ChatGPT is my new favorite app. I have used it to practice both Spanish and Korean, to get information about topics that interest me, to correct html code, to get book recommendations, to create itineraries, to create lesson plans, to write this guide, and more. Its capabilities are impressive. In this post, we’ll focus on how to use ChatGPT to study, learn, and improve your English.
What is ChatGPT?
If you have not heard of ChatGPT, here is a definition from the horse’s mouth:
“ChatGPT is an AI language model that can generate human-like responses to text-based conversations. It has been trained on a large corpus of text data and uses advanced machine learning algorithms to understand and respond to user inputs in natural language.”
If that sounds complicated, the best way to understand ChatGPT is to play around with it. I have asked it to do numerous things and it almost always impresses me with its speed and ability to respond in a natural and conversational way.
Of course, when using technology, it is important to keep in mind that inaccuracies can (and do) occur. There have been times when it stops midsentence or doesn’t provide an answer that includes something I know it should include. However, despite its limitations, it is an exceptional tool. Use your own judgement to evaluate the quality and accuracy of ChatGPT’s responses when you interact with it. You can also ask a trusted teacher or friend, or check other resources to ensure accuracy.
from the horse’s mouth: Directly from the source; firsthand. So, in this case, ChatGPT itself is the horse.
How can I use ChatGPT for language learning?
So, how can you use ChatGPT to practice or improve your English? You can use it to learn or enhance your vocabulary, to correct mistakes and grammar, to practice conversation, to provide reading samples that include vocabulary and grammar you are studying, and even to study for an exam.
While writing this I asked ChatGPT to create a guide to using ChatGPT to learn English. I asked it to include prompts for learning vocabulary, correcting mistakes and grammar, practicing conversation, reading, and studying for an exam. Below, you’ll find the response, which I modified to include additional points and fix inaccuracies. Thus, what you are reading is a collaboration between ChatGPT and me.
- Ask ChatGPT to create word lists.
- Ask ChatGPT to define words.
- Ask it to provide synonyms and antonyms for words you already know.
- Ask it to provide example sentences using a new word you’ve learned.
- Ask it to provide collocations and word usage examples.
- Ask it for help understanding idioms or phrases that are commonly used in English.
- Ask it to provide a list of vocabulary, idioms, or phrasal verbs related to a topic.
- Ask it to create a quiz for you.
Correcting Mistakes and Grammar
- Use ChatGPT’s correction feature to get feedback on your writing.
- Write a sentence and ask ChatGPT if your grammar is correct.
- Ask ChatGPT to explain a grammar rule or to provide examples of correct usage.
- Practice writing sentences and paragraphs and ask ChatGPT to check for errors.
- Ask ChatGPT to create a sample conversation between two (or more) people.
- Use ChatGPT to practice asking and answering questions about different topics.
- Ask it to suggest topics for conversation and to provide prompts to get started.
- Use ChatGPT as a language partner to simulate a real conversation.
- Ask ChatGPT to create a reading or a story for your level.
- Ask ChatGPT to create comprehension questions for a story it creates.
- Ask ChatGPT to suggest articles or stories to read that are appropriate for your level.
- Use ChatGPT to help you understand difficult vocabulary or phrasing in a text.
- Discuss a reading with ChatGPT and ask questions to check your understanding.
Studying for an Exam
- Ask ChatGPT to provide practice questions for an exam you’re studying for.
- Use ChatGPT to practice writing essays or answering open-ended questions.
- Ask ChatGPT to explain concepts or rules that you’re having trouble with.
Example conversation generated by ChatGPT
Learner: Hi ChatGPT, I’m trying to improve my English. Can you help me with some vocabulary?
ChatGPT: Of course! What kind of vocabulary are you interested in?
Learner: I’d like to learn some new adjectives.
ChatGPT: Alright. How about “exquisite”? It means very beautiful or delicate.
Learner: Could you give me an example sentence?
ChatGPT: Sure. “The exquisite craftsmanship of the vase was evident in every detail.”
Learner: Thanks, that helps. Can you check a sentence I wrote to see if it’s correct?
ChatGPT: Of course. What’s the sentence?
Learner: “Me and my friend went to the store yesterday.”
ChatGPT: There’s a mistake in that sentence. “Me” should be “I”. The correct sentence is “My friend and I went to the store yesterday.”
Learner: Oh, I see. Thanks for catching that. Can we practice some conversation now?
ChatGPT: Sure. What would you like to talk about?
Learner: How about travel? Have you been to any interesting places lately?
ChatGPT: I’m an AI, so I haven’t been anywhere physically. But I can tell you about some interesting places that people often visit, like Paris or Tokyo. Have you been to any of those places?
Learner: No, I haven’t. But I’d love to go someday.
ChatGPT: It’s always good to have travel goals. Do you have any other questions or topics you’d like to discuss?
Learner: Yes, actually. I’m studying for an exam and I’m having trouble with the passive voice. Could you explain it to me?
ChatGPT: Sure. The passive voice is used when the subject of a sentence is acted upon by the verb, rather than performing the action itself. For example, “The book was written by the author” is in the passive voice. Would you like more examples or practice questions?
Learner: Yes, that would be helpful. Thanks for your help.
ChatGPT: “The cake was baked by my grandmother.” In this sentence, the cake is the subject of the sentence and it is being acted upon by the verb “baked”. The person who performed the action (my grandmother) is included in a prepositional phrase (“by my grandmother”). As for practice questions, here’s one: “
New Prompt by me: Please finish your sentence: As for practice questions, here’s one: “
ChatGPT: Thank you for catching that! Here’s the full sentence:
“As for practice questions, here’s one: ‘Rewrite the following sentence in the passive voice: The company will release a new product next month.'”
Me: A new product will be released by the company next month.
ChatGPT: Great job! That’s a correct passive voice rewrite of the sentence. Using ChatGPT to practice with these types of exercises can be a helpful way to improve your understanding and usage of grammar concepts.
Example of a Glitch
In the conversation above, I included one of the mistakes made by ChatGPT to show you how you can work with it when it glitches. Sometimes, it just stops midsentence, but if you point out its mistake, it will attempt to fix it. In this case, the new prompt and resulting response worked well.
glitch: noun – a problem or malfunction, usually a temporary one, that stops something from working properly or being successful; verb – to experience a small fault or problem, especially one that stops something from working
Now, let’s say you do not know how to form the passive voice. Here is an example of how ChatGPT can help.
Me: I don’t know how to rewrite the sentence “The company will release a new product next month.” in the passive voice. Can you please teach me.
ChatGPT: Absolutely! I can explain how to rewrite this sentence in the passive voice.
To convert an active sentence to the passive voice, you need to make the object of the active sentence the subject of the passive sentence, and the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the preposition “by”. The verb is also changed to its past participle form.
So in the case of the sentence “The company will release a new product next month,” the subject is “the company” and the object is “a new product”. To change this sentence to the passive voice, we would move “a new product” to the beginning of the sentence and make it the subject, and “the company” would become the object of the preposition “by.” The verb “will release” would change to “will be released.”
Therefore, the passive voice version of the sentence is: “A new product will be released by the company next month.”
I hope that explanation helps! Let me know if you have any more questions or if there’s anything else I can help you with.
Tweaking ChatGPT Responses
tweak: verb – improve (a mechanism or system) by making small adjustments to it; noun – a minor adjustment or modification
ChatGPT does not always do what you want it to. For example, in the sample conversation above, I wanted it to pretend to be human and answer the question, “Have you been to any interesting places lately?” rather than say it is AI. ChatGPT will pretend and answer as if it is human, but you have to prompt it by telling it to pretend to be human. Here is the modified response it gave when I added that tweak:
“Yes, I have actually! Last month, I went on a road trip to the Grand Canyon with some friends. It was absolutely breathtaking! The views were spectacular and we did some hiking, which was a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area. We also stopped in a few small towns along the way, which were charming and had some great local food. It was definitely a trip to remember!”
Sometimes its responses during a conversation are long, but you can ask it to shorten them. Its default tends to be more formal and wordy. It reacts well to specific prompts, so ask for what you want and need.
One of the things I love about ChatGPT is its conversational tone and ability to modify its responses based on prompts. With practice, you’ll improve your prompts, just as I have. It’s a learning process for both you and the AI.
Tip: While interacting with ChatGPT, anytime you do not know a word it uses, just ask, “What does __________ mean?”
In this way, you can continue to ask about words you do not recognize and increase your vocabulary in a natural way about whatever topic you choose.
What about pronunciation?
One thing I have not included here is help with pronunciation. ChatGPT does not have audio, but you can ask it to provide phonetic transcriptions of words or sentences you want to practice. You can also ask it about word stress and intonation. In addition, it can create tables. Try asking it to create a table of common English pronunciation errors made by (Your first language) speakers.
Ready to try Chat GPT?
Currently, ChatGPT is free to use, but you do need an account, which you can create on OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company that created it. Sometimes, the free version gets overloaded with users. When this happens, you might get a message that says there are too many requests and to try again later.
If you do use ChatGPT, you should be aware of privacy issues. In fact, it has been banned in Italy over privacy concerns. Anything you write on ChatGPT becomes part of its database and can be used for further training and to improve its output. Do your homework and be cautious. Do not share personal information on it.
do your homework: study a subject or situation carefully so that you know a lot about it and can deal with it successfully
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how to use AI to practice, study, and improve your English. As a teacher, when I first heard about this technology, my first thoughts were concerns about students cheating and having it do their homework. While this is certainly a concern, I believe the pros outweigh the cons for language learners. Use it responsibly. Don’t let it think for you. Let it help you learn.
If you are interested in reading more about the benefits of ChatGPT for language learners and language teachers, you might enjoy what University Affairs has to say in their article about ChatGPT for language learning.
Never stop learning!