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'Like a teacher there 24/7': ChatGPT tool supports English education at Japan univ. - The Mainichi - The Mainichi

'Like a teacher there 24/7': ChatGPT tool supports English education at Japan univ. – The Mainichi – The Mainichi

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'Like a teacher there 24/7': ChatGPT tool supports English education at Japan univ. - The Mainichi - The Mainichi Japan’s National Daily Since 1922
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(Mainichi Japan)
Japanese version
TOKYO — Ritsumeikan University has been experimentally introducing an English learning support tool combining ChatGPT and machine translation functions in some of its English classes since this spring, and a student reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun looked into the background and thoughts on the project.
“Transable” automatically translates Japanese into English, and at the same time checks the grammar of the translated English sentences. It can also back-translate English texts into Japanese and on the same screen check whether the English sentences have been created as intended.
Furthermore, by incorporating ChatGPT, users can ask questions and demand things in addition to receiving an explanation as to why the translated English text is correct. For example, if one asks for the use of a different phrase, multiple English expressions will be suggested. Moreover, users can have ChatGPT evaluate the quality of English sentences they have created on their own and have it point out any mistakes.
Kohei Sugiyama, a doctoral student at the university’s Graduate School of Science and Engineering who developed the tool, explained, “It’s like having an English teacher who is always there for you, 24/7.” He coined the term Transable, which is a portmanteau of the words “translate” and “transform” with the suffix “able” attached at the end.
The 28-year-old says the reason behind developing Transable “was the need for more efficient mutual translation between Japanese and English when I had to write a paper in English.” Sugiyama revealed the tool in January with the support of Tokyo-based IT learning service planning and development company Studymeter Inc.
Highly evaluated for its possibilities
Ritsumeikan University highly evaluated Transable’s performance and introduced it in April on a trial basis at some of its “Project-based English Program” (PEP) English classes being offered by the College of Life Sciences and College of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Tsukasa Yamanaka, 43, a professor at the university’s College of Life Sciences, who is in charge of the PEP classes, touched on the potential for new English education using generative artificial intelligence (AI), saying, “If students make good use of technology, it should be possible for them to communicate the message they really want to convey at that moment.”
Yamanaka says the use of generative AI was particularly effective when students worked in groups, and he asked them to plan a panel discussion. Students asked ChatGPT to come up with themes, roles and the flow of the discussion, which were then used as the basis for their own ideas to create their final work in both English and Japanese. Yamanaka said, “I felt that the time saved by using technology could be used to create originality, which resulted in the improvement in the quality of the work.”
Students have given positive feedback about the use of Transable in class. For example, one student said, “Not only does it save time during writing, but it also allows me to discover new expressions in English.”
Learning how to use Transable to improve English skills
However, some people are concerned that the use of generative AI may reduce the students’ learning abilities. In response, professor Yamanaka prohibited students from merely reading texts created by Transable during class presentations, and keeps in mind “the fact that the final presentation should be made by the students themselves.”
Since Transable can create high-level English texts, students can learn English by either modifying the expressions to make them easier to use or memorizing the sentences as they are. Yamanaka commented, “I hope students will learn how to use the new tool to improve their English skills.”
The use of such tools has opened up the possibility for people who are not familiar with English to communicate and participate in difficult discussions in the foreign language. Transable is currently available free of charge online. Sugiyama said, “I would like to improve Transable so that it can provide education more suited to the learners’ English levels.”
(Japanese original by Yui Yamaguchi, Taisho University and Campal reporter)
***
Campal
A portmanteau of “campus” and “pal.” The official name is “Mainichi Shimbun Campal Editorial Department.” The first article from Campal was published on Feb. 4, 1989, and now appears in various publications including the Mainichi Shimbun’s news site and its Tokyo morning edition. About 20 student reporters, mainly from Tokyo metropolitan area universities, are engaged in its activities. The department’s mission is “to convey things students want to know.” Students do everything from planning to reporting and writing. It has expanded to nine areas nationwide.
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'Like a teacher there 24/7': ChatGPT tool supports English education at Japan univ. - The Mainichi - The Mainichi
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