Learning a new language is all about practice, but sometimes you don’t have someone to practice with.
Microsoft’s new (and aptly-named) Learn Chinese app wants you to pick up the language with the help of an AI assistant.
The app has two modes available, one for beginners and one for intermediate learners.Â
The beginners lessons feature different simple phrases and sentences, with short conversation practices afterwards that allow learners to repeat phrases they’ve learnt in each chapter.Â
You’ll be scored on how accurate your pronunciation is, with words you’ve pronounced wrongly marked in red, and those pronounced accurately in green. The app also provides sample audio so you can hear how words should be pronounced.
The AI kicks in to allow you some freedom in expressing yourself. You’re prompted with keywords you need to include in each phrase you say back to the app, but the sentence structure is up to you.
After you speak, the app grades you out of 100 on each response’s structure and pronunciation.
The intermediate mode is similar, but presents different real-world scenarios, such as how to order food in a restaurant and even add people on WeChat, China’s most popular social media network. Very practical.
How it works
According to Microsoft, the app relies on “a suite of AI tools”, such as deep neural networks that have been tuned to recognise what learners are trying to say and to evaluate learners’ pronunciation.
The AI has been tuned to recognise words based on data from native speakers, as well as Microsoft’s text-to-speech technology.
âThe app will work with you as a language learning partner,â said Yan Xia, senior develop lead at Microsoft Research Asia in a blogpost.
âIt will chat with you and give you feedback based on what you are saying.â
The aim of the app, according to Microsoft, is to prepare learners for real-world conversations with native speakers.
The app comes as online language company Duolingo added Chinese Mandarin to its library just a week ago.
Microsoft Learn Chinese is available for free on the App store.