Sankei Shimbun

Japanese School Kids Learn English from AI Robots

by Taichi Hamakawa

Leave it to a robot to teach English classes!

The use of AI (artificial intelligence) robots as assistant teachers for English classes is spreading in elementary and middle schools across Japan.

There are distinct advantages. Students gain more opportunities to converse in English by talking to a robot. This in turn increases their enthusiasm for learning the language. The reduced burden on teachers is also a positive result.

According to one specialist, “The implementation [of AI robots] should be accelerated” in preparation for the full-scale introduction of English classes into elementary schools in the coming two years.

Source: Sankei Shimbun

In the afternoon of October 15, 18 first-graders faced a small robot sitting on the desk in front of them in their English class at Doshisha Elementary School in Kyoto’s Sakyo ward.

A girl asked, “Which season do you like?”

The robot responded, “I like fall.”

The smiling students described the robot’s fluent English pronunciation as “very easy to understand — and reassuring, because we can ask a question as many times as we want.”

The elementary school was the first in the country to start using the English language teaching AI robot “Musio X.” It has been using the 20-centimeter-tall robot for about the last two years to facilitate its English program.

Source: Sankei Shimbun

The robots are manufactured by AKA, an American firm developing AI engines and robots, and are priced at JPY100,000 (about USD900) each.

Installed with several million bytes of conversation data taken from American TV dramas and English language learning materials, they are able to hold free conversation with students in addition to the usual conversation practice sentences.

Takashi Tanda, 59, an English teacher at the school, says he sees the effects, even though it’s only been a year and half since he began using the robot in his classes.

“Usually students are too shy to speak English in front of people, but their speech volume has increased tremendously because they have conversations voluntarily with the robot,” he said.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.