ME vs. ChatGPT: Can ChatGPT teach you more effectively than I can? Let’s investigate!
I’m an English teacher. Is ChatGPT going to replace me? Maybe.
Today we’re going to explore some AI resources you can use to study a foreign language and some places where you just can’t replace human beings.
So, I’m actually more of an accent coach than an English teacher. I focus on American English pronunciation and spoken English. To me, that’s what’s more interesting than learning vocabulary and learning grammar. So I’m really going to focus on that as we work here. I think that’s how a lot of people learn that language. A lot of people learn that language through books, reading and writing but they want to use the language to connect to human beings in real life which often improves speaking and it could be so frustrating to study English for 15 years, the expert in reading and writing it but still not be able to understand people speaking it and that’s a problem a lot of my students have and that’s the problem I solve.
So, could ChatGPT solve that problem for my students? Let’s see.
I’m going to ask ChatGPT about a specific phrase. The more specific you get with ChatGPT, the better the results you get.
So the question is: Teach me the pronunciation of the sentence: What’s he doing?
Okay so, this is a little strange. It’s telling me that the word “what’s” has a vowel that rhymes with the word ‘cat’. That would be “what’s” and that’s not how we say that word.
We definitely say what’s, more of an uh sound like in butter. What, what, what’s he doing? The word ‘he’, okay it told me about the long e sound but it didn’t say anything about the h. We can say it but a lot of native speakers will drop the h. We can say it but a lot of native speakers will drop the h. What’s he, what’s he, what’s he doing?
Let’s see. The word “doing” is pronounced with a long “oo” sound, similar to the word “do”. We’ll that’s not too useful. It rhymes with “cueing” or “viewing”. So that is useful if you know those words. Put it all together, it would be pronounced, “What’s he do-ing”. Okay, so it’s ChatGPT is only addressing sounds and as I’ve thought pronunciation for the past fifteen years, I’ve learned it’s been, made more clear to me as I work with students that sounds are maybe like 30% of what’s important.
Let’s give ChatGPT a score for teaching me pronunciation. The word “what’s”, it gave me the wrong vowel sound. 0 points for that. That is basic. The word “he”, it didn’t tell me I could drop the h which is a very common pronunciation. I’ll give it two out of three points. Doing. They gave me information based on the assumption that I knew other English words like viewing. That’s only a little helpful. I’ll give it two out of three points. Equally weighted with rhythm, linking and stress where I got no information. That puts me at four out of eighteen points, that’s a major F. I do not think ChatGPT is useful at teaching pronunciation. What about teaching English in general?
So I wouldn’t use ChatGPT to study pronunciation. But when it comes to grammar and vocabulary, how does it do? I actually think it can do a really good job. I recently asked ChatGPT to teach me 5 common idioms. It did give me five idioms and an example sentence for each one of them. Then I ask for more examples from one of the idioms and I gave me more. So I do think this is useful.
I also went to ChatGPT and I asked it to give me more intermediate English lesson and I kind of like what they gave me. Let me show you.
So it gave me some vocabulary and then a paragraph. Now, this is good and interesting. If I didn’t know this vocabulary, it would be a pretty useful way to learn it but it gets even better when you start mixing in other AI tools. So I went to a website called Naturalreaders.com and I put in my paragraph and I had it read it for me.
Yes, I can describe my friend Sarah who is extremely extroverted. She is always the life of the party and loves being around people.
So it’s pretty good. I mean, it’s definitely speakery like if I was giving a podcast. Not super natural for conversation but good enough. If I had a student who was putting together a presentation and wanted to imitate a native speaker, doing that presentation to practice, I would say this is a good route to go. I will also say and I would recommend in the past, you can go to a website like fiverr, you can find a voice-over artist and you can pay a native English human being to record it for you but obviously that’s going to cost money. This is free. Now I don’t know how much audio it could give it. At some point a fee is going to kick in, but this is a good way to get a handle on the pronunciation and flow. Right here, we do have rhythm whereas ChatGPT wasn’t able to teach me the rhythm but when I put text in here it is giving me a natural American English rhythm.
ChatGPT is not going to be a great pronunciation teacher but it can definitely teach you vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs, probably any of these prompts, it could teach you pretty well on.
Since ChatGPT didn’t do a very good job on giving me feedback on my pronunciation, let’s go to an app that uses AI to give pronunciation feedback. This app is called Elsa Speak.
So Elsa Speak, I actually chatted with that founder. She is very sweet, I love what they are doing and they have included some of my videos in their app. So, full disclosure there. They are not totally unknown to me, I have a pre-existing relationship with them.
Let’s see how Elsa Speak does with my pronunciation.
Ooh, it said excellent and I sound like a native speaker. Now, as a teacher, I knew exactly what to do to make it now sound right. And this is a problem a lot of my students have is their sounds might be accurate, my pitch matched their pitch, my shape of stress. Everything matched it except their placement. My placement was terrible. I stuffed all my sound up into my nose and that’s not natural American English. This gave me a hundred percent. It said I sounded like a native speaker. So, this is a problem. Is apps an AI can’t fully capture all of the characteristics of the voice.
But if I went around talking like this which is what I did with my app, I would be hard to understand and also, I wouldn’t sound very natural. And I’m totally exaggerating that of course, but a lot of my students have placements that’s too high, too pinched, not very natural sounding. So, the fact that this app can account for that, it can probably coach me on my sounds somewhat but I would never have a student who will rely on this to get good feedback on how they sound.
Nice to meet you.
Okay, so now it looks like it’s going to be checking my S consonant sound. Let me hear what happens if I make a th sound instead of an S.
Nith to meet you.
Hmm. Again, it gave me an excellent. It heard an S. This is what tricky, S is an unvoiced consonant. Different from zz, Z, where my vocal cords are also producing sound. Unvoiced consonants especially through a microphone and a speaker can be harder to tell apart so, it’s an S sound, I made a TH sound. Not accurate but it told me a hundred percent native speaker.
Okay, it looks like it’s now testing the SH. Another unvoiced consonant. Let’s see if I can trick it.
Oh good. Here it definitely, it noticed, I got to get my glasses y’all. Sorry about that.
It noticed that my SH sound was not right. But it didn’t tell me, it didn’t tell me what I did wrong. It just tells me how to make the SH. It would be more useful it if could tell I did an F and if it could say, ‘Hey, your bottom lip was touching your, the bottoms of your top teeth. We don’t want that. Bring it down and make an SH sound. Also, it’s description of the SH. It actually doesn’t say anything about how to make the SH. It’s good to know, hey, I don’t have the SH but if I don’t understand how to make it, then it’s going to be a problem.
So this AI voice coach app couldn’t help with placement and it was only somewhat accurate on sounds. It couldn’t tell me each time I did a sound incorrectly and it couldn’t tell me what specifically to fix to sound more natural.
Okay, so I’m going to stop there. You know, I don’t have any problem with people using apps like this to get some feedback, but the problem is when someone is having a very hard time with their accent. Other people are having a really hard time understanding them. And when people only use an app and they’re not getting actual human feedback, they’re just not going to really be able to solve that problem in my opinion. Now of course, I’m an in-person pronunciation teacher so, I’m biased but I am imitating student problems and it’s not diagnosing them. So, if you are wanting to work on your accent with a human being, I can’t recommend my Academy highly enough, you’re going to love it. Rachel’s English Academy, check it out but anyway, this video is not about promoting myself, it’s about assessing learning language online. My question at the beginning of this video was: Will I be replaced? Not yet. Now, the AI can and will get much better. Will it be able to diagnose things like placement? Will it be better at diagnosing things like the wrong unvoiced consonant? Maybe.
And will it be able to give really helpful information on the changes to make like:
Can it give me really helpful information on how to make the SH? Maybe. And if it does, you know what? I bet that AI bot scraped my videos to learn how to make the SH.
Here’s the thing. I’ve really thrown myself into studying Spanish over the past 3 months and for 20 years, 25 years I’ve been teaching English, I always say both as a teacher and as a language learner, don’t use just one resource. It’s not comprehensive enough and it’s going to get boring. I tell everybody to use several resources. Use apps. Use real human teachers, use books, use AI. Use YouTube channels, I love going to YouTube channels searching for Spanish topics after I have taken a class in that topic. I like watching four or five different teachers teaching me the same topic. The more that you engage with a language, the further you’re going to go with it. And I also think the more different resources you use, the better things are going to stick with you. For example, if I learn a word in class and then I see it in a Netflix show, and then it comes up in conversation when I’m chatting with a native speaker in Spanish, that is going to settle in my brain a lot more than having just learned it in class. So some of my favorite resources that I’m currently using to study Spanish are: I’m taking online classes with a company called Lingoda, I’m following YouTube channels, I have a couple books that I’m reading. One of them is a Learn Spanish through stories book and one of them is like a grammar workbook. I’m also listening to a couple of podcasts and I’m going to Netflix and I’m finding shows that are in Spanish. Not Spanish-dubbed but the native speakers in that show are speaking Spanish. Those are a little tricky for me, I’m not very advanced. So, what I actually do with those is if you’re watching on a mobile device, your phone or your iPad, you can slow down the pace. You can’t do it on a TV yet, I don’t think but what I do is on my iPad, I’ll watch the show in Spanish at .75 speed with the Spanish subtitles on. Otherwise, I can’t keep up, I don’t really learn very much but when I do it that way, I hear and I see how phrases are put together, it’s helping me improve my grammar and also getting chunks right like learning a word is sort of useful but learning a phrase in which you would use that word is really useful and so I love learning it that way.
So if you’re learning English, use ChatGPT, sure, love that, use four or five other resources. If you’re really focused on pronunciation and you’re an intermediate or advanced learner, check out my Academy, Rachel’s English Academy, you’re going to get real human feedback on a regular basis.
Are you using AI for language learning or for anything else in your life, I will say as I’m starting to use it and get to know it, I am finding it very useful. How are you using it? Let me know in the comments below.
Be sure to subscribe with notifications on because I absolutely love being your English teacher. And keep your learning going now with this video. That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.