The Use of Chatbot in Language Learning and Teaching



Chwen Binkley

Thompson Rivers University


EDDL 5151: Contemporary Issues in Technology Enhanced Learning

Professor Keith Webster

June 22, 2023




The integration of technology in language acquisition has gained significant attention in recent years. Among the innovative tools being explored is the use of chatbots, computer application designed to imitate human conversation through text or voice-based interactions. This literature review examines the use of chatbots in the context of language learning and teaching, focusing on their definition, history, benefits, limitations, critical issues, effects on student performance, and language chatbot design for the future, specifically, chatbots for second language learning.

The benefits of chatbots include round-the-clock availability, an abundance of linguistic information, tireless assistance in learning endeavors, and valuable support for educators in tasks like lesson planning, grading, and assessment. Some of the limitations include technological constraints, novelty effects, and cognitive load. Critical issues involve ethics, chatbot response accuracy, cultural bias, and potential replacement of human teachers. Effects on student performance are examined. Design recommendations stress considering students’ language competency levels, providing relevant information instead of mimicking human interactions, and balancing input to avoid overload.

By examining these various aspects, this paper aims to contribute to the understanding of how chatbots can be effectively utilized in language learning and teaching contexts.


This research paper aims to explore the use of chatbot in language learning and teaching. Language acquisition, including effective teaching approaches that support language learning, is a fundamental aspect of education, and such innovative methods hold immense value.

My initial exposure to chatbot technology came through my sister, who is employed at the University of Taiwan. The school hosted an engaging workshop on Chat-GPT, which attracted an unusually large number of attendees. Students were excited by the potential of this tool to help them with the writing of their research paper and other assignments.

The concept of using AI technology like Chat-GPT to support one’s learning piques my interest. Through personal experience, I have leveraged Chat-GPT for some work projects and have been amazed by its capabilities. As an ESL instructor, I believe that this AI tool holds significant promise as an aid for both teachers and students.

There is a strong belief that chatbots will ultimately emerge as the ideal companions for language learning, offering the remarkable capability to master languages without constraints of time or location. (Fryer, 2020). The topic is of interest as it explores the weaving of chatbots into language learning and teaching and investigates the optimal ways to integrate technology into language classrooms. This literature review exams empirical studies that explore the utilization of chatbots in language learning and teaching. It delves into various aspects, such as their features, developmental history, applications, benefits, limitations, and challenges. The goal is to gather insights regarding the application, design, critical concerns, optimal approaches, and guidelines for integrating chatbots into language classroom. Additionally, it highlights potential research areas that can further advance our understanding of the use of chatbots in language learning and teaching.

Literature Review

Definition and Background of Chatbot

A chatbot, also known as a chatterbot, is a software application that attempts to simulate human conversation through text or voice-based interactions, commonly found online (Wikipedia, 2023). Chatbots have a long history, dating back several decades and have been used in various areas, including but not limited to e-commerce and website support. They have also ventured into specific domains such as formal and informal counseling, broader healthcare issues, education on sensitive topics, stress management, library support, and personal support (Fryer, 2019; Fryer, 2020). However, the most inherent and potentially significant application of chatbots is undoubtedly their utilization for language practice (Fryer, 2019).

The development of chatbots for language learning has gained significant attention in recent years due to the increasing demand for convenient and personalized language learning experiences (Fryer, 2020).  There are various AI algorithms available to enhance language learning, such as natural language processing (NLP), computer-assisted language learning (CALL), mobile-assisted language learning (MALL), and intelligent tutoring systems (ITS). These algorithms have the potential to offer learners immediate feedback and personalized learning materials, aiding them in reaching their language learning objectives. Moreover, digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri can leverage speech synthesis and recognition technologies to assist learners with everyday language-related tasks (Adamopoulou, 2020; Almelhe, 2023).

According to Huang (2021), the most common types of chatbot interface designs can be categorized into two types: web-based interfaces and mobile messenger interfaces. With web-based chatbots, students can engage in conversations through computers or tablets. On the other hand, mobile messenger chatbots are seamlessly integrated into popular instant messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Line. This integration allows students to interact with the chatbots as if they were having a conversation with a friend. These chatbots provide learners with an opportunity to practice their English skills in a supportive and immersive environment. Some of popular chatbots for English language learning include Duolingo, HelloTalk, Rosetta Stone, ELSA, BBC Learning English Chatbot, and ChatGPT, Mondly, Cleverbot (Fitria, 2021; Fryer, 2019).

Benefits of Chatbots for Language Learning

Language learning has become increasingly convenient and easier with the advancements in technology and the emergence of various platforms (Fitria ,2021). Language chatbots offer a range of functionalities to support language learners effectively. According to Huang (2021), Language learning chotbots have the following three common features:

First, they are available 24/7, allowing students to practice their language skills at any time. This accessibility is not easily possible with human partners.

Second, chatbots can provide students with a wide range of language information that human partners may lack. This includes various expressions, questions, and vocabulary that can enhance language learning.

Third, chatbots can serve as tireless assistants. They can engage in repetitive tasks and endless communication with students, offering continuous opportunities to practice the new language.

Kohnke, 2022 and Kohnke, 2023 highlight these additional features: promoting interaction, modifying communication output, creating an authentic and interactive language-learning environment, conducting formative assessments, and providing immediate feedback. Furthermore, chatbots engage learners, expand language capabilities, sustain motivation, reduce shyness, and minimize the perceived distance between learners and teachers (Hong, 2023). ChatGPT, a digital tool developed by OpenAI, is one of the most advanced AI-powered chatbots that was recently released. Although it is not specifically designed as a language learning chatbot, it has significant potential to support language learning. For example, it can provide authentic interactions, generate dialogues and produce text in various genres related to a specific topic, and adjust the complexity of the dialogue to cater to different proficiency levels. In a span of fewer than four months, ChatGPT has created a sensation worldwide. Its remarkable capabilities have captured the attention and sparked excitement among a wide range of individuals, from researchers to casual internet users (Hong, 2023).

Benefits of Chatbots for Language Teaching

The numerous features offered by chatbots not only benefits language learners but also  empowers language educators at different levels. For example, chatbot has the ability to assess student writing, provide constructive suggestions, develop lesson plans, generate various tasks, create questions (open-ended or multiple-choice) and scenarios, among other functions (Rudolph, 2023; Kohnke, 2023; Kohnke, 2021). Within this context, these features enable teachers to allocate their time to other essential tasks.

Large language models can also provide personalized content creation, differentiation and personalized instruction, and support professional development (Kasneci, et al, 2020).

Limitations of Chatbots in Language Learning and Teaching

While chatbots have shown promise in language learning and teaching, there are challenges and limitations to consider. Huang (2021) categorize the challenges associated with language learning into three main areas: technological limitations, novelty effects, and students’ cognitive load limitations.

Technological limitations include issues such as the perceived unnaturalness of computer-generated voices, failed communication due to incomplete or nonsensical responses from chatbots, and the absence of emotional and visible cues that impact students’ affective states. Additionally, chatbots with limited artificial intelligence struggle to understand inputs beyond their programmed range, leading to isolation of learners from the language learning environment.

The novelty effect refers to the initial motivation or performance boost students may experience when encountering a new technology like chatbots, but this enthusiasm tends to diminish over time, leading to a decline in interest.

Cognitive load refers to the additional mental effort students must exert during learning tasks, influenced by the instructional design of chatbot-supported activities. Complex elements like voice and animation can increase cognitive load, leading to difficulties in allocating attention and processing task information. Higher cognitive load can hinder language learning outcomes, particularly for students with lower proficiency levels.

Furthermore, Almelhes (2023) highlight that chatbots might not offer the equivalent level of human interaction and emotional support as human tutors do. Moreover, AI algorithms may struggle to capture the intricacies of language and culture, potentially resulting in errors or misunderstandings. Additionally, the effectiveness of AI-powered language learning methods could be contingent on the accessibility and quality of language datasets, which might be limited in certain scenarios.

Other researchers (Fryer, 2021) pointed out that for some learners, effectively communicating with chatbots to practice their second language (L2) can be difficult due to inherent communication issues with many current chatbot platforms.

Critical Issues Related to the Use of Chatbots

Although chatbots offer immense benefits to both teachers and students, many concerns associated with the use of this technology warrant attention. Issues identifying by different authors (Kohnke, 2023; Hong, 2023; Kasneci, 2023) include the following:

Ethical Concern

The ethical use of chatbots in education has raised several concerns. These include the potential for chatbots to be exploited for cheating purposes by students and the use of lesson plans and material produced by chatbots without considering copyrights by teachers. Kohnke (2023) pointed out that chatbots such as ChatGPT draws information from existing sources without considering copyrights, as such; it might not be ethical if teachers were to use the lesson plans and materials produced by ChatGPT. There are also implications to other stakeholders such as the educational institutions and materials developers.

Furthermore, because chatbots can provide instant responses and access to information, there is a risk that students may misuse them to seek answers during assessments or exams. There were cases of cheating and misconduct reported in the media (Levin, 2023; Peritz, 2022). Concerns regarding the utilization and potential misuse of ChatGPT have prompted successive bans on the recently emerged chatbot by educational institutions (Reuters, 2023). Teachers and school administrators perceive ChatGPT as a potential threat that will jeopardize the cultivation of students’ critical thinking and writing skills.

Accuracy of Chatbot Responses

Another concern revolves around the accuracy of chatbot responses. While chatbots have made remarkable advancements in natural language processing, they are not immune to errors or inaccuracies. Students relying solely on chatbots for learning may encounter instances where the responses provided are incorrect or misleading.

According to Thorp, 2023 and Hong, 2023, ChatGPT lacks the ability to comprehend the text it produces or grasp the context of the information, and it does not rely on reasoning or emotions to generate responses to user queries. Instead, it compares available data to provide the most probable and relevant answers, often based on frequency. Consequently, the answers received from the end-users may sound plausible but are actually incorrect or nonsensical.

One of the most concerning issue described by Marr (2023) is the phenomenon of hallucination. In the context of AI, the term refers to the production of outputs that may appear believable but are either factually inaccurate or disconnected from the provided context. According to the author, the generation of incorrect or misleading information by AI systems can lead to a loss of trust among users, impeding the widespread adoption of this technology across different sectors.

Cultural Bias or Stereotypes

Cultural bias is yet another significant concern in the use of chatbots. Language and communication are deeply influenced by cultural context, and chatbots may inadvertently perpetuate biases or stereotypes in their responses. Kohnke 2023 explain that most of the text in the database that ChatGPT uses is derived from an English corpus and then translated into target languages (e.g., Chinese, Japanese). This means that chatbot’s responses may reflect biases or stereotypes that are present in its training data, which could have negative effects on learners’ attitudes and beliefs about language and culture.

Replacement of Human Teachers by AI

There have been concerns around the potential for AI-powered language learning methods to replace human teachers, which could have implications for employment and job security in the education sector. From another perspective, Kohnke (2022) and Wang (2019) argue that chatbots are unable to replace human teachers as they lack the empathy and emotional intelligence that human teachers possess. Human presence is indispensable in providing consistent responsiveness, addressing unforeseen queries, and making essential adaptations to assigned tasks.

Effects of Chatbots on Learners’ Performance

Klimova and Seraj (2023) conducted a mini review to explore how chatbots can contribute to the development of students’ language skills and structures in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classrooms. The review includes a total of seven studies after applying all inclusion and exclusion criteria. Overall, the findings suggest that chatbots can have positive effects on students’ English skills, particularly in terms of speaking skills and engagement. The researchers point out that those students with low-level language skills benefited the most from using chatbots, while learners with high-level language skills felt dissatisfied using them

Huang (2022) carried out a systematic review of chatbot-supported language learning, Their findings from eight experimental studies yield different results from the aforementioned review.  Findings from Huang (2022) suggest that chatbots can have a positive impact on students’ language learning in certain areas, specifically grammar, listening, and writing. However, there is no evidence to suggest that chatbots improve students’ reading comprehension. The effectiveness of chatbots in enhancing vocabulary learning yielded mixed results, but these findings should be interpreted cautiously since they were based on only two experimental studies each. Importantly, none of the studies reported any adverse negative effects of using chatbots on language student learning outcomes. The authors conclude that our understanding of the effects of chatbot on student outcomes is still limited.

Recommendations for Designing Second Language Learning Chatbot

The technology of chatbots is in a constant state of evolution and refinement, with continuous development of new and improved versions. Kim et al. (2022) highlight the complexities associated with creating an effective second language (L2) chatbot compared to a first language (L1) chatbot. The authors recognized that designing a second language chatbot necessitates expertise in system design, architecture, and familiarity with second language acquisition (SLA) theories and instructional methods. Additionally, it requires a comprehensive understanding of the target L2 learners’ inter-language, language learning requirements, and proficiency levels. Despite these challenges, several endeavors have been made to design chatbots specifically for L2 learning purposes.

Yang (2022) at the Chung-Ang University in Korea described the design and implementation of a task-based voice chatbot named “Ellie” as a conversation partner in EFL speaking classes. The chatbot was developed over a period of three years using Dialogflow by Google, which utilizes machine learning algorithms to analyze user data and improve its performance. Ellie is designed to support multiplatform, including web and mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices. This allows students to access the chatbot using laptops, tablet PCs, or mobile phones as long as they have a Wi-Fi connection. The study involved 314 English learners in South Korea, including elementary school students (fifth or sixth graders) and first-year high school students. The participants had varying levels of English proficiency, ranging from beginners to intermediate-low levels. The study found that the variety of tasks offered by the chatbot helped students engage in meaningful and lengthy conversations more easily and comfortably in English, regardless of their proficiency level. The participants were able to negotiate meanings with their limited vocabulary and successfully achieve non-linguistic task goals. The study suggests that the task-based chatbot such as Ellie can help second language in developing their conversation skills and enhancing their English language learning experiences. However, there were also limitations identified, such as occasional comprehension failures due to classroom noise and inadequate responses to participants’ utterances.

To ensure its effectiveness and adaptability, researchers have put forth some key considerations to take into account for the future. For example, Fryer (2019) believes that it is important that chatbots can adjust or be adjusted to students’ language competence levels to better support language learning. He suggests that the most straightforward approach might simply be to develop a broad range of chatbots (or versions), both for different topics and a range of levels. Another point made by the authors is that chatbots should provide relevant information or assistance to users, rather than attempting to mimic human-like interactions in every aspect.

The same researcher further suggests (Fryer, 2020) that chatbots should be designed for specific audiences, rather than “one size fits all” approach. This is because different learners have different needs and preferences when it comes to language learning. For example, some learners may benefit from a chatbot that provides them with lots of input and feedback, while others may prefer a more conversational approach. In addition, a chatbot should provide a balance between providing enough input to ensure that learners persist in their studies and not overwhelming them with too much information at once.

One systematic review looked at a unique aspect of chatbot design to better meet the needs of L2 learners. Zhai and Wibowo (2022) examined numerous studies between 2012 and 2022, primarily focusing on L2 chatbot research available in popular databases. The review revealed that cross-cultural dimensions play a significant role in the effectiveness of AI chatbots for second language acquisition. The researchers identified areas for improvement in the development of AI chatbots in L2 education, such as incorporating cross-cultural empathetic responses, understanding learners’ perceptions and reactions to learning content, and investigating the effects of cross-cultural humor on language proficiency.

Yang (2022) suggests that for the development of second language chatbots, it is crucial to define agents by carefully selecting suitable task types. Additionally, the generation of chatbot intent should be based on an analysis of interlanguage discourse patterns and other indicators of task performance.


Within the realm of language learning, numerous language learning applications utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology are available to English educators and students/learners, with chatbots being just one among them. Based on the literature review, chatbots offer an immense value for both teachers and students. However, the current extent of adoption of AI chatbot tools by language teachers and learners remains uncertain. Fryer’s (2020) research indicates that language instructors rarely make use of chatbots, while Belda-Medina (2022) suggests a “moderate” appetite for future educators to embrace this technology. Data regarding the utilization of chatbots in language schools in Ontario is currently unavailable. Taking into account the significant debate generated by the use of chatbots within the language teaching community in Ontario, such as TESL Ontario (Teachers of English as a Second Language Association of Ontario), this discussion session delves into the adoption of chatbots in language learning and teaching, along with the ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI chatbots.

Adoption of AI Chatbot in language learning and teaching

The education community holds diverse opinions regarding the use of chatbots, particularly Chat-GPT. Some educators fully embrace its potential, while others outright ban its use. Some teachers utilize these tools to assist in preparing their teaching materials, yet they are hesitant about students utilizing them. Their concerns primarily revolve around students relying on chatbots to fabricate essays rather than creating their own work. Hong (2023) presents the concept of the “innovator’s dilemma,” suggesting that premature anxiety may overshadow the potential opportunities and transformative mindset that the emergence of chatbots brings forth.

Amidst these varied perspectives, it is crucial to acknowledge that chatbot technology is here to stay, whether we embrace it or not. As professionals, we need to actively consider our classrooms and the broader landscape, becoming aware, learning, discussing, and defining how we can navigate this new normal. Both teachers and students have a role to play in developing digital literacy. To effectively harness the potential of chatbots, educators must acquire new skills and competencies. This includes proficiency in utilizing and managing AI chatbot systems, analyzing student interactions with chatbots, and providing targeted support and feedback. Additionally, teachers must cultivate a classroom environment that strikes a balance between the benefits of AI chatbots and human interaction, ensuring that students continue to receive personalized attention and emotional support.

Ethical Considerations

In unit 2 of the EDDL-5151 course on social and ethical issues, it states that “technology is deeply interwoven with our ethics and social responsibilities” (para 1), this emphasizes the close connection between technology and our ethics and social responsibilities. The integration and use of technology in our lives require us to make important choices that reflect who we are and what matters to us. As technology continues to advance and permeate various aspects of society, it poses significant ethical challenges that require careful navigation. As an educator, we need to contemplate the ethical ramifications of technology, proactively mitigate potential harm, and strive for fair and inclusive access to technological resources.

Chatbots, with their advanced language processing capabilities, have the potential to generate text that mimics human-like responses, making it difficult to distinguish between content generated by a chatbot and original work produced by a student. This presents ethical concerns and challenges related to academic integrity. In order to adapt to the new challenges posed by AI tools, educational institutions may need to revise their academic policies. Furthermore, it is important to provide teacher training on AI topics and techniques to effectively address these changes.

Kohnke, 2023 emphasize the need for teachers and students to develop specific digital competencies to use AI-driven tools like ChatGPT in ethical ways. They suggest that educational institutions develop guidelines for using such tools and modifying teaching and assessment practices to prepare students for a world where AI-driven digital tools are commonplace.

The BC’s Digital Literacy Framework presents the concept of digital citizenship within the context of responsible and ethical behavior in the digital world. Digital citizenship refers to the “understanding human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior”(p. 3). While the framework does not provide explicit general guidelines for digital citizenship, it does highlight several aspects of digital citizenship that students should develop, such as, internet safety, privacy and security, creative credit and copyright, and legal and ethical aspects.

To support learners in becoming responsible and ethical users of AI tools, Allan (2023) presents some guiding principles for digital citizenship in a blog post for TESL Ontario. These include providing learners with explicit guidelines on how to effectively and responsibly use technology such as AI tools; model and encourage respectful communication in the digital realm; educate learners on the significance of safeguarding their personal information, understanding privacy settings, and adopting secure practices when utilizing AI tools and navigating digital platforms; encourage learners to think critically, question information, and verify its authenticity; and empower students to express their ideas, perspectives, and concerns on both local and global platforms. These guiding principles of digital citizenship serve as a foundation for our learners to navigate the digital world responsibly and ethically.

Conclusion and Potential Research Areas

In conclusion, this literature review has shed light on the use of chatbots in language learning and teaching. Chatbots have the potential to revolutionize language learning and teaching by providing convenient access to language practice, personalized learning materials, and various language-related tasks. However, careful consideration is necessary to address the challenges, limitations, and critical issues associated with chatbot implementation. With ongoing research and development, chatbots can become valuable tools in language education, supporting both learners and educators in achieving their language learning objectives.

As the field of using chatbots for language learning and teaching continues to evolve and mature, it can be anticipated that novel investigations will arise pertaining to the capacity of the technology and its implications (Hong 2023). Future researchers can exam the effectiveness of chatbots in facilitating language learning outcomes, explore experience and perceptions of language learners utilizing the application for language learning purposes, investigate teachers’ perception of chatbot as a teaching tool, the potential of using it to alleviate teacher workload and how teachers are leveraging the platform.



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