They interact like humans, but they’re not human.
They’re built of the latest technology, tweaked and reworked to perfection.
But don’t call them “hosts” or expect them to let you shoot them over and over again—this isn’t “Westworld.”
We’re talking about “chatbots” or “bots,” which are computer programs that simulate real conversations.
In the real world, they’re already all over the place—acting as assistants or guides, dealing with customer service issues and even being sold as toys.
Sometimes you may not even notice them, but there’s good reason to be aware they exist.
Why? Well, because they can provide valuable practice for language learners.
These days, interactive language learning resources are nearly as technologically advanced as your favorite Delos theme park.
Virtual reality language learning, language learning apps and, yes, language learning chatbots can now help you get your daily language practice and the language immersion you need from the comfort of your couch, bed or hyperbolic chamber.
Chatbots can even help you get the language conversation practice you need without a real human language exchange partner.
That’s right—bots have taken over, but there’s no need to be afraid.
In fact, the friendly chatbots we’ll meet in this post may just become your new language learning BFFs.
Why Use a Language Learning Chatbot?
If you’re looking for an excuse to try the latest language learning technology, you need look no further. There are lots of reasons to use a chatbot.
One reason to get on board is that chatbots are convenient. You can get some conversation practice anytime, anywhere. No need to call your language exchange partner in the middle of the night if you have a sudden study urge! Plus, because you have them with you wherever you are, you can squeeze in a few minutes of practice in line, between errands or even while waiting for the next memory wipe.
Additionally, chatbots take away the intimidation and awkwardness of talking with real people. If you aren’t sure of your language skills or are shy, interacting with real people can be one of the most challenging parts of learning a language. Luckily, chatbots help you practice your skills without having to talk with a real person, thereby making you more confident when it is time to speak with a human being.
Finally, chatbots help you practice scenarios you’re likely to encounter. They focus primarily on functional skills you’ll actually need, so they’ll prepare you to use your language skills in the real world. You can even take your chatbot practice several steps further in this regard by combining it with FluentU, a platform that helps you thoroughly learn the actual language used in authentic native content.
In this way, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with both sides of realistic target language conversations and be ready for them—all without talking to an actual person!
5 Resources for Chatbots to Be Your Language Learning BFFs
If you use any online language resources, chances are you’ve heard the name Duolingo once or twice (or more realistically, about a thousand times). There’s good reason for that. It offers a free online resource and an awesome app designed to help you learn grammar and vocabulary through interactive spaced repetition.
But now, Duolingo has entered the chatbot game. Duolingo Bots use artificial intelligence to allow you to have life-like interactions. The Bots can work with thousands of potential responses, but if you hit a snag, you can also type “help me reply” for a little extra assistance.
Duolingo is working on adding new Bots, but currently you already have a nice selection. You might chat with pizza maker Chef Roberto, get directions from Renée the Driver or interact with Officer Ada.
You can access the Bots in the iOS app, and the conversation is a lot like texting a real person. Duolingo Bots will ask you questions, then you type your responses. From there, realistic conversations ensue on topics like what you want to drink.
While Duolingo does also have an Android app, the Bots aren’t yet available in this app.
The Bots are currently available for French, German and Spanish, with more languages on the way.
Available: iOS | Android
Up for an adventure? Memrise’s chatbots can launch into orbit.
Memrise is a learning program that uses the latest technology to help you hone your skills. This includes fun new chatbots.
Memrise’s chatbots are available in its apps. You can’t always get to them, but as you progress through the leveled learning, some chat options will appear. These chatbots focus on “missions” in outer space. While they employ useful vocabulary, they have an adventurous slant. To interact with the chatbots, you select words from a list to piece together sentences for a text-based conversation.
Memrise currently offers 20 languages, including popular languages like Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and some rarer choices like Icelandic and Mongolian.
Available: iOS | Android
Mondly is all about the latest technology. Not only do they offer chatbots, they also offer virtual reality, so you have plenty of engaging, immersive learning options with them.
You can access the chatbot easily through the main app interface. Unlike most other chatbots, the Mondly chatbot is voice-enabled. The chatbot will give you a prompt, and you’ll have a list of options for what you might say. Then, you speak into your device and the chatbot responds. Chatbot scenarios cover common activities, like greeting people and eating out, so Mondly’s chatbot is an easy way to improve your functional speaking skills.
Mondly offers over 30 languages, including standard options like Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and some harder-to-find options like Bulgarian, Indonesian, Persian, Thai and Vietnamese.
Available: iOS | Android
Eggbun Education is designed to help beginning language students practice their skills.
The artificial intelligence chatbot acts like a tutor. Lanny, as she’s called, focuses on providing you with guidance and direction in learning your target language. The interaction offers text-based dialogue along with audio examples. Along the way, Lanny will share information and ask you to type certain words to help you learn vocabulary and grammar.
Eggbun Education is offered for Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
We have a secret: There are many chatbots out there that aren’t designed to help you learn a language, but they might do just that.
“Authentic” chatbots are intended for various tasks, like answering customer service questions or providing more information about a company. However, since many of these chatbots use foreign languages, you can use them to practice your language skills.
These chatbots are almost entirely text-based, but if you select the right one, they can be a great way to brush up on thematic vocabulary.
Chatbots.org offers a database of chatbots from around the world. Select a country that speaks your target language and you’re likely to find a chatbot that speaks it, too, and probably even uses the specific regional dialect. If regional dialect is unimportant, you can also just select your language of interest for some great chatbot options.
For instance, if you’re studying French, the site lists over 100 French-speaking chatbots. These chatbots offer career advice, self-help tips, news and even analysis of medical symptoms. That’s a lot of thematic vocabulary practice!
Plus, for the most spoken languages, there are a number of good chatbot options. There are 4 Arabic bots, 4 Chinese bots, over 80 German bots, over 30 Italian bots, 4 Japanese bots, 20 Portuguese bots, 16 Russian bots and over 90 Spanish bots.
So go ahead and board the train to your next learning adventure.
A chatbot may be just what you need to help your language skills finally reach the center of the maze that is your brain.
And One More Thing...
If you dig the idea of learning on your own time from the comfort of your smart device with real-life authentic language content, you'll love using FluentU.
With FluentU, you'll learn real languages—as they're spoken by native speakers. FluentU has a wide variety of videos as you can see here:
FluentU has interactive captions that let you tap on any word to see an image, definition, audio and useful examples. Now native language content is within reach with interactive transcripts.
Didn't catch something? Go back and listen again. Missed a word? Hover your mouse over the subtitles to instantly view definitions.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU's "learn mode." Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
And FluentU always keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You get a truly personalized experience.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.