AI and Languages: Not Lost in Translation!

This week, I decided to challenge my own skepticism. The object of my doubt? Something I’ve been fanboying massively over lately, AI. But forever a healthy cynic, I have wondered just how reliable its non-English content was. Especially with languages I’m less proficient in.

Just how trustworthy is it as a custom tutor?

My highly pseudo-scientific experiment went thus: I asked Microsoft Bing to generate a short worksheet on a very random topic in a language that doesn’t often feature in top machine translation performance tables: Greek. I then asked my Greek tutor to check it.

The verdict? Surprisingly, he said it was flawless. A native speaker could have produced it.

AI’s Linguistic Leap: No Babel Here

Now I’m not saying this proves definitively that AI is infallible at producing native-level non-English texts. It could have been a lucky strike; I didn’t exactly run an exhaustive set of tests. But it has justified my confidence in AI as a language learning tool it would be foolish to discount.

That confidence has been helped in no small part by Google Bard’s addition of text-to-speech in the last week, too, making it a fantastic listening as well as reading support. In fact, this links cheekily well with my mischievous love of humour as a language learning strategy. I’ve taken to regularly asking Bard to generate ridiculous imaginary dialogues, then sit back and chuckle as it performs the polemic out loud to me.

A language learning dialogue generated by AI (Google Bard).

A language learning dialogue generated by Google Bard.

The results are often as hilarious as they are enlightening. It’s stunning how a completely artificial intelligence can construct the finer nuances of comedy like irony. Never say robots can’t get a human sense of humour!

In Bard’s case, though, it’s no longer just about the content, but also the way it’s delivered. The text-to-speech function provides a surprisingly fitting intonation and timing, making the dialogues feel incredibly real and, in turn, making the learning experience far more enjoyable. I’m never going to forget the French term for arm wrestling after experiencing those mental images! (It’s bras de fer, by the way – literally arm of iron.)

In any case, it’s going to be a game-changer. No longer limited to the usual textbook dialogues, language learners can now explore myriad topics and scenarios, making our language learning journey more diverse and adaptive.

It’s a fabulous time to hop on board.

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