How is AI helping English as a Second Language teaching platforms? Pros and cons on . . .

How is Artificial Intelligence (AI) helping  English as a second language teaching platforms? There are pros and cons to using AI, as this week’s blog posting shows.

I have taught English for the past  three-and-a-half years on the online platform  . Last week, three of italki’s staff—“Yisen” (aka Jonathan Cook, professional teacher), Jake (AI product manager, who uses only his first name) and Co-Founder, Kevin Chen–spoke on a webinar about how AI is helping English as a second language teaching platforms to succeed.

Today, anyone involved in any form of communication knows that AI is rapidly evolving and becoming increasingly integrated into the work of every industry, including language (and other) education.  The panel spoke about  how AI tools are currently being beta-tested on, so interested teachers can seek opportunities on the platform to contribute to the development and application of AI.

The panel discussed how trends of AI will impact language learning:

  • ESL teachers should not panic, since AI won’t replace them. Yisen stressed that the human part of education is irreplaceable.
  • With online ESL teaching, the “magic” happens when the teacher connects with a learner/student at a personal level (e.g. “aha” moments occur, in the process of learning, which involve Emotional Intelligence [EI]). AI can never replace teaching that includes EI (e.g. emotional intelligence–factors like empathy and feelings).
  • Co-founder Kevin commented that AI and human teaching are not identical in nature, so that AI cannot repace humans. (We are what Nick Usborne in another context calls “the human in the loop.”)
  • Teachers remain the most important contributors to a student’s language learning.
  • AI is best when it’s used to empower people; humans should always be in control. 

Three uses of AI that will benefit students/learners on italki (pros):

  • Teachers can find inspiration for preparing lessons, using AI tools.
  • Teachers can secure exercises and materials to share with their classes.
  • Students/Learners can use bots to practice their conversation, role-play, or ask questions from their studies that they do not understand.

Some current limits (cons) on using AI (across all platforms and industries):

  • It can be hard to verify the accuracy and validity of some AI-generated information (e.g. errors, “hallucinations” are two examples of this).
  • Students/Learners often feel frustrated and lost, when the bots they use don’t understand where they’re at, in their language learning process. Learners get discouraged when bots don’t acknowledge their struggles and challenges.
  • uses AI to enhance the relationship between teachers and students/learners, to “add value, not to take away from all of those human elements” (Yisen).

Some AI tools for teachers to adapt on italki, itself:

  • A “Learning Plan”—AI can assist as a planning tool—(i) as a habit builder—to track the number of lessons per week and progress from one class to the next. (ii) for defining the focus of lessons—Students/Learners can stay motivated for longer by telling teachers the areas they want to cover.
  • A “Lesson Preparation Tool”—AI can help teachers plan and create content for an upcoming lesson—such as talking points; a variety of types of in-lesson exercises: (i) fill-in-the-gaps (ii) multiple choice (iii) unscramble words and more.

AI takes a transcript of a lesson on the platform and can develop a summary from in-class learning and conversations. These summaries help students fine-tune their studies and review. For instance, AI can provide a topic summary, a list of vocabulary, a list of idioms and expressions, a summary of the major grammar points of a lesson, all of which can fuel learners’ motivation and commitment to learning.


The panel’s closing thoughts about AI use on

It’s important to note that both students/learners and teachers need to consent to having their classes recorded. The panel said that italki values privacy; it does not sell or share  recordings with any third party.

Both students/learners and teachers can opt out of using AI. But AI tools are only increasing in value over time, so it makes sense to start using them now.

The bottom line is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping to strengthen English as a second language teaching platforms: italki is not alone here! The market is huge.

Yisen also added that teachers on the platform can join the “AI Teacher Community” by signing up over email. There teachers can talk with each other, ask and answer questions, share news (something I intend to do soon!).

Inside the teacher community is the local AI division, where teachers can participate in surveys and (beta) user-testing for AI development on the platform. Further, teachers can practice using AI tools to gain familiarity with them before applying them in class.

The upshot is yes, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping  English as a second language teaching platforms to succeed. But there are pros and cons to using AI for language learning (and for everything else).

I’m just starting to integrate AI into my teaching over  .  Some of my students from Eastern and Western Europe have expressed an interest in using AI to improve their language skills, since the tech is clearly here to stay.

And now it’s your turn: What do you think about the influence of AI on online learning platforms (e.g. If you are a language learner, have you found AI helpful?

If you teach languages to newcomers or other learners, how do you use AI to enhance the learning process?