Practice Listening and Speaking with ChatGPT
An AI language learning partner for you and your students.
AI is taking giant leaps, and fast.
I wrote before about how AI can help you write your lesson plans, create images for you, and 10 ways it can help your language students practice.
Now, you (and your students) can have a spoken conversation with AI.
Let me show you how.
🤖 How Does it Work?
We know how important it is for students to practice their speaking skills. But finding the time and resources for one-on-one conversation practice outside the classroom is often a huge challenge for them.
That's where ChatGPT comes in.
I talked about ChatGPT in my last post, but in a nutshell, it generates answers to questions you type. It seems smart, and it’s very useful.
See my last two posts for more detail on how it can help teachers and students.
But now, with a Chrome browser plugin, your language students can now speak aloud to ChatGPT and receive a spoken answer - just like having a real conversation.
Chat GPT has now become a conversation partner.
🗣 How to Start Talking to ChatGPT
Time to begin - you can be up and running in a few minutes.
Let’s get started!
Part 1 - Setting Up
1. Download the Chrome browser. This only works in the Chrome browser. So download it if you haven’t already.
2. Sign up for ChatGPT. If you haven’t already. You can login with your Google or Microsoft account, or create one.
3. Check you can log in and use the chat.
4. In the prompt box, type this prompt (you can use ChatGPT 3.5 or 4 for this, but ChatGPT 4 works better).
Please pretend to be Bob, an expert Chinese teacher, personal tutor and conversation partner. We'll have a conversation in beginner-level Chinese. Please give me immediate feedback if I get make any grammar mistakes. Please always ask a question after you've answered to keep the conversation going. If you understand, please say "Ready".
Of course, replace the language with the one you’d like to practice, and the level of Chinese you’d like to practice (and the teacher's name, if you’d like!)
5. Go to the Chrome Web Store'.
6. Search the store for ‘ChatGPT Voice Master (or click here)..
7. Click ‘Add to Chrome’.
8. Return to ChatGPT. You’ll now see something like this at the bottom of the screen, where you enter your questions:
9. Ensure you have a working microphone and speakers attached to your computer.
Well done! Give yourself a pat on the back and get ready - here’s where the fun starts.
Part 2 - Controls
Here’s what each button does:
Language Learning - choose your language and the language you’re learning.
Voice Wake Up - allows you to ‘wake up’ ChatGPT like a voice assistant such as ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Hey Google'. I usually leave this off.
Speech Recognition - Press this button to start speaking
Translation - allows you to translate during a conversation or by hovering over words.
Read - once ChatGPT has written its answer, this will allow it to read it aloud.
Name dropdown - you can select which voice you want to read aloud. Changes with each language. Uses a fantastic tool called a neural net to process speech, which means it sounds very natural (at least in Chinese, the language I’ve been testing!)
Tip: when one of the buttons is grey, it’s off. When it’s a colour, it’s on.
Start by clicking ‘Language Learning’ and choosing the language you’d like to practice. You’ll notice there’s some great choices for different languages, and regional variations of languages.
To test this, I selected ‘Chinese-Mandarin’ as I know the basics. The other greyed box is the language you speak - or the language your computer system is set to. Great for students working at home, with their computer set to their first language.
Once you’ve selected it, the prompt box changes:
Make sure the ‘Read’ box is blue (it often starts as grey, or turned off). You’ll also see that the voice dropdown box has changed. This is because as you’ve selected a target language, the possible speakers voices have changed:
Now, you’re ready to start!
Click the red ‘Speech Recognition’ button, and ask a question (“What’s your name?). You’ll need to click next to your text and press enter to send it. Although first check it heard you correctly.
In this example, I asked ‘What’s your name?’ in Chinese, and it heard and auto-translated it into English. This will work in reverse, when your students use it.
Hit enter to send, and ChatGPT will reply in text and audio!
Now feel free to continue the conversation.
ChatGPT seems to mostly ignore requests for beginner-level language. I’ve tried asking for basic, beginner, Level 1 of the HSK (a Chinese language examination), and A1 on the Common European Framework, but nothing works yet (watch this space!).
There are other features that this browser addon has, but I’ll keep it simple and end here. Feel free to explore them yourself!
💡Top Tips for ChatGPT as a conversation partner
While ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for language learners, it's important to use it correctly to maximize its benefits. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when using it as a language conversation partner:
Use ChatGPT to supplement traditional language learning methods, not a replacement. It can help students practice speaking and listening skills, but it should be used sparingly (at the moment!).
Incorporate this into lessons and homework for more autonomous students and higher-level students only (very young learners would struggle!). Assign specific questions for students to ask, based on the topics they're learning in class.
Go through an example in class, then send them the instructions on how to set it up at home (or do it on their phones).
Have students conduct a conversation for homework., then copy and paste it and send it to you.
Encourage students to focus on specific language skills. For example, they could practice asking for clarification, using idiomatic expressions, or discussing cultural differences.
Provide feedback on conversations. Ask students to record themselves, listen to their conversations, and reflect. Share with you if they want further feedback.
💭 Final Thoughts
In conclusion, ChatGPT is an exciting new tool for language learners and teachers.
Yes, it’s in the early stages.
Yes, it’s not totally intuitive to use right now.
But this is both the start, and the bleeding edge of what it’s capable of, and within a few months, I’m sure it’ll have massively improved.
There will be a tool that comes along soon that integrates a curriculum, remembers conversations, and tailors itself to your level and interests.
I’ve seen that Speak.com is also owned by OpenAI (who own ChatGPT), and will have a plugin that connects with ChatGPT soon. It’s currently a paid app for Korean learners to learn English.
I’m on the waitlist for a tool called Talkio AI, that promises to do some of these things as well.
The future is exciting.
If you liked this newsletter, you’ll love my books:
📝 Lesson Planning for Language Teachers - Plan better, faster, and stress-free (4.5⭐, 149 ratings).
👩🎓 Essential Classroom Management - Develop calm students and a classroom full of learning (4.5⭐, 29 ratings).
💭 Reflective Teaching Practice Journal - Improve your teaching in five minutes daily (4.5⭐, 13 ratings).
Have you tried https://talkpal.ai/? It does all this automatically with a very nice interface and free... for the time being.
Ehhhh.......it's great, but how do I turn it off again?