Can AI aid language learning?


THE use of artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform teaching and learning processes, making them more efficient, personalised, and engaging.

In language teaching and learning, there are many ways to utilise AI to enhance and improve the process of teaching and learning. However, with it comes sets of challenges and criticisms that must be taken into consideration.

AI can make life easy in some ways, so much so that students may become overly reliant on it, hindering their ability to think critically and solve problems independently. This is where the role of the educator is crucial.

We need to emphasise that AI is just a supplementary tool rather than a replacement for traditional learning methods. We have to encourage students to use AI for idea-searching, practice, and feedback, and we must also engage them in activities that require critical thinking and human interaction, such as group discussions and debates.

Using AI excessively might reduce face-to-face interaction and the development of interpersonal skills. Some students might be more comfortable using AI compared with having face-to-face brainstorming sessions and discussions. As educators, we need to balance AI-based activities with collaborative projects and classroom interactions. AI should be used to speed up some parts of teaching and learning activities so that the extra time can be used for more meaningful, interactive teaching moments rather than replacing human interaction.

There is also the fact that AI-based programs can sometimes provide incorrect information, leading to misinformation being spread or students using wrong information in their work. As bad as this seems, it can actually be a teachable moment for our students. Aside from teaching students how to use AI in finding accurate information, we can also teach students to critically evaluate AI responses and cross-check information with reliable sources. This is a crucial skill for them not just in their studies but also in the world outside academia, especially in interacting with social media. We can also discuss the limitations of AI and the importance of recognising false information.

Among the popular criticisms of the use of AI in language classrooms is that the interactions might be impersonal and less engaging compared with human interactions – ie “like talking to a robot” type of interactions. This is concerning, especially in language classrooms where authentic and genuine interactions are vital in developing students’ language abilities, especially listening and speaking skills.

To mediate this, we should teach our students to use AI only for specific tasks where it excels, such as grammar checks or vocabulary practices, and reserve more personal and engaging activities, like discussions and debates, for human interaction.

The integration of AI in education, including ESL (English as a Second Language) classrooms, presents significant opportunities for enhancing teaching and learning experiences. By proactively addressing the challenges AI brings and maintaining a balance between technology and human interaction, educators can utilise AI to create a more personalised, efficient, and engaging educational ecosystem.

Our students are the students of this era; therefore, the old ways might prove less efficient for them. Educators nowadays have to be ready to change their ways for the better. There is no place to be stubborn and too hung up on the old ways and ideas in teaching and learning. As writer and futurist Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

NOR FADHILAH AHMAD POWZI

Centre For Language Studies

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia

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