It’s no secret – reading fiction is a favourite strategy of polyglot learners. That’s more than simply reading Harry Potter novels in translation. There’s a whole market sector that revolves around non-native short stories, and I’m not alone in enjoying the excellent Short Stories In… or Penguin Parallel Texts series to practise my languages.
But what if we could source those stories on demand… and for free?
Unless you’ve been hiding for the past three months, you’ll know where I’m going with this. ChatGPT, the natural language processor, has already made ripples in the fan fiction arena. And, it turns out, it has a knack for performing the same feat multilingually, and tailored to your exact needs.
The power of it becomes apparent when you ask it to write you a story. Because you can tailor that story precisely to your own interests. Personal interest, of course, is a holy grail with language learning motivation. And ChatGPT is like your own private author, ready to fit original content to exactly what you like.
I started where I started – literally, with languages – and requested a German short story about Eurovision. What else? The results were pretty impressive.
The only thing is, it’s a bit wordy for my (hypothetical) class of German students. So I ask ChatGPT to tailor it to a specific level:
Brilliant – we’re getting something we can turn into a learning resource now. But I’d love my students to focus on more descriptive adjectives to improve their writing. Can we turn this into a better model?
Again, ChatGPT turns up the goods! The German is sound, and the story is a fun little read. But what about making this a polyglot resource, parallel resource, so anyone learning more than one language can keep their learning in sync? No problem:
Impressive. It has no issue with any of what you’d call the mainstream languages. I tried it in all of the languages I have some proficiency in, and it even churns out decent Greek and Polish. I’m not yet fluent enough in Scottish Gaelic to check this properly, but it seemed the only one that was a bit iffy, despite giving it a good go:
Finally, let’s throw in a short summary version we can use as revision materials, or an item description:
Obviously, this all comes with the caveat that it needs careful checking before use as an accurate resource. But the initial performance is pretty spectacular, to be honest. As the model is tweaked and improved, it’s not hard to imagine this becoming a cornerstone of personal resource creation for learners of languages, as well as everything else.