AI Foreign Language Tutoring Pt 2— Day 24 of #30daysofAI

Atomic Read
4 min readAug 26, 2023

Earlier this month I learned that ChatGPT can be very effective as a foreign language learning aid. I have since tried out a few more language learning prompt ideas that I’ve found helpful enough to share. Check out the prompt ideas I’ve gathered together below.

Foreign Language Tutor Bot, by Stable Diffusion

For those missing context, this is related to a blog series called 30 Days of AI, where I challenged myself to spend the next 30 days learning more about AI.

Background

In my previous investigation with ChatGPT as a foreign language tutor, I focused on two main areas: 1) learning the basics of a language from ChatGPT, 2) using ChatGPT as a foreign language penpal for chatting.

Today I put together and tested some prompting ideas that would help further different areas of language learning:

  • Improving foreign language reading comprehension
  • Creating and evaluating targeted exercises to improve grammar weak points
  • Expanding vocabulary, especially related to certain topics

The Exercises

For the below areas I tested out I created some custom prompts using roles and specific asks to ChatGPT. Note that all of these prompts can be repeated ad nauseam to have ChatGPT generate new narratives and exercises as much as needed to practice.

Reading Comprehension

As an idea to improve reading comprehension, I started with the following prompt:

Pretend you are my foreign language tutor teaching me Spanish. Create for me a short narrative with some questions about it to test my reading comprehension. Do not include the answers to the questions

ChatGPT-4 then generated me a short sample paragraph to read and some practice questions:

1. Sofía es de Barcelona

Working On Grammar

To improve grammar, it’s possible to ask ChatGPT to give tips on certain grammar areas and to create exercises to practice them. Here’s a sample prompt I used to test this out:

Pretend you are my foreign language tutor teaching me Italian. I am having trouble with correctly using the prepositions “in” and “a” in sentences. Give me some tips and generate me some exercises to test out using these correctly. Do not include the answers to the exercises.

Similarly, ChatGPT can evaluate answers to the exercises and grade the results:

a. In luglio, vado in vacanza

Expanding Vocabulary

Learning vocabulary can be tricky using traditional means, especially when trying to learn vocabulary related to a specific topic. ChatGPT can help to teach words related to a topic and also generate exercises to learn how to use them properly. Here’s my sample prompt to try this out:

Pretend you are my foreign language tutor teaching me Spanish. I want to expand my vocabulary related to cooking. Teach me the top 10 words I need to know for cooking. Create some exercises to test the new vocabulary words. Do not include the answers.

Here’s a sample of how ChatGPT reacts when proving the wrong answer to one of the exercises, for reference:

Please grade my answer to the previous exercises

Final Thoughts

At this point I’ve tried many different kinds of prompts with ChatGPT related to foreign language learning, and I believe it can be a very useful supplement aid to anyone trying to learn a new language.

One big downside with using traditional materials and courses is that they usually have a finite set of content and exercises to work through. Anyone that needs extra practice in one area typically would need to engage with a professor/tutor, or do their own research into a topic. For these types of cases I find ChatGPT excels as it can generate infinite problems and exercises as needed.

Caveats

I want to address one big elephant in the room related to ChatGPT tutoring- it’s not always correct with its responses. ChatGPT (and LLMS… and most machine learning models by design) are probabilistic by nature. This means that LLMs try to predict the most probable response to a question/prompt, and that ChatGPT can sometimes (and in some particular areas) be quite wrong.

I’ve noticed this happen sometimes related to verb conjugations in various languages, for example. So beware that while ChatGPT is an inexhaustible helpful tutor, it can sometimes be more like a drunk friend in a bar giving advice.

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