Learn a language by chatting with an AI virtual pen pal through text messages.
There's a lot of excitement around generative AI right now, and my friend Bryan and I wanted to learn more about the technology and see what it's capable of. Both of us have been trying to learn new languages on and off for a few years (for me it's Japanese and Spanish, for Bryan it's Chinese), but it's hard to find someone to practice with. We've tried taking classes, finding online tutors through sites like Italki, or using Duolingo—but nothing beats just being able to talk to someone in the language you're practicing, consistently.
Pen Pal was a small experimental app we created to help people practice new languages. Each pen pal is an AI personality, but rather than opening up ChatGPT or Bard to speak with them, you could text your pen pal like a normal friend. Texting makes the conversations feel more “real"—and to lean into this feeling of realness, each pen pal has a different name, personality, and background.
Eventually we had to close Pen Pal because of the cost of running the chat and texting services, but you can get in touch with me if you want to know more about how it worked!