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Generative AI for learning languages


Ana Dimkar

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 19.12.2023

Generative AI (genAI) has a profound impact on learning and teaching across all levels in education. Both educators and learners are in the midst of developing new and innovative ways of adopting and applying genAI in educational settings and beyond. However, we still haven’t harnessed the potential use of genAI, especially genAI’s application in language learning (Cambridge University Press & Assessment 2023).

Students’ use of genAI in higher education for learning languages

Recent studies on students’ usage of genAI tools show that 75 % of students use gen AI tools for both academic and non-academic purposes. The main uses of genAI tools are for summarizing, paraphrasing, and analyzing a given text, followed by assisting with assignments, presentations and different tasks. Only 17 % of the students used AI tools for translation purposes. The students reported 10 different cases of using genAI, but did not indicate using genAI tools for learning languages. (Shaw & al. 2023; Chan & Zhou 2023)

In general, students use genAI as an assistant in their studies and for completing different tasks. An overlooked application of genAI lies in its potential for language learning.

ChatGPT for learning languages

Learning languages is a complex and time-consuming process that requires continuous practice, motivation and feedback. Therefore, having a tutor/friend that can help us throughout this process is highly beneficial.

There are numerous other large language models (LLMs) that could be potentially used and give optimal outcomes. In this article, ChatGPT is selected as a tutor/friend due to its extensive usage by many early adopters.

Seeing ChatGPT as out tutor or friend who knows a lot, but is not always right, can be considered a powerful tool in a language learning journey. ChatGPT is effective for conversations and can also take up many other roles that aid in language acquisition.

Things to consider when using ChatGPT for learning languages

Making a conversation

Depending on the students’ level making a simple or more complicated conversation is possible. The key for every conversation is creating suitable prompts to align with the learners’ goals. One important issue to remember when using genAI is to create the right and polite prompts. It is important to be as specific or as accurate as possible with the prompts. ChatGPT is called chat because we can literally have a conversation, meaning that additional questions and guidance is necessary to get the right answer. The reason for feeding polite prompts is that simultaneously, while we are asking for answers, we are training ChatGPT. Consequently, we can obtain the politeness for now and the future.

Building vocabulary

For every word that we are unsure of we can ask ChatGPT for translations, explanations, synonyms, antonyms, usage, and the list goes on. Learners can copy paste lists of vocabulary and ask ChatGPT to create games, tasks, activities to revise or learn the vocabulary.

Grammar and sentence structure

Grammar has always been a topic for discussion. Most students when learning a language come across multiple grammatical issues. The teachers’ most responded question why? can now be aimed at ChatGPT and potentially have the most insightful conversations about rules in grammar and structures. Analyzing and explaining grammar rules and uses is one of the strengths that ChatGPT possesses. It can also create tasks using some of the rules.

Shorter and simpler answers

When using ChatGPT, there is the potential for having a very boring friend explaining too extensively. However, this friend (ChatGPT) can be tailored to produce short and simple explanations by simply asking.

Approach the answers with caution

ChatGPT generates answers that might not be contextually relevant, or even might not line up with the learners’ answers. The generated answers are usually lacking culture and personality. Therefore, using the answers with care is important. Additionally, the application of critical thinking is more important than ever. ChatGPT users need to evaluate the generated answers, understand the nuances or cultural aspects in conversations, recognize biases and to use genAI tools to their full potential.

GenAI will become an integral part of language learning

In conclusion, the use of genAI tools will persist and improve over time similarly to the gradual improvement of learning to drive a car and participate in traffic. The usage of genAI in language learning and education most probably will become an integral part of education and the need for users to mature in its utilization will become greater. Therefore, acquiring the skills to use genAI and applying critical thinking will be essential in the future educational endeavors.


Cambridge University Press & Assessment. 2023. English language education in the era of generative AI: our perspective. Cambridge University Press & Assessment.

Shaw, C., Yuan, L., Brennan, D., Martin, S., Janson, N., Fox, K., & Bryant, G. 2023. GenAI in Higher Education. Tyton Partners.

Editing: Marianne Wegmüller

Picture: Haaga-Helia