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AI brings history to life for modern language learners

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Adults on Newbury College’s online Spanish Study and Conversation course recently got the unique opportunity to converse with a significant historical figure from almost 500 years ago, La Malinche.

Their conversation was made possible through cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) technology, specifically, OpenAI’s language model, ChatGPT. Under the guidance of their tutor, Shaun Daubney, the students leveraged ChatGPT to ask questions and gain insights about the historical period from La Malinche’s perspective.

La Malinche, a Nahua woman from the Mexican Gulf Coast, is renowned for her crucial role as an interpreter, advisor, and intermediary for the Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire (1519–1521).

The interactive session, designed to augment the students’ ongoing studies of pre-Hispanic civilisations, offered a novel and immersive way to engage with history and deepen their understanding of Aztec life during the Spanish Conquest. ChatGPT was programmed to respond to students’ questions in the guise of La Malinche, providing answers with impressive historical accuracy and allowing students to develop their Spanish conversational skills.

While the AI offered an engaging learning experience, it reminded students that its simulation was strictly based on the historical data available. It emphasised that it could not make assumptions about La Malinche’s personal opinions or hypothetical situations beyond its training data.

Spanish Tutor, Shaun Daubney, said:

“It’s not every day that you invite a 500-year-old guest speaker into your lesson. The students had a positive learning experience using AI as an innovative research tool. This type of interaction marks a significant shift in the approach towards learning and research, offering an engaging, direct, and conversational method for understanding topics.

By taking advantage of technological advancements, Newbury College continues to position itself at the forefront of innovative learning techniques, reshaping the future of education and enhancing the overall learning experience for its students.

The College offers Spanish, French and Italian language courses alongside an engaging range of adult learning programmes, including Maths, English, Essential Digital Skills and vocational qualifications. To discover how Newbury College is creating opportunities to transform lives and apply for September, visit here.

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