Home Bots & Brains Robots vs. Humans: Comparative Study in English Language Tutoring

Robots vs. Humans: Comparative Study in English Language Tutoring

by Pieter Werner

A study led by Associate Professor Takamasa Iio from Doshisha University and other Japanese academics compared the effectiveness of robot-assisted language learning systems and human tutors in English conversation lessons. Published in the *International Journal of Social Robotics*, the research aimed to determine the comparative impact of the two teaching approaches on students’ English-speaking skills.

The study involved 26 Japanese university students, who underwent a preliminary assessment of their English proficiency before being divided into two groups. One group of 14 students received instruction from a tabletop humanoid robot named CommU, while the other group of 12 students had online lessons with English language teachers. Both groups engaged in 30-minute daily sessions for seven days, focusing on role-playing, flashcard practice, and conversational reenactment exercises.

The results indicated that the group tutored by the robot made fewer speaking errors and demonstrated greater fluency compared to the group instructed by human tutors. The researchers attributed this improvement to the repetitive practice with the robot, which enhanced memory retention and speaking proficiency. Additionally, the robot’s expressions may have alleviated the students’ anxiety, encouraging them to speak without fear of criticism.

Dr. Iio suggested that robots could have a more prominent role in reinforcing basic vocabulary and grammar through repetitive exercises. However, he emphasized the irreplaceable value of human tutors in building learners’ confidence for real-life communication.

Future advancements in robot-assisted learning systems may include recognizing non-native speech, providing corrections, and conducting interactive lessons. Despite this potential, human tutors will continue to be crucial in helping students apply language skills in authentic conversations.

Photo: Takamasa Iio from Doshisha University

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