Do you feel very nervous when you have to talk to native Italian speakers? I know I know. Despite having learned the language for over a decade, I still feel like my palms are sweaty and I feel a lump in my throat whenever I find myself talking to strangers.
Today, we’ll explore language learning apps that should eliminate a lot of insecurities. It’s called LangAI, and it’s designed to provide language learners with a safe and non-judgmental space to practice their speaking skills, regardless of their level.
Ethics statement: I downloaded LangAI for personal use and paid for the subscription myself. I was not asked to write anything about this product, nor was I offered any form of compensation. You won’t find any affiliate links in this article.
What is LangAI?
LangAI is the brainchild of Uruguayan software engineer Federico Ruiz Cassarino. BBC articlewas inspired to create a language learning app based on artificial intelligence after successfully learning English in the UK, not through traditional academic methods, but by speaking as much as possible.
With LangAI, you can speak or chat with an AI chatbot in more than 20 languages, including Italian. Powered by ChatGPT4, it provides instant corrections and adaptive, personalized conversations to help you quickly improve your language skills and learn from your mistakes.
Currently, it’s only available for iPhone, but the company is actively developing an Android version of the app. If you choose the free version of LangAI, there is a daily usage limit, but by subscribing to the paid plan, you can chat with the bot from morning to night if you wish!
How to use LangAI
LangAI’s interface is very simple. When you open the app for the first time, you will see a chat-like screen. The bot will greet you in Italian and ask for your name, which you can respond by pressing the microphone button at the bottom and speaking into your phone. The bot then asks more questions, such as where you live and what your hobbies are, until you are asked to sign up for an account. You can then decide if you want to continue using the free version or sign up for a paid plan. As of this writing, the monthly cost is $3.99, and the annual plan is $29.99.
From then on, whenever you open the app, the bot will greet you and ask you how your day was, or if it’s evening, how you were. From there, you can start a conversation about any topic you want. As you speak, the bot provides you with what LangAI calls “instant corrections,” catching grammatical errors as you speak.
LangAI – Pros and Cons
Now let’s look at the various advantages and disadvantages of using LangAI as a virtual Italian tutor.
Overcome the fear of speaking
The biggest advantage of LangAI is that it helps you overcome the fear of speaking in another language and making mistakes. Even advanced learners like me will find it easy to talk to a bot without having to worry about being judged for mistakes. Personally, I also find that the more I use the app, the more comfortable I feel talking to it.
Not sharing controversial opinions
I’ve found that LangAI works best if you talk freely about yourself instead of asking questions. This is because the bot is not designed to express personal opinions. In fact, if you ask a bot what it thinks about something, it will usually answer:
As a virtual assistant/chatbot, I have no personal opinion.
As a virtual assistant/chatbot, I have no personal opinion.
This is especially true if you ask the bot for its opinion of a specific individual, such as a controversial political figure. Instead, it provides you with very basic facts about the individual in question.
I personally like this approach because it ensures that the bot avoids spreading misinformation or promoting hate speech.
That is, the bot compensates for interests, preferences, and hobbies in order to sound like a more natural conversation partner. For example, I once asked “If you could eat anything right now, what would you eat?” and it responded with “Margherita Pizza”.
Use it anytime, anywhere
Unlike a tutor, you can talk to the robot at any free moment, whether it’s at dawn, before bed, or while waiting for the bus. This will encourage you to talk more than usual, especially if you don’t live in a country where the target language is spoken.
Lacks certain qualities of human mentors
As an artificial intelligence language model, LangAI lacks certain qualities of human tutors. One notable difference is its tendency to ask a lot of questions without sharing one’s own personal experiences or thoughts. This sometimes results in one-sided interactions, akin to an interrogation. Additionally, LangAI presets refers to users as men, which may be off-putting to some female users.
Having said that, the voices in the current version sound almost human, which is a significant improvement over previous versions of the app, where the voices sounded more computer-like.
In a future version, it might be helpful to include an option for users to enter a Romance gender. This way, the bot can at least adapt its language accordingly and address the user using appropriate gender terms.
Lots of grammar corrections
During my conversations with the app, I received many excellent lexical and grammatical corrections and feedback, along with explanations as to why the errors occurred. Sometimes, the app will even subtly reword sentences to enhance their native-like quality.
The only aspect it still seems to be working on is correcting Subjunctive. As you can see in the example below, it does not correct my inappropriate use of the subjunctive mood in the sentence “think I go And tea?” (The correct syntax is “think vada With tea“).
Record messages from previous conversations
In the updated version of the app, you will receive daily notifications that quote things you mentioned in previous conversations and ask further questions about that specific topic. For example, I mentioned reading “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” in one chat, and a few days later the bot asked me if I’d finished the book, then asked another question about my day.
While I do find this approach attractive, it does raise concerns about application data retention. In our email exchange, the founder stated:
“LangAI retains messages privately, which allows it to dynamically add relevant previous messages and messages into contextual windows, making conversations more engaging and human.”
Still, to protect your privacy, it’s absolutely important not to reveal any truly personal information during the chat. In fact, I would even recommend inventing fictitious events or interests when interacting with the bot to ensure that no sensitive material is recorded. It never hurts to be extra careful!
Very good at translating speeches
LangAI does an excellent job of translating your speech as long as you speak clearly, hold your phone close to your mouth, and avoid excessive background noise. It might be a weird word to misunderstand, but I’d say 99% of the time, it’s correct.
Sometimes there is a problem
Launched in March 2023, LangAI is a relatively new application, so it does have some issues at times. Sometimes, the bot won’t respond or I’ll get an error message, in which case I need to close the app and start over.
What’s more, the bot will sometimes tell me that I’ve made a vocabulary or grammatical error that I haven’t actually made. For example, it once told me that “it is true“(it is true) replace”it is true”. (Here, the bot used an incorrect accent when interpreting my speech.) In this case, it’s best to ignore the bot and continue chatting.
As mentioned above, the monthly price is more or less the same as a cup of coffee (a cup of coffee), which is even cheaper if you subscribe to the annual plan.
Despite its odd flaws, I’m impressed by LangAI and the broader trend of using artificial intelligence for language learning. I believe that when combined with other learning methods, it has the potential to be a valuable asset in improving fluency, especially when given the opportunity to converse with native speakers. Furthermore, considering the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence technology, I believe the LangAI application will only become more powerful with each update.
why not give it a try See if it works for you!