Microsoft Research's latest app uses AI to teach you Chinese

Called simply Microsoft Learn Chinese, the iOS app is intended to give learners a way to practice conversation without a partner, Microsoft says (opens in new tab). Interestingly, the app also relies on the same machine-learning framework that powers Xiaoying, a chatbot Microsoft launched on WeChat in 2016 to help Chinese speakers learn English.

While apps like Duolingo and Babbel already make it fairly simple to start learning a new language from your phone, Microsoft is looking to close the communication gap that may rear its head with a lack of conversational practice. "You think you know Chinese, but if you meet a Chinese person and you want to speak Chinese, there is no way you can do it if you have not practiced," explained Yan Xia, senior develop lead at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing. "Our application addresses this issue by leveraging our speech and natural language processing technology."

Leveraging the tech established by Xiaoying, Microsoft Learn Chinese uses deep neural networks to recognize what learners are trying to say and evaluate their pronunciation. The app will then give you feedback with scores, highlighted words that need improvement, and audio to hear the correct pronunciation. "The app will work with you as a language learning partner," said Xia. "It will chat with you and give you feedback based on what you are saying."

Microsoft Learn Chinese is available now for iOS devices on the App Store (opens in new tab).

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • I need a Microsoft Learn German app for my Elite X3. The conversational app would help immensely. Duolingo says that I am 64% fluent in German. Maybe for reading German. But I seroiusly doubt I could have any kind of meaningful conversation with a German speaker.
  • Na das können wir doch gleich mal probieren. Was möchtest du denn erzählen? Ich schlage jetzt mal als 'meaningful conversation' ganz klassisch das Wetter vor. Bei mir schiffts nur und man friert sich den Arsch ab. Insofern grüße an eine hoffentlich vom Wetter her freundlichere Gegend. 
  • Den Arsch ab. Ordentlich Deutsch haha
  • Same, but with French :/. I took 3 semesters in college and can read it pretty well, but I feel like carrying on a conversation would be nigh impossible.
  • IOS?!?*&%!  More bone-headed crap from MS.   It should at least run on Android or WIndows.
  • When on Android?
  • As soon as you migrate to iPhone, Then MSFT will hook you up.
  • Works on iPod Touch!
  • Seriously?
  • Awesome, but no UWP app??
    Come on Microsoft!
    This is becoming worse than a joke... if they are going to use Artificial Intelligence to assist learning, then surely having a UWP app, alongside an android app makes more sense?
    (As greater the sample size, the more data available for analysis). Since after all Microsoft well and truly destroyed any UWP growth by neglecting their OWN platform. Otherwise it should be UWP first, ios and android later.
  • get an android emulator . MS has a retarded market practice of gutting its own customers .
  • Please read the news, this app doesn't have Android version either, iOS only. On one hand MS suggest WP users go to Android as MS can customize Android to be more MS friendly. On the other hand, some MS own app is iOS only, or iOS first. This type of inconsistency would just harm the fans again.
  • The irony, instead of making a cross platform Azure and Xamarin powered app they make an iOS only app...
  • Looks like cross department co-operation still needs a long way to go.
  • We need this app on windows platform, especially on PC's and with Spanish, French and German language support at least. This will change the future of learning languages if applied correctly.
  • Actually Skype's real time translator could have done that but... we all know what market Skype went after by trying to be like snapchat.. only to fail miserably.
  • I would love an app like this in Japanese. Would save a considerable amount of time for me if I would not need to finish my own app, just use one like this. And obviously, it needs a UWP app, which supports inking as well. Ability to write and read in Chinese and as well in Japanese is critical. 
  • Microsoft also should move some of it's best People to an Earth quake safe location
    because Microsoft is located in the Cascades Fault zone. The greatest
    Earthquakes in the USA occur there 9 plus Earth quakes on the Richter scale. An
    Earthquake there could kill a great deal of Microsoft's Workers, destroy Bill Gates
    house there or Kill Bill Gates & Family. This is no Joking matter. All main
    headquarters of a Company should avoid Earth quake zones faults and be
    100 miles inland from Oceans if possible