking students to demonstrate evidence, opinion backed by fact, problem solving, and other skills will be pushed forward more than they have in the past and teachers will be pushed to provide these types of opportunities and assessments. -Lauren Rosen, University of Wisconsin
I am curious about how AI will be incorporated into textbooks in the future. -Dámaris Mayans, Colby College
Until now I have focused on human-human interaction in language learning/teaching, looking for ways to facilitate this interaction within the classroom, outside the classroom (remote synchronous and asynchronous), and with people from different countries and societies. A concern I have is that language instructors might start to replace these kinds of interactions with human-AI interactions because they’re so convenient: an AI is available at any time and willing to discuss any topic (although not necessarily accurately). I already saw an article pitching an AI-human interaction for language learners as a very efficient way for students to practice TL communication. I believe that communicating with real people from different societies and cultures is the most important thing about language learning – does that make me old-fashioned?
As language teachers, we are always looking for new ways to engage and motivate our students. AI offers us a range of exciting opportunities to do just that. AI-powered tools can help us to provide more personalized and differentiated instruction to our students. AI-powered tools can also help us to bring the real world into the language classroom. For example, we can use chatbots and virtual reality technology to create immersive language learning experiences that simulate real-world interactions. -Douglas W. Canfield, University of Tennessee
I think there’s potential along with a lot of challenges. Using the chat feature to practice writing or speaking or an app like “Hello History” to have a conversation with historic figures can provide useful, engaging practice.
Broadly speaking, I find the current moment of reaction among many language educators misguided. There are no dangers posed by this technology that extant technologies do not already offer. Our students will either learn the language or cheat, but they cannot do both, which is a stable truth across any technological change, AI included. Several (very) recent publications with the appearance of policy white papers seem to suggest that we “must” deal with this technology because it exists, which is poor argumentation at best, and that it is impossible to ban the use of a technology in a course, which is incorrect. -Adam Oberlin, Princeton University
I think we need to accept that AI is becoming ubiquitous and learn to work with it.
The AI automatically translating both written and spoken word in real time puts language teaching as a whole at risk of becoming obsolete. Why should people be intrinsically motivated to learn one or more foreign languages, when they can use their phones or other small portable devices to communicate with someone in a different language in real time? It is becoming a bigger issue every year, especially as the accuracy of the tools improves and students become increasingly dependent on their phones and other technologies without truly understanding the processes behind the creation of the content.
As a learner, working to acquire Spanish, I am using AI to give myself texts on certain subjects that I need to improve my vocabulary or knowledge about a cultural product. I can tell AI to present me with questions on a topic or for using a tense, and to correct my answers … continuing in a loop for practice. It is so fast that I don’t waste any time. I know that AI can make mistakes, because I have had to correct them in Russian texts, but the benefit is so large for my acquisition process that I keep using it.
Please add your ideas in the comment section, and when you discover new ways to use Artificial Intelligence for language learning, please consider writing about it for the next issue of The FLTMAG!