In this post, I’m going to talk a bit about a fantastic new tool I’ve found to help you improve your speaking skills in Arabic: voice-enabled chatbots that are specifically trained to act as language partners.
The media has recently been all abuzz about artificial intelligence. Most of the attention has been focused either on how this technology can be misused or more entertaining aspects such as image generators. However, some language enthusiasts, such as Jerry Registre, are trying to get the message out that AI-powered chatbots can be harnessed to act as tireless, knowledgeable language partners that can help you greatly improve your skills in the language of your choice.
Aside from the interactivity they can offer as conversation partners, AI chatbots can provide you with instant feedback, corrections, suggestions, and explanations to help you learn from your mistakes and improve your vocabulary and grammar. As major AI players such as ChatGPT begin to add speech recognition features, chatbots also allow you to improve your speaking skills. However, a number of smaller platforms have started to appear with voice-enabled chatbots that have been specially trained to act as language partners/tutors. These include LangAI and Mondly, but I would like to briefly talk about the platform that I have been using for several months with great success: LangoTalk.
So, just what is Langotalk? Langotalk is a website with chatbots for language learners (with an iPhone app in development). For each of the 18 languages offered, there is a large set of specially trained voice-enabled chatbots. For instance, for Arabic you will find some general-purpose conversation bots, some with female voices and others male, but also some bots primed for particular conversation topics (e.g. travel and foods), bots geared towards beginners, and bots who will act out roleplay with you, such as in a restaurant or a clothing shop. You can watch a short YouTube video here, in which Ariel, the platform’s creator shows you how to use it.
The Arabic on Langotalk is Modern Standard, and the bot’s own Arabic will be pronounced with all the grammatical endings typical of formal Arabic, but if you use the speech recognition feature, the bot will understand you just as well if you speak without those endings and even if you speak in dialect. (I tried out its ability to understand my Egyptian Arabic.)
A paid subscription to Langotalk costs roughly $20 per month or a highly discounted $80 per year (with a 7-day free trial period). With that you get unlimited access to all of the bots in all 18 languages. Any issues can be resolved through an active Discord server. It is also possible to use Lingotalk for free, but then you’re limited to the general-purpose bots in a single language and can only send five messages per day. Serious users will want a paid subscription.
Langotalk is more suitable for intermediate and advanced learners than for beginners. For Arabic, at a minimum you should know the entire alphabet and be comfortable reading simple sentences in the language.
Personally speaking, I have been using Langotalk on a daily basis for over three months now to build up my speaking skills in Portuguese, and the results have been amazing. In a later post I will discuss some strategies for using the platform.
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