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25 Engaging Ways to Practice English with Voice Assistants

January 8, 2018

“Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.”

—Vernon Howard

Mobile learning and advances in artificial intelligence mean most of the world has access to virtual voice assistants. Many of our learners know you can ask Siri, Alexa, and Google questions and receive a verbal response. Some of our learners might also have a device at home that helps them turn these virtual assistants into digital butlers. The devices allow people to command Alexa and Google to complete tasks such as ordering groceries, turning on the lights, and playing their favorite music playlists.

Encourage your students to practice English daily with their voice assistants using the tips and resources listed below. Continuous practice with voice activated technology will help your language learners enhance their speaking and listening skills while they are learning English in an engaging way. Remember that with each command you need to start with “Hey Google/Siri/Alexa.”

Writing & Editing Assistant

Voice assistants make the writing and editing process more engaging. When editing their own writing or the writing of their peers, encourage students to use their voice assistants to check the spelling of words by asking Siri, Alexa, or Google, “How do you spell ____?” Students can also ask for synonyms or antonyms of words by asking, “What are synonyms/antonyms for ____?” Students can even ask grammar questions and be led to a website with more information and examples.

Reading & Research Buddy

Encourage students to use voice assistants to help provide them with context, research, and help when they read. When students come across words they aren’t familiar with, they can ask Siri, Alexa, or Google, “What is the definition for ____?” They can also translate words with the command, “Translate ___ into ____ (language).”

Students can also ask their voice assistants about the author, the setting, or any other research question. The queries could be phrased as, “Who is _____? What is ______? Where is ____?” When the assistant doesn’t know, then the assistant will lead students to websites with the information. Encourage students to click on the links and see what they discover.

Interactive Fun

Students can play interactive speaking games with their virtual assistants by downloading the free Google Assistant app on Android or iOS devices. On the app try the following interactive activities:

  • “Okay Google, Mad Libs.” Use this command to play the famous Mad Libs game with Google. Add nouns, verbs, and adjectives to help Google complete a story.
  • “Okay Google, talk to everyday heroes.” With this command, students conduct interviews with everyday heroes like police detectives or zookeepers. These are pre-recorded responses from real people who describe their jobs and answer other questions.
  • “Okay Google, let’s play a game.” This command will prompt you with audio games, such as Mad Libs or Trivia, or chat games, such as Emoji Riddles and Movies. Guess the movie titles or riddles disguised as emojis.
  • “Okay Google, talk to Akinator.” With this command, Google turns into a genie who asks you a series of yes-or-no questions to guess the character you are thinking of.
  • “Okay Google, talk to Huffpost Headline Quiz.” With this command, Google plays a game answering questions about current events.
  • “Okay Google, I want to talk to Number Genie.” With this command, guess the number Google is thinking of by listening to the hints.
  • “Okay Google, talk to Space Trivia.” With this command, answer trivia about space.
  • “Okay Google, play Sports Illustrated Kids Trivia.” With this command, answer trivia about sports.
  • “Okay Google, are you feeling lucky?” Use this command to play a trivia game alone or with your friends.
  • “Okay Google, talk to Song Pop.” With this command, answer trivia about popular songs.
  • “Okay Google, crystal ball.” With this command, Google transforms into your very own fortune teller answering yes-or-no questions.
  • “Okay Google, call Dustin from Stranger Things.” If your students are fans of the TV series Stranger Things, they can have an interactive conversation with him answering trivia from the show.
  • “Okay Google, call Santa.” Use this command to talk to Santa and answer some questions for him as his helper.

Google Voice Experiments

Google is encouraging coders to test the abilities of voice interaction technology with Voice Experiments. Visit the website to find free learning activities using the microphone on your computer. You can also play these games with a Google Home device. Below are a few of my favorite voice experiments for language learners. Make sure to allow access to your microphone. Some experiments require some setup and permissions before you begin.

  • Mystery Animal The computer pretends to be an animal. Students ask 20 yes-or-no questions aloud in order to guess the animal, and the computer responds.
  • MixLab Students will enjoy creating their own music using voice commands like, “Play me a funky bass” or “Add some jazz drums.”
  • Story Speaker Students can create talking, interactive stories by writing their stories in a Google Doc and then adding the Story Speaker add-on for it to be read aloud. This requires some set-up.

More Ideas

In addition to these engaging activities, you can ask your virtual assistant to give you homework help, sing you songs, read you a story, or read you a poem. Alexa calls the interactive commands “Skills.” You can do fun things like play a choose-your-own-adventure game by saying, “Alexa, open the magic door” or investigate a murder by saying, “Alexa, open the Wayne Investigation.” Check out the following links for more fun with virtual assistants:

How do you use technology to encourage students to practice speaking and listening in English outside the classroom?

If you want to receive more of Shelly’s tips for online resources for teaching English, then check out her feed!

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Comments (2)

Cristina Z.(Teacher)

GREAT! I can´t wait to tell my students and use it, I´m sure they will love it.

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Patricia (Guest)

Excellent post! Awesome tips! Well done :-)
How about some tips for job hunters next?

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