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Enhancing Language Education through Social Robots and Artificial Intelligence

   July 3, 2023

The field of education is constantly evolving, and one of the latest innovations to emerge is the use of social robots. Social robots are one of the newest forms of technology used in education. They are designed to interact and communicate with people semi-autonomously or autonomously (i.e., with or without a person controlling the robot in real-time), following behavioral norms typical for human interaction. Robot technology has added a new dimension to the language learning industry. Robot-assisted language learning (RALL) uses robots to teach people language expression or comprehension skills. The robot takes learners away from screens and even provides human-like facial expressions to bring the learning experience closer to the natural language learning process with a human teacher. It allows the learner to interact with the real-life physical environment, which is important for language development.

The key advantage of utilizing robots in language learning is their ability to offer more natural interaction. Whether in humanoid form or resembling animals, robots employ nonverbal cues like pointing, eye gaze, and gestures to foster communication. This human-like presence establishes credibility and helps learners feel more at ease during the learning process, making it a truly enjoyable experience. Unlike animated characters, robots bridge the gap between technology and real-life interaction. In January 2021, ROYBI, Inc. (U.S.) launched its Chinese (Mandarin) program to help children learn a second language through a friendly robot and provide one-on-one private tutoring. The robot's sophisticated technology provides voice recognition technology for English and Mandarin to understand children's abilities to enunciate. Thus, these advanced technological tools have the potential to enhance language education, offering a more immersive and interactive learning experience and paving the way for a future of dynamic and personalized language learning.

In some places with a shortage of native English speakers, English teaching robots have been in high demand. In 2020, using robots has become an effective way for students and teachers to work together in a safe environment while observing social distancing. Recognizing this need, various players in the industry have developed language teaching AI robots, such as the ‘Elias Robot’ by Utelias Technologies Oy (Finland), which includes courses designed by experienced teachers for several different languages and skill levels. Elias Robot is equipped with pre-designed courses crafted by experienced educators catering to various languages and proficiency levels.

The advent of these technologies has had a profound impact on modernizing foreign language education, leading to the emergence of online language learning platforms. To further enhance these platforms, neural networks and AI language education tools have been leveraged, revolutionizing education for students, teachers, and enterprises. AI algorithms have the potential to advance e-learning in every field. In language learning, AI personalizes teachings and lessons to each learner, reducing the time, cost, and frustration involved in completing online or app-based courses. The integration of AI helps in developing customized online language learning solutions and tracking the learners’ progress. AI also assists in consolidating and customizing data from various sources, tailoring it to suit the specific requirements of each learner.

Due to the growing demand for mobile devices, such as notebook computers, smartphones, and tablets, key players in the online language learning market have taken the initiative to design cutting-edge mobile applications that leverage big data, machine learning, and AI. For instance, in March 2023, Duolingo Inc. (U.S.) launched “Duolingo Max”, a new AI-powered personal tutor subscription for language learners with features called ‘Explain My Answer’ and ‘Roleplay’, developed with the latest technology from OpenAI. It allows users to practice real-world conversation skills with characters in the app. As the demand for online language learning continues to grow, integrating AI, machine learning, and big data in mobile apps paves the way for a more efficient, engaging, and personalized language learning experience, contributing to market growth in the coming years.

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