Learning languages is tough, especially if you can’t find an available tutor or feel awkward practicing with other people as a n00b. If you’re afraid of looking like a fool as you wield your limited grasp of Español, the Duolingo bots may just be your salvation.
Duolingo recently launched chatbots that help you practice your Spanish, German, or French skills anytime you want, 24/7, and free from the judgement of others. These bots live inside their iOS app, but will be coming soon to Android devices as well. The company claims that the artificial intelligence behind the bots learn as more users converse with them. Many more languages are also on the way to being supported by chatbots.
Luis Von Ahn, CEO of Duolingo, explained to the Guardian the company’s logic behind pursuing chatbots. “A very common request that we get is people want to practice conversation. And there’s a beautiful idea, which is if you’re an English speaker learning French, we should pair you up with a French speaker learning English.”
Although this idea sounds brilliant, Von Ahn discovered that “about three-quarters of the people we try it with are very embarrassed to speak in a foreign language with another person. We thought one way to get around that problem is to pair people up with a computer.”
“As far as we can tell, computers can’t judge us,” points out Von Ahn. Computers also don’t really understand us (yet), leading to a less-than-optimal experience with the Duolingo bots.. We tested the Spanish bot thoroughly and found the bot would often reject perfectly correct vocabulary or grammatical structures simply because they don’t fit within a set of pre-defined acceptable responses.
Duolingo claims to capture everything a user types, even if rejected, so that the bot can continually improve. If a rejected response turns out to be an acceptable answer, the option will be added to the bot’s database. Von Ahn claims to have a “process where we can build a new conversation every two days.”
Do advanced language-teaching technologies like the Duolingo bots actually work? Read an in-depth article by TOPBOTS staff writer Joseph Mapue. You can also watch the video below where TOPBOTS reviews the Duolingo Spanish bot to give you both the pros and the cons of using bots to learn new languages.
Have you tried the Duolingo bots? Let us know your feedback in the comments below!