Unless you live under a rock you’ve heard about ChatGPT over the last few months. Since its release in November 2022, it’s had a huge influence on all fields of education, and Foreign Language Teaching is no exception.
Many educators are concerned about ChatGPT and its implications — especially as it relates to assessments and possible job automation. But don’t listen to the doomsayers. ChatGPT is a useful tool for you and your students.
In this article, you’ll learn about how you can use ChatGPT in your classroom to teach a foreign language.
ChatGPT is an AI chatbot trained on a large language model. It can help you out with tasks and answer your questions in natural-like conversations. For example, you can ask ChatGPT to summarize a complex topic, create some written content, or be your virtual assistant. All you have to do is write a short prompt and the AI will generate some content.
The success of ChatGPT has huge implications for education. Spend any time online and you’ll see educators either excited at the possibilities or pulling their hair out about assessments and plagiarism. It’s either the death of education or a new dawn.
Lots of the negative focus on ChatGPT surrounds cheating on assessments. And for educators with an assessment-is-everything mindset, it must be worrying. In fact, those fears might be outweighed by the benefits you and your students can get in the language classroom.
ChatGPT is a powerful tool for language teachers as it can generate a lot of suitable content in a short time. Let’s take a look at some ways you can generate content with ChatGPT to combine with ZenGengo.
Word lists are always useful for language teachers and learners. Whether it’s the academic word list, words related to lesson content, or words useful for tests like IELTS, ChatGPT can help out.
Let’s say you’re teaching native Spanish speakers English. They’re struggling with pronunciation so you decide to do some Speaking Drills. One of the great things about ChatGPT is how specific you can get — instead of choosing a random word list to practice, you can get personalized materials for your students.
I’m teaching native Spanish speakers English. They are struggling with pronunciation. What are some English sounds that native Spanish speakers find difficult? Also, list 10 English words that will be useful to practice those difficult sounds.
Now you’ve got some suitable words to practice with, you can do your speaking drill. And with Zengengo’s Speaking Drill assignments, your students get immediate feedback on their pronunciation from the advanced AI speech-recognition features.
One big challenge for language teachers is finding the right texts for reading activities. Reading is often overlooked in coursebooks for example. But using authentic materials can be too challenging for students (and can take ages for teachers to find). ChatGPT can generate reading texts at the right level about any topic.
I’m teaching native Japanese speakers English. Write a text under 300 words about traveling around Japan.
The output you get from ChatGPT — after proofreading, of course — is excellent for reading tasks. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples. First, you can import the content into ZenGengo's Text Gap Fill activities. By removing certain words from the text, you can check comprehension, review vocabulary and grammar, and even use it for pronunciation practice.
Or you could import the content into ZenGengo’s Text-to-Test activities. Using the ChatGPT content, your students can practice sentence and word order, learn new words in context, or get repeated reading practice.
Having a repository of supplementary materials can be a big help to your learners. Maybe you want to give some optional background reading before starting a new project, you need to share instructions on how to use a new tool, or you want to share preview materials before class. In the past, teachers had to scour multiple sources and curate the right materials. This took a long time. Now you can use ChatGPT to generate content for you.
I’m teaching native German speakers English. They are junior high school students. We're going to start a project about renewable energy next month. I want to give them some background reading. Write a short summary of renewable energy sources.
Then you can start sharing resources with your students. ZenGengo’s Content Pages are perfect for building vaults of supplementary materials. Just import the content and all of your students will have access to it.
Teachers in some schools might need to make regular tests. Writing a test or quiz is often time consuming. So why not delegate the writing to ChatGPT?
I’m teaching native Chinese speakers English. They are advanced-level students. The class is about advanced writing techniques for academic English. Recently they have been learning about academic integrity. Write a 5 question multiple choice quiz about academic integrity and ethics.
When you import this content into ZenGengo’s Multi Choice Quiz assignments, you have a ready-made quiz that you can use in class as part of a formal achievement test or as part of regular classes.
Despite the advancements in AI, teachers aren’t going anywhere (no matter what the automation-is-coming-for-all-our-jobs people say). AI works great when combined with human teachers. But won’t work at all on its own. Let’s take a look at why.
If you’re teaching young people, pastoral care is a huge responsibility. You need to make sure your students are physically and emotionally healthy. You need to encourage them to come to school. And you need to build a suitable environment for learning. AI can do none of this. AI has no emotional intelligence: AI can’t show empathy, compassion, or understanding to students in distress.
Humans learn by observing and interacting with other humans. Any language teacher will tell you that better rapport leads to better learning outcomes. In its current state, there is no way for learners to truly relate to and connect with AI. And AI has no way of supplying the necessary level of emotional support and personal interaction to build proper relationships.
ChatGPT can’t match the adaptability of human language teachers. There is no way for current AI to react to situations in the classroom. Teachers use their background and contextual knowledge to make decisions in their classrooms. This flexibility is key in language education and humans are masters at improvising. They are more creative and spontaneous than AI and can read the room.
Although students might not feel like they have much in common with their teachers, they do. Teachers also had to learn their knowledge. The process they went through to gain their knowledge and expertise is very similar to what their students are going through now. This gives them insights into how to learn.
AI on the other hand never needed to learn what it knows. AI can’t share learning experiences with their students as teachers can.
ZenGengo is an online second-language learning platform built by language teaching experts. Through its extensive lesson library and assignment types, learners get more opportunities to engage with the target language. And teachers have more convenience and control.
You can use AI speech recognition software to give immediate feedback to students with ZenGengo. And generative AI is coming to ZenGengo too. You can save time sourcing materials by generating content on ChatGPT and importing it into your ZenGengo lessons. But soon you’ll be able to use generative AI within the ZenGengo platform to automatically create comprehension questions. And we’re also working on a feature to use ChatGPT to give speaking and writing feedback.
Ready to use AI to help your language students and take some of the work off your shoulders? Sign up for a free trial of ZenGengo to learn more about how you can use AI to help your students achieve their goals.