Balancing Benefits and Concerns About AI Language Learning

In the business world, AI can be scary. But with the right messaging, it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a look at how three AI language learning companies are using copy to make their AI solutions approachable.

AI language learning offers exciting possibilities.

It’s okay to admit it: we’re all a little scared of artificial intelligence (AI). There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that—like what’s been going on for years with automation in the manufacturing world—companies are looking to AI to help cut costs by doing tasks that previously required good, old-fashioned elbow grease from a real person. At what point does AI come for all of our jobs?

But is fear the correct response? After all, AI used to play a purely additive role in our lives. Without AI, we wouldn’t have GPS, and we wouldn’t have phone voice assistants. We wouldn’t have spam filters for our email inboxes. Detecting diseases and cancerous cells in bodies was a lot slower before AI. And before the advent of online gaming, AI gave us video game monsters that fought us back to enable feelings of struggle and triumph. The list goes on.

Previously on the MarketSmiths blog, we’ve discussed our thoughts on AI-generated copywriting. And while it’s true that it often doesn’t yield very compelling copy, tools like ChatGPT at least have the linguistic basics nailed down. It makes you wonder: can we bring AI language learning tech back to when AI technology worked for people, not against us? 

Specifically, can it be used to help people accomplish one of the hardest things there is to do: learn a language? Finally—and this is the copywriter in my heart speaking—how do we humans use our words to convince AI skeptics to put down their pitchforks and embrace people-centric AI? These are lofty goals, but they’re ones that AI language learning companies have eagerly taken on.

ELSA offers a transparent message

ELSA is a digital English speaking coach app. Short for English Language Speech Assistant, ELSA uses AI language learning technologies to teach users to speak effective English. But what ELSA doesn’t do is speak English for you, à la Google Translate. Rather, ELSA’s focus is to ensure that if you apply yourself and study hard enough, you’ll no longer need it in your life because you’ll have learned how to speak English.

To reflect this approach, the hero copy atop ELSA’s home page attempts to show how ELSA embeds into your existing life. They want you to “meet” ELSA, because it’s your new “personal coach.”

But crucially, the company isn’t trying to paint ELSA as anything other than what it is: an AI, and one that’s built for people. Scroll down a bit and you’ll find a light, brief look at the “science behind ELSA”. The next section then illuminates some eye-catching statistics on people who used ELSA for 10 minutes a day for three months:

  • 90% saw improved pronunciation
  • 95% became more confident in their English speaking
  • 68% felt they spoke more clearly

This copywriting approach helps you feel more confident that ELSA isn’t just some typical app that does all the annoying things apps tend to do—like sell your personal information to a company who’ll inundate you with targeted ads. Rather, ELSA’s message is clear: a time investment in ELSA is an investment in your own education.

Learn why the best return on your marketing dollar comes from copywriting.

Blue Canoe appeals to universal desires

Then there’s Blue Canoe, who pitch themselves as a “methodical pronunciation app”. They have a similar humanized copywriting approach as ELSA, with hero copy evangelizing their app’s potent mixture of “brain science” and a “virtual AI teacher” to aid your daily English learning experience. 

Down the page, Blue Canoe calls attention to the universal idea that people all want to be understood and seen for who we really are, which is reflected back on how we sound: “We each have an accent based on where we grew up and the languages we heard as a child.” This copy both identifies and paints a uniquely human picture. AI could be trained to regurgitate some generic version of this idea, but having it come from that artificial perspective wouldn’t strongly connect with a reader because the AI can’t understand what being part of a culture is really like.

Next, the team at Blue Canoe acknowledges a commonly held view that learning to read and write English can be simple, but speaking it is a whole different ball game. With three simple bullets, us native English speakers are reminded of the particulars of the English language we tend to take for granted:

  • Spelling begets mispronunciation
  • Rhythm is foundational
  • Hardened adult brains prevent the observation of new sounds

As with ELSA, Blue Canoe then treats us to a look at the scientific design powering their app; namely, the “Color Vowel System”. However, their particular approach really impressed me; the team blends sharp, brief copy blurbs with graphics of a human eye, hand, and ear to detail how Blue Canoe can make learning to speak English more attainable. “Using your hand to highlight stress – the key syllable in a word – is like turning on a switch in your brain, and helps to pronounce the words correctly.”

This people-centric ethos extends back to the company’s name: Blue Canoe. The color blue is often associated with feelings of open spaces, freedom, and inspiration. Then there’s the canoe, a water vessel powered by people, not technology. Combined, this choice of words serves as a punchy copywriting masterwork, one that speaks to how Blue Canoe can help you navigate the often winding path toward that sublime feeling of learning a new language.

Memrise addresses common concerns

The third and final AI language learning company we’ll look at today is Memrise. Their name pairs well with their mission statement: “We teach languages for real-life use.” This approach is emblematic of a practicality-centered trend catered to by YouTube linguists like Yuta Aoki. It’s a response to how many people become more motivated to learn a new language when they know the information they’ll learn will actually apply in daily conversation.

Late in 2022, Memrise revealed MemBot, a GPT-3-based AI language learning partner. In the introductory blog post, there’s a section that addresses the fear of AI many share. Memrise’s conclusion is very much the same as where ELSA, Blue Canoe, and many other AI machine learning companies landed: “One of the main advantages of practicing conversation skills with MemBot is that it can personalize the learning experience to suit the individual needs of each student.”

An education giant got on the right track for marketing

One of the largest education companies on earth, Pearson publishes textbooks on virtually every discipline. But without the right marketing output, all that effort risked being for nothing. After tapping MarketSmiths, though, Pearson got on the right track. During busy times, we delivered consistent batches of dazzling copy, all routed through Pearson’s internal team. With over 150 copy sets under our belt, we’re proud to have got into our rhythm—and boost this storied publisher in a crowded market. 

> Read the full case study

Elevate your AI copywriting

The three companies we’ve analyzed understand that—as with any good or service—AI tools seem more appealing when copywriting shows how they can benefit our lives. So with AI still being new, largely uncharted territory, copywriters need to take ample time to firmly understand the benefits of what they’re helping to sell. 

Copywriting for AI solutions should also illuminate how AI can be a more effective way to accomplish goals than traditional options. Finally, copywriters need to allay fears of AI tools becoming overly invasive by stressing how their designs can support your growth and goals, not direct them. 

At MarketSmiths, we firmly believe that copywriting by people for people can be a powerful motivator. So, going forward, we’ll use AI as a tool for helping our clients thrive. That way, we can not only change the conversation around AI, but help rethink how it’s used—whether that’s to learn a new language, or tell a compelling story about the future of any industry.

Want a team of experts to refresh your marketing copy language? Get in touch with MarketSmiths today!

Devin Raposo

Devin Raposo

Forever curious, Devin writes to learn. Before becoming a ‘Smith, he studied as a software engineer while honing his craft writing short fiction as well as acerbic cultural critique in the arts space.

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