The future of language education: Teachers’ perceptions about the surge of AI writing tools



2024-06-04 — Updated on 2024-06-06

Section: Regular Articles


  • Giovanni Zimotti Email ORCiD The University of Iowa, USA
  • Claire Frances Email ORCiD University of Iowa, USA
  • Luke Whitaker Email ORCiD University of Iowa, USA


Machine translation (MT) tools have been causing language educators distress since 2006, when GoogleTranslate was first launched. With its ever-increasing efficiency, it has become a reference for language learners looking for shortcuts, and the bane of second language (L2) educators concerned with academic honesty. Henshaw (2020) notes that, over the years, educators have developed a range of approaches for dealing with MT, from incorporating translation activities to outright bans. Educators' anxiety over the surge of new tools is completely normal. “When confronted with a new phenomenon, especially one that can be perceived as an existential threat, a common human reaction is to wish the problem away” (Urlaub & Dessein, 2022, p. 52). While many would seem to wish away ChatGPT and other AI writing tools, they are here to stay. Proliferating at an astronomical rate (ChatGPT garnered over 100 million users just two months after its release) and armed with the ability to imitate natural speech in any genre and language, these tools are poised to accelerate the academic disruption MT tools started. The goal of this study is to examine the perceptions and solutions of L2 educators facing a tool that is arguably more powerful than GoogleTranslate. We surveyed over 100 language instructors, asking questions about their ideas for AI-proofing assignments, their policies, and their perceptions of how this tool will impact the profession. Data was collected through an anonymous survey and analyzed through a constructivist lens. Preliminary results show a mixture of sentiments toward the use of these tools in the language classroom, with some fearful for their job security and others excited about the tools’ potentialities. The second part of this article looks towards the future and seeks to provide an overview of faculty approaches to AI tools, including ideas for assignments and policies.

Keywords: Generative AI, Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), Artificial intelligence

Suggested Citation:

Zimotti, G., Frances, C., & Whitaker, L. (2024). The future of language education: Teachers’ perceptions about the surge of AI writing tools. Technology in Language Teaching & Learning, 6(2), 1–24.


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