If you’re using AI platforms to create longer language learning content, you’ll have hit the time-out problem at some point.
The issue is that large language models like ChatGPT and Bard use a lot of computing power at scale. To keep things to a sensible minimum, output limits are in place. And although they’re often generous, even on free platforms, they can fall short for many kinds of language learning content.
Multi-part worksheets and graded reader style stories are a case in point. They can stretch to several pages of print, far beyond most platform cut-offs. Some platforms (Microsoft Copilot, for instance) will just stop mid-sentence before a task is complete. Others may display a generation error. Very few will happily continue generating a lengthy text to the end.
You can get round it in many cases by simply stating “continue“. But that’s frustrating at best. And at worst, it doesn’t work at all; it may ignore the last cut-off sentence, or lose its thread entirely. I’ve had times when a quirky Bing insists it’s finished, and refuses, like a surly tot, to pick up where it left off.
Avoiding Time-Out with Sectioning
Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy fix. Simply specify in your prompt that the output should be section by section. For example, take this prompt, reproducing the popular graded reader style of language learning text but without the length limits:
By sectioning, you avoid time-out. Now, you can produce some really substantial learning texts without having to prod and poke your AI to distraction!
There may even be an added benefit. I’ve noticed that the quality of texts output by section may even be slightly higher than with all-at-once content. Perhaps this is connected to recent findings that instructing AI to thing step by step, and break things down, improves results.
If there is a downside, it’s simply that sectioned output with take up more conversational turns. Instead of one reply ‘turn’, you’re getting lots of them. This eats into your per-conversation or per-hour allocation on ChatGPT Plus and Bing, for example. But the quality boost is worth it, I think.
Has the section by section trick improved your language learning content? Let us know your experiences in the comments!