An Evaluation of Chatbots as Software Aids to Learning English as a Second Language

David Coniam

Abstract

'Chatbot' programs are pieces of software that can hold a conversation, or interact, in English. This paper explores the potential of chatbots for ESL (English as a Second Language) learning from a pedagogical perspective. From the command-line days of Eliza, chatbots have matured considerably – to the point where many chatbots now involve an avatar interface, with speech recognition also becoming available as a feature. The paper evaluates six chatbots currently available either online or for purchase. The evaluation examines chatbots from the perspective of their interfaces as a human-looking or sounding partner to chat with, as well as their usability as pieces of software suitable for ESL learners. To put some of these issues in perspective and provide insights into their use, the paper also reports on the use of some chatbots in
the ESL classroom. The paper concludes with an analysis of chatbots currently available, noting that while chatbots have matured considerably since the early days of Eliza, they still have a long way to go before they can interact with students in the way that researchers such as Atwell (1999) envisage.


Keywords

chatbots; ESL; software analysis; CALL

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References

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