The Role of Conversational AI in Language Learning

BY:  Rebecca Herson
October 24, 2023
Updated on May 13, 2024

Table of Contents

Conversational AI has emerged as a transformative tool in the field of education, offering innovative ways to enhance the learning experience in schools, colleges, workplace learning schemes, and more. It can provide instant feedback to students, help deliver learning experiences that are adapted to their individual learning styles, and make education more accessible and engaging.

But many institutions are still hesitating over adopting conversational AI in education. In this article, we’ll discuss the many benefits and attendant challenges of introducing AI tools for education, to help you make better informed choices and achieve greater success when introducing conversational AI in your educational institution. 

Understanding the Emergence of Conversational AI in Education

The field of education can often be slow to adopt emerging technologies, but many schools, universities, corporate departments for professional development, and more are quickly discovering the value that conversational AI training can bring. 

By leveraging natural language processing and machine learning technologies, conversational AI enables personalized and interactive learning, while also providing assistance to teachers and educators in evaluating students’ work, and developing curricula and learning aids. Incorporating chatbots, virtual assistants, and intelligent tutoring systems, conversational AI supports both formal and informal education settings. 

Educational AI as an Innovative Language Learning Tool

Forward-thinking educational institutions are finding ways to use AI to make language learning more effective and enjoyable. 

Personalized learning experiences

In an ideal world, every student, trainee, and learner should follow an individualized program of study that’s customized to their particular learning style, strengths, and weaknesses. But teachers and tutors have limited time and energy, so it’s not usually possible to deliver this kind of learning experience. 

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Until the emergence of educational AI, that is. AI platforms can quickly understand each user’s preferences, learning styles, and mastery of the material, and use those insights to develop personalized learning programs. 

AI systems like Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) use algorithms to analyze conversations with students on an ongoing basis, and continually adapt teaching methods and the difficulty of lessons. 

Individualized learning support

All educational professionals agree that people learn best when they receive individual, personal feedback and tutoring. Once again, AI makes this possible for all students, everywhere. 

AI-powered chatbots can be trained as virtual tutors that give personal support to students whenever they need it, no matter what time it is, including outside of lesson time, late at night, and at weekends. 

AI trainers and teachers can answer student questions in ways that best match that student’s learning style, guide them through material that they are struggling with, and help them master information and skills more quickly. 

Instant feedback and error correction

In many learning situations, teachers struggle to grade students’ work in a timely manner. They are often overwhelmed with essays, tests, recorded practice role plays, and quiz responses, all of which they need to evaluate and return at the same time as preparing the next lesson and delivering deeper support to students that need it. 

AI can serve as a turbo-pack for teachers, taking on the grunt work of grading assignments and evaluating student work. An AI educational platform can assess student work in a fraction of the time it takes a human teacher, freeing up teachers to focus on giving students more personalized attention. 

Students also appreciate receiving feedback and grades within a shorter period of time. Additionally, they tend to trust AI grading systems, because they perceive them as more objective and consistent than humans. After all, AI tutors don’t get tired or have a bad day. 

The Benefits of Integrating AI in Language Learning

Bringing AI into educational situations offers many benefits for both teachers and students. Here are some of the main advantages that come with educational AI. 

Enhanced student engagement

Chatbots and virtual language partners use conversational AI to offer language learners the opportunity to engage in realistic, conversation-like interactions, helping them develop practical communication skills. 

These interactive learning sessions are a lot more engaging and enjoyable than frontal lectures. AI role play partners are also more effective than assigning students to carry out similar practice sessions with each other since students might not have mastered the language enough to serve as reliable practice partners. 

Accessible learning anytime, anywhere

When you’re learning a language, practice is key. Students need to be able to reinforce their vocabularies and fluency by using the language in natural settings. AI-powered language tutors are available anytime and anywhere, making it convenient for busy learners to improve their language skills on their own schedules.

Customized learning 

AI can tailor language learning experiences to individual learners, adapting the difficulty and pace of lessons based on their progress and preferences. This personalization enhances engagement and motivation.

AI platforms can also track and analyze learner data, providing educators with valuable insights into students’ strengths, weaknesses, and progress, enabling more personalized and effective teaching strategies.

Immediate feedback

AI chatbots can provide instant feedback on pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary, helping learners correct their mistakes and make continuous improvements in real time. Fast feedback helps prevent an accidental error becoming entrenched, preventing students from learning bad habits which then take much more work and time to change. 

Cost-effective learning programs

Integrating AI reduces the cost of language learning by reducing the need for human language tutors, making education more affordable and accessible. With the help of virtual tutors, human teachers can support many more learners without requiring more resources. This also allows educational programs to scale to more participants and a greater variety of skill levels.  

Real-life Applications and Success Stories

In Israel, the Ministry for Education is using Second Nature to reinforce English language education in schools. Second Nature offers AI-powered role play partners who are available round the clock for students to practice realistic conversations, strengthen their vocabulary, and improve their pronunciation. 

These practice partners provide timely feedback that enables students to quickly correct errors and improve their mastery of English, as well as creating a safe space for learners to make mistakes without embarrassment. Interactive conversations are also more enjoyable than learning lists of vocabulary words or verb tables, which encourages students to practice more and thus strengthen their language skills.

With the help of Second Nature, students in schools across the country are able to learn English in an engaging and interactive way that shortens the time to language proficiency. 

There are also a number of companies applying Second Nature for ongoing professional development. With Second Nature, employees whose first language is not English are able to polish their language skills and improve their fluency in business English. This helps them stand out in job applications, bring more value to their organization, and increase their options within the business world. 

The Main Challenges of Using AI in Education

Using AI in education offers significant benefits, but it also comes with several challenges. 

Data privacy and security

With the increasing collection and utilization of student data for personalized learning, educational data can be vast and complex. It’s critical for educational institutions to maintain the privacy and security of sensitive student data and adhere to data privacy regulations. 

Any data breaches or misuse can have severe consequences, affecting students’ trust in educational institutions and potentially violating data protection laws like GDPR or FERPA. As a result, schools, colleges, and other places of education need robust data management systems and strong cybersecurity measures to handle student data and ensure its security and privacy.

Change management 

Faculty, students, and parents may be resistant to the introduction of AI in education, due to concerns about job displacement, privacy, and the potential dehumanization of the learning process. You’ll need effective change management strategies to address these concerns.


At the same time, teachers might struggle to effectively use AI tools in their classrooms. They need training to understand the technology, incorporate it into their teaching methods, and manage the potential disruptions it might cause in traditional teaching approaches, requiring investment in teacher training and professional development. 

Accountability and transparency 

AI systems can inherit biases from the data they are trained on, perpetuating any prejudices that are lurking within the data. This can lead to unequal outcomes in grading, recommendations, or access to resources. To prevent this, institutions need to frequently audit AI decision-making processes and review the quality of data used for training purposes. 


The use of AI in education also raises ethical questions regarding the surveillance of students, decision-making algorithms, and the potential for undue influence on educational content. Decisions made by AI, such as selecting which topics to teach, should be transparent and align with ethical standards.

Quality of content and curriculum

While AI can automate the preparation of educational content, it may lack the creativity, context, and human touch found in materials developed by educators. At the moment, AI-generated content can be overly generic, missing the depth and nuance that human educators bring to their teaching.


In the same vein, it’s important to think carefully about the best ways to integrate AI into the curriculum, so that it will align with and help advance educational goals and standards. Deciding where and how AI fits into the curriculum and ensuring it enhances, rather than disrupts, the learning experience is a complex process.

Cost and resource allocation

In the long run, AI can help educational institutions save money, deliver higher-quality educational experiences, and run operations more efficiently. However, introducing AI effectively requires an initial capital outlay. It’s necessary to invest in AI software, hardware, resources, and training for both teachers and students to use new systems effectively.


In some cases, schools, colleges, and professional development departments might need to overhaul, update, and/or replace legacy systems that can’t integrate easily with more advanced AI platforms. It’s important to also plan for ongoing costs like maintenance and updates and to ensure that your solution can scale to meet future needs. 

Equity and accessibility

While AI can enhance learning experiences, not all students have equal access to technology and high-speed internet. This can create disparities, where some students benefit from AI-driven tools while others are left behind. 

Ensuring equitable access to technology and digital resources is essential. Educational institutions must address issues of equitable access, especially for students from underprivileged backgrounds.

Over-reliance on technology

The engaging nature of AI and technology in education can potentially lead to students relying on it too much. Instead of being active learners, they could become passive consumers of content. This might diminish their critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity.


Equally, teachers can lose some of their creative and critical edge if they become accustomed to relying on AI to prepare their lessons and grade their papers. 

AI Tools Can Bring Great Improvements to Education

The emergence of conversational AI in education represents a significant shift towards student-centric, technology-driven learning, offering opportunities for more inclusive, efficient, and effective education. While there are challenges to overcome, the benefits of making language learning more efficient, engaging, and accessible while freeing teachers to focus more closely on student needs far outweigh the difficulties. 


Can conversational AI tools be used in tandem with human educators for language learning?

Using AI together with human mentoring is the best way to introduce AI tools into education. AI tools can deliver fast responses round the clock, offer always-available practice partners, and make language learning more engaging and effective. 


At the same time, students still need human teachers who can give warm encouragement and offer face-to-face teaching. AI tools can free teachers from the grunt work of grading assignments and evaluating written work, so they can give students more individual attention. AI insights also give teachers a better understanding of each learner’s needs, so they can adjust their teaching pace and style accordingly. 


How can conversational AI offer a personalized language learning experience?

First, conversational AI can assess a learner’s proficiency level, learning style, and goals to provide customized content and exercises tailored to the individual’s needs. AI platforms can then engage learners in interactive, real-life conversations, adapting the complexity and topics to match their progress. 


What’s more, conversational AI tools can track progress, adjust the curriculum, and motivate learners by setting achievable milestones, creating a highly personalized and adaptive language learning experience. At the same time, by taking over tasks like holding practice conversations, conversational AI bots can free teachers to deliver more personalized interactions, creating a more individualized learning experience. 


What future trends can we expect in the intersection of conversational AI and language education?

As technology evolves, we can expect continued advancements in personalized and interactive language learning experiences. Conversational AI tools will become more adept at understanding and responding to learners’ unique needs, providing real-time feedback and tailored exercises to enhance fluency and cultural understanding. 


Additionally, increased integration of AI-powered chatbots and virtual language tutors will make language education more accessible, cost-effective, and flexible, offering learners round-the-clock support and practice opportunities. We may also witness the integration of augmented or virtual reality to create immersive language learning environments, fostering more engaging and practical language acquisition.

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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