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I believe ChatGPT's strong linguistic capability would enhance language learning.

But I think it depends as ChatGPT may sometimes provide incorrect responses with confidence. and language learners may struggle to determine the accuracy of ChatGPT's responses. And so far as I have tested, ChatGPT cannot provide personalized feedback and guidance.

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  • I chat with it in czech (which I've been studying for some time), I tell it a subject I am interested in (for ex. ways to cook red peppers) and I ask it to pose questions. Then I write mini-essays and ask it to correct my errors and suggest improvements. Sometimes it messes up, so you need to have some level in the target language already and ask several times when you doubt the quality of some response.
    – Qwertuy
    Jan 17 at 16:35
  • @Qwertuy Thanks! I wonder how you validate the quality of its responses. Jan 17 at 17:05
  • 1
    Sometimes I ask my czech girlfriend to check it :) But mostly, I think the key is to use ChatGPT when you already have some knowledge of the language and then ask repetitively the same things about which you have doubts, because, although ChatGPT messes up, usually it is capable of correcting itself when "challenged" about the correctness of something. Of course, ultimately the assitance of native speakers is always needed, and I don´t think it is suitable for complete beginners, but I think it is overall a great tool in the way I described.
    – Qwertuy
    Jan 17 at 17:14

2 Answers 2

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I'm actively using ChatGPT (and other GenAI) heavily for learning Chinese (you can see multiple study videos on my YouTube channel, including this one where I voice chat with ChatGPT). As an AI language model, ChatGPT is particularly good for having conversations in your target language, e.g., a well-rounded discussion about a movie you watched recently.

From my perspective, the main aim is to get a large volume of input in your target language. Unlike most humans, ChatGPT is willing to have prolonged and repetitive conversations with L2 learners about topics that interest them, at an appropriate level, while remaining patient and encouraging.

It's sometimes not so great at things that have an objective truth value (correct/incorrect). Nevertheless, it can still help with studying grammar and vocabulary, as part of a well-balanced language-learning diet (where a student uses multiple resources for study and there's lots of natural cross-checking). I note that other resources also contain errors and omissions, so it's not just ChatGPT that needs verification.

By having a dialogue with ChatGPT, the fact that it can, like humans, be (confidently) factually wrong keeps you paying attention---you have to watch out and make sure you understand what it's saying. Sometimes you need to ask if it's sure. Sometimes you can correct it. (And sometimes it's just utter nonsense and you need to try something else.) But explaining to ChatGPT where it went wrong is still useful L2 language practice.

Here's some concrete examples of what I (or others) have been doing:

  1. Selecting vocabulary for study. I've asked ChatGPT to list e.g. 50 insect names in Chinese, or all the major organs of the human body. You can even ask ChatGPT to make you an Anki deck. Instead of asking for definitions (I have a popup dictionary, anyway), I find it better to jump into a conversation using new words, and use them repeatedly.

  2. Writing example sentences. ChatGPT is good at writing example sentences at a level suitable for an L2 learner, without the obscure words you get from web-crawled example sentences (e.g. learning the word "Sunday" from the sentence "The Czech embassy in Manila was closed on Sunday due to unforeseen circumstances."). ChatGPT is also good at quickly writing a large number of diverse example sentences, which is useful for identifying the usual contexts in which a word is used and important collocations.

  3. Proofreading and improving writing. I've been practicing the Chinese HSK6 writing section, and I get ChatGPT to proofread (校对) my writing, give me a mark out of 100, and identify weak points. I've also asked ChatGPT for ideas on how to zazz up my writing. ChatGPT is really good at suggesting more precise vocabulary.

  4. Generate reading materials. In order to increase one's reading fluency, we need to read a lot. ChatGPT can generate reading materials about whatever topic you want. I've been generating articles similar in writing style and topic to what you see on the HSK6 exam.

  5. Have verbal conversations. With new ChatGPT features, it's now possible to practice your oral skills by talking with ChatGPT. This YouTube video is an example of someone chatting with ChatGPT in Chinese.

  6. Add illustrations to stories. A user at Chinese Forums used ChatGPT to not only create an "interlinear translation" but also illustrations for a classical Chinese story.

  7. Trivia questions. I got ChatGPT to ask a set of 10 trivia questions, and I would answer them and see which I got correct. It's a great way to practice vocabulary from disparate domains. Sometimes the questions it asked would lead to a prolonged discussion.

  8. Playing word games. I get ChatGPT to give me a Chinese character, and I'll say a chengyu (a Chinese idiom) containing that character. Or it can give me a character component, and I'll list 10 characters with that component. Or ChatGPT gives me a word, and I'll think up synonyms or antonyms. Or ChatGPT gives me a category, and I'll list words belonging to that category (and ChatGPT will give me some additional words).

  9. Having repeated conversations about topics of interest to you. If you're like me, and you're interested in science but Chinese language teachers tend to be arts majors, you find it very hard to have conversations about topics that interest you in your target language. ChatGPT allows me to have conversations in Chinese about science, and doesn't lose patience nor switch to English. Moreover, unlike a human teacher, you can have the same conversation 10 times over with ChatGPT. The repetitiveness is great for consolidation.

  10. Conducting interviews and roleplaying. I ask ChatGPT to pretend to be e.g. a school teacher or a medical researcher, and I'll ask interview-style questions. I was surprised how long ChatGPT could stay "in character". You can even insist it uses certain words during the interview.

  11. Utilizing otherwise unused time. (I remember asking about this back here: How can I repurpose the time spent reading random stuff on the Internet to improve my Chinese?) Perhaps when I'm preparing for sleep, I'll simply chat with ChatGPT in Chinese for a bit. Maybe I'll talk about what I did that day, or some movie I watched, or ask ChatGPT for a topic, or whatever.

  12. Simplifying text. A recent You Can Learn Chinese podcast How to use ChatGPT to Learn Chinese said they're using ChatGPT to simplify Chinese text to make it readable.

Admittedly, these techniques are more suitable for advanced learners, where the risk of AI "hallucinations" isn't such a big deal: at my level, we're expected to be able to identify and mentally auto-correct mistakes. I also found ChatGPT was not particularly good at jokes in Chinese, nor choose-your-own-adventure stories (but maybe this is version dependent).

Sometimes I feel like the main limitation to benefiting from GenAI is my imagination. E.g., I've asked ChatGPT to write C++ code to test me on fill-in-the-blank exercises. ChatGPT can also be used with speech-to-text on my phone, to practice speaking and pronunciation.

(I might update this answer as I think of new ways to benefit from using ChatGPT for learning my L2 language. I doubt I've exhausted all the possibilities.)

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ChatGPT could be used for translation {1}, though its quality seems lower than state-of-the-art translators {2}.


References:

System BLEU ↑ chrF++↑ TER↓
Google Translate 31.66 57.09 56.21
DeepLTranslator 31.22 56.74 57.84
Tencent TranSmart 29.69 56.24 57.16
ChatGPT w/Prompt 3 24.73 53.71 62.84

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