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Robot Teaches English as Second Language

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English tutor robot

Michelle, an English as a second language robot tutor, was developed at Pasadena City College by professor Ron Chang Lee.

Credit: Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News

Pasadena City College professor Ron Chang Lee has developed interactive robots that help students learn English as a second language (ESL). Interacting with a robot is less intimidating for ESL students than with a professor, Lee says.

Lee started the ESL software project in 1994, and the program has become increasingly sophisticated. Lee's robots now can speak with students on 25 topics in 2,000 available conversations. The program also can detect the 800 most common errors that ESL students make, knows all the irregular verbs, provides different tenses, explains grammatical terms, and gives advice on how to learn English.

"His goal for the chatbot is to eventually develop a free online tutoring system that can be used worldwide--it's a wonderfully different approach," says documentary director Miranda Yousef.

The system enables users with speech recognition software to input typed questions or spoken questions. Lee says the next challenge is finding a way to make the robots think before answering a question, tailoring the response to the user.

From Pasadena Star-News (CA)
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