One of the best ways to learn a language is to practice with native speakers. Research shows that immersion is more effective than conventional classroom instruction for developing proficiency. Yet many people around the world get few opportunities to practice with native speakers. For example, China and Latin America have large numbers people who want to learn English, but far fewer native English speakers for them to talk to.
When learners do find native speakers to practice with they may find the experience challenging and stressful. Native speakers can have difficulty understanding language learners when they make mistakes and may be reluctant to correct them for fear of embarrassing them. Learners often lack the confidence to reach out to native speakers and use their shaky language skills.
Immersive simulations overcome these problems. Learners speak with interactive characters in simulations of realistic situations. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning now make it possible for learners to engage in unscripted conversations with computer characters. Learners practice as much they want, whenever they want, in a safe environment. Conversational turns are analyzed to track learners’ progress towards mastery and provide feedback and personalized instruction.
Immersive simulations are a dramatic advance over previous approaches to computer-aided language learning. Instead of following a script or clicking prompts on the screen, learners decide for themselves what to say and the AI interprets their responses in context. For example in an urban scenario, an AI asks learners for directions and they must respond appropriately, in their own words. Learners get feedback on culturally appropriate communication and grammatical usage, not just on pronunciation. Teachers benefit from computer-generated analyses of learner performance and can focus class time on instruction rather than practice.
Alelo has developed a cloud-based platform for immersive simulations, in use in over 20 countries. To see immersive simulations in action, visit our English language teaching page.