Artificial Intelligence vs. Human Intelligence: A Case of Second Language Acquisition

JALT Group: 
Event Speaker: 
Chutatip Yumitani
Fee for JALT members: 
Fee for non-JALT members: 
1,000 yen
Contact or Queries: 
Sunday, February 19, 2017 - 1:30pm to 4:00pm

With advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that increasingly allow the computer to handle human/natural language in various ways, it’s time to look into how English education can be affected by new developments in AI , how language is learned and used by humans, as well as how human intelligence has been applied to second language acquisition.

A report in the Japan Times talked about a megaphone with an instant translation feature that can translate Japanese into English, Chinese and Korean. “Translate” is a misnomer since the megaphone does not translate. It simply matches preset sentences in Japanese to their preset equivalents in English, Chinese, and Korean. This pattern-matching technique can also be used to help humans carry out basic conversation in a second language—the type of basic conversation covered in standard English textbooks developed for teaching conversation. Should we switch to teaching students how to use such an AI program in class instead of trying to teach them to really be able to communicate in English by themselves?

The presentation will revisit how language is learned and used by humans. Through the use of children’s books as well as an authentic book for young adults, the way grammar and meanings are ‘installed’ in the human mind will be demonstrated. Literal and figurative use of language will also be examined through looking at how metaphors are created and interpreted.

The presentation will include a mini workshop on how to teach students to ‘discover’ grammar from context and a mini workshop on how to interpret metaphors. Bring your favorite children’s books and metaphors to share.

The presentation will end with a discussion of how English can be introduced intelligently to young learners in elementary school and also how students at the secondary and tertiary level who have been exposed to English at an early age and have acquired the language naturally in varying degrees and students who have had very limited exposure to the language can be dealt with simultaneously.