Artificial Intelligence and Speech Recognition in TEFL

With great advancements in the connection of language teaching and artificial intelligence comes great responsibility (not a reference to a movie) but more importantly the knowhow of using it in the correct way and understanding it for what it is, while reading research to understand what are its latest achievements and what it can do. Artificial Intelligence is the very thing that outdated, sad or religious (or / and any combination of those) teachers fear due to their lack of understanding of its great potential in all of the fields that it tries to evolutionise, discussed in the current case - TEFL.

Numerous papers are being written about the limitations of such technology while very few point out its achievements. This may be due to its unavailability to the "non-tech-savvy" demographic of teachers or to the fact that artificial intelligence and natural language processing are mechanisms that work in the background of a finalised product and/ or are usually not advertised as standalone application but rather integrated into such. One of the most notorious mentions when it comes to the limitations of AI and Speech Recognition is the argument that such software cannot produce valid and reliable results when prompted giving away its simplicity and inefficacy in TEFL contexts. An example of this would be when students try to talk to the bots and get the sense that the bots don't really respond to their individual or specific answers but rather provide predetermined key answers to certain triggers programmed to be recognised in the prompted query. While with chatbots this may be the case, I think we can all agree with the fact that most freely available chatbots are developed by a programmer working alone and are left without integration of machine learning, thus making them robotic in their answers (ironic).

The case with AI is debatable, but speech recognition, to me, should be ubiquitously integrated in EFL, especially at lower proficiency levels. There are many activities that can be designed with the semi-structure of using SR/actual text.

Ask your students to find information about certain things only using Siri, they will not be able to look at the screen, only listen and ask further question. This is a great way to check listening comprehension, improve speaking and pronunciation. This would be great for 5+ in age and for proficiency levels below B2.