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20 Quick Chatbot Prompts for Multilingual Learners of English to Use Today

by Brent Warner |

The world of AI is moving fast, and it can be hard to feel like we’re keeping up. In my last post, I shared some ways to use the concept of Prompt Engineering to help students build language at the same time as they are prompting.

Today, I want to move things back a bit and go for some simple cut-and-paste options you can share with your students. Whether they’re using ChatGPT, Bing, Bard, or any of the other chatbots, these basic prompts should be a quick and easy way for students to practice building some discrete skills.

The prompts below are good to go as-is, but remember that chatbots always do better with more context. With this in mind, you can add the following sentence before any of the prompts, and it may help produce more accurate results:

I am a/an [LEVEL] English language learner, and I want to improve my English skills.

Finally, remind students that with all chatbots, the results are not always consistent, so they may have to tell it to make changes if the output isn’t quite what they were looking for.

1. Listening

At this point, ChatGPT, Bing, and Bard all have some level of text-to-voice, so students can actually use Chatbots to practice listening directly. While Bard still requires users to click on a “play” button, ChatGPT and Bing will both automatically reply when you are done speaking. Note that ChatGPT only has this feature natively in the mobile app.

    • Tell me a brief news story, then quiz me on the contents.
    • Let's play a game of listen and repeat. I want you to give me some sentences and I will repeat them. Then you tell me how clearly I spoke.
    • Help me listen to some examples of minimal pairs between "B" and "V"
    • Let’s tell a story together. You start the story, then I will continue it, and then you will continue when I am done, and so on.

2. Speaking

The beauty of the text to voice tools is that just like speaking to a real person, talking to the chatbots requires both listening and speaking. In the listening sections above, there was some speaking required. Here are a few other quick examples students can use to practice speaking.

    • Provide me with the text of a tongue-twister, then listen to me speak it. Tell me how accurate my speaking is.
    • Ask me questions about a short story I'll narrate to you.
    • I will describe my day to you; please ask follow-up questions for more details.
    • You will play the role of someone interested in learning more about [TOPIC]. You have a lot of questions about it. I am an expert on the topic and I will respond to your questions in English. However, my English is not perfect, so please correct my grammar if I make a mistake.

3. Reading

By their very nature, chatbots will provide a lot of reading opportunities. Anything students ask of the chatbots will be put out into text, so even the listening and speaking skills practiced above can then be reviewed as a reading exercise. Here, let’s look at a few more simple prompts students can use to practice their reading:

    • Provide a short, [LEVEL] English article for me to summarize.
    • Suggest a short story for me to read and then discuss the characters and plot with me.
    • Please use the article from the following link and then ask me inferential questions about it.
      • Note that depending on the link, the chatbot may or may not be able to access the article. In this case, students may be able to upload the article as an attachment.
    • Please write a 300-word news article about [TOPIC], then create a multiple-choice quiz to see if I understood the details.

4. Writing

When submitting writing to chatbots, it’s important to remember that they still make a lot of mistakes. While it’s great to encourage students to ask the bots to provide feedback and proofread their writing, as the teacher you should also encourage students to reflect clearly on the responses they get. One way that I like to do this is to challenge students to find some number of mistakes that the chatbot makes. This also helps reinforce the idea that students need to be doing the thinking and they can’t just hand off the responsibility of thinking and language production to a computer.

    • I will write a short journal entry; please provide feedback on grammar and expression.
    • Give me a creative writing prompt and then provide feedback on my response.
    • I will write a restaurant review to post online; please review it for structure and language. Additionally, help me decide if the review is fair, or if I should think more about my review before I post it.
    • Below I will paste the Hook I am planning to use for my essay about [TOPIC]. Can you please give me feedback on my hook and let me know if it will capture a reader’s attention?

5. Vocabulary

If there’s any place where the chatbots can really shine, it’s with vocabulary. Of course they can translate, but they can also help you find words with particular nuances, or discover words you never knew existed. Here, again, our goal is simple prompts for quick interactions, but start asking your students what they might come up with to practice on their own.

    • I am looking for a synonym for [WORD], but I want something with a [positive/negative] connotation. Can you give me some ideas?
    • Create sentences with blanks for me to fill in, focusing on [VOCABULARY THEME].
    • Use these specific vocabulary words in sentences for me to read and understand context: [LIST OF WORDS].
    • Please create a multiple-choice quiz for me testing me on the following words: [LIST OF WORDS]

BONUS: Culture

I couldn’t resist slipping this in. So many students complain that they don’t understand a lot of the cultural references that native speakers use and understand by default of growing up in an English-speaking country. The chatbots can help out with this a lot. Students can enter phrases or topics they hear a lot about, and ask the chatbots to explain where they came from, giving insights that possibly their native-born friends don’t even know. Here are a couple of quick pop-culture questions that might provide insights to your students about their favorite songs or movies.

    • I'm an English language learner and I don't understand the meaning of “SONGNAME” by [ARTIST]. Please make the lyrics easier to understand with a focus on simple English.
      • Follow-up: Students can also ask it to focus in on a specific verse, etc.
    • I am an English language learner trying to understand American culture better. Describe [SPECIFIC SCENE] from “MOVIE NAME”, focusing on dialogue and cultural references.

Try these out with your students. They don’t need to be assignments or tests — they can simply serve as a way to support students who need a little more. Consider putting the prompts in your LMS for students to refer back to and cut and paste when they need to review something or maybe just want a little extra practice. Leave a comment below if you have your own quick “go-to” prompts for your students!


About the author

Brent Warner

Brent Warner is a professor of ESL at Irvine Valley College in California, and an educational technology enthusiast. He is co-host of the DIESOL podcast, the only podcast with a specific focus on EdTech in ESL. He frequently presents on the crossroads of technology and language learning, focusing on student engagement and developing learner autonomy. Brent likes his coffee black and his oranges orange. He can be found on LinkedIn at @BrentGWarner.

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