Intelligent assistants in language learning: an analysis of features and limitations

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes and Lee, Helen (2020). Intelligent assistants in language learning: an analysis of features and limitations. In: CALL for Widening Participation: Short Papers from EUROCALL 2020 (Frederiksen, Karen-Margrete; Larsen, Sanne; Bradley, Linda and Thouësny, Sylvie eds.),, pp. 172–176.




Learning a second language is a challenging endeavour which requires various degrees of support. The proliferation of smart technologies includes chatbots and conversational agents which have the potential to ‘assist’ language learners (Kukulska-Hulme, 2019). However, whilst a growing number of researchers and developers are working on such intelligent assistants across different disciplines, little is known about their application to language learning. The aim of this project was to review relevant research literature over a ten-year period (2010-2020) in order to uncover the capabilities and limitations of Intelligent Assistants (IAs) in relation to language learning. Results suggest that IAs can assist learners in a variety of ways, including provision for conversation and pronunciation practice. These tools can also fail to comprehend meaning or accented pronunciation. The analysis highlighted gaps in research around skills development, task design, pedagogy, and the use of chatbots in virtual worlds.

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