Language teachers recognize that it is important to give students opportunities to practice speaking, both to increase fluency and build self-confidence. Unfortunately, this can be very demanding on teacher time. Teachers must organize and orchestrate the practice activities, and then provide students feedback as needed. This can be a challenge in large classes or in online and hybrid classes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges have become more apparent as language classes have moved online. A recent article on the struggles of online language classes highlighted the challenges. Students complained that they are learning less and do not get as much one-on-one time with instructors. Teachers complained that tasks and activities are much more time-consuming.
Enskill® Spanish, Alelo’s latest product for building spoken proficiency in Spanish, illustrates how artificially intelligent avatars can help address these problems. It is intended for use in middle schools and high schools. It can help anyone improve their conversational Spanish, but it is particularly well suited for students who have limited interaction with teachers—because they are in large classes, studying remotely, or studying on their own. It is an illustration of how avatar technology can create engaging, effective asynchronous learning experiences.
Students can access Enskill Spanish from their laptop or mobile device. They can initiate a conversation with the avatar to perform a particular task. The avatars are non-judgmental and infinitely patient; this provides students with a safe environment in which they can gain self-confidence. At the same time, teachers are able to track their students’ progress, and identify students who are struggling and need extra help.
In this video, Alelo CEO Dr. Lewis Johnson demonstrates Enskill Spanish and shows how students can use it to improve their conversational Spanish. In the example, the avatar is a Mexican high school student named Emma. The student can have a conversation with Emma about what she likes to do in her free time.
Unlike conventional roleplays in which students follow a fixed script, students in Enskill Spanish can express themselves freely as long as what they say is relevant to the task. If they need help, they can view a transcript or ask for suggestions of what to say.
At the end of the conversation, Enskill Spanish gives students feedback on whether they met the objectives of the conversation, as well as their conversational fluency measured in terms of conversational turns per minute. They also are assigned personalized exercises in the areas where they need to improve.
Students find that as they practice conversations multiple times their performance improves. They can try expressing themselves in different ways to strengthen their mastery of the communicative functions in the task. Teachers find that students come to class better prepared, more self-confident, and ready to engage in conversational activities.
Alelo is currently running trials of Enskill Spanish in schools. Contact us if you would like to see a demo or are interested in trying it out in your language program!