“Alexa, what exactly are you?”

Alexa is a virtual AI assistant owned by Amazon. She is voice-activated – like Siri for Apple devices, and can be used in conjunction with a number of third-party apps known as Alexa Skills.

One of the challenges with learning English, outside of an English-speaking country, is the absence of someone to practise with. Speaking in particular is the hardest skill to do on your own – there’s a limit to how much you can talk to yourself! At the risk of sounding like the plot of a Black Mirror episode, what if you could have English conversations with a virtual assistant?

This article will outline ways that Alexa, with the addition of some free Alexa Skills, can help you to practise and improve your English.


1. Ask questions and practise pronunciation


First up, you can practise your speaking by asking Alexa a variety of questions and listening to her responses. You can ask her anything related to general knowledge, the news or even personal questions. But she might not answer the latter in the way you would expect!

Alexa can even define words in English for you, and can help you learn the correct pronunciation. To practise, just repeat after her, in the same way you would repeat new words after your teacher in the classroom.


2. Practise different accents


Alexa has had a few different identities over the years – and has had a number of famous voices. You might recognise Gordon Ramsey and Cardi B, in this superbowl commercial:


If you want to practise having conversations with a celebrity, you can actually pay to have Samuel L Jackson’s voice tell you jokes and give you weather updates.

But if that’s not in your budget, Alexa’s calm and melodious voice can be changed to reflect accents from the US, the UK and Australia. If you struggle to understand different accents, this can be a good way to familiarise yourself with different sounds and pronunciation.


3. Test your note taking skills


Alexa is so versatile she can even help you practise your note-taking skills. Simply ask her to read a text aloud. While she’s speaking, listen and note down the key words and main events.

Listen as many times as you need to, to make sure you have understood.

Then, take some time to rewrite the text in your own words. Make sure that you don’t change the meaning. Once you have finished, check your work against the original text and correct any mistakes.

This is a version of a popular classroom activity that helps you improve listening, note-taking and summarisation skills – it’s an all-rounder! If you want additional help, you can show your teacher what you’ve written and the text Alexa read for you. They can give you tips to improve and help you correct any spelling or grammar mistakes.


4. Use Daily Dose to learn vocabulary and practise listening


Daily Dose is an Alexa Skill that is specifically designed for language learning. Alexa will start off by asking you which language you would like to learn. Then you can choose from two types of lessons.

The first lesson is Word of the Day. This is a 1-minute lesson where a word and its pronunciation and meaning are presented to you. Since it is such a short lesson, you can easily make this a daily habit. Before long, you will have learnt a lot of new vocabulary! Just remember to write down the words each day and review your list.

The second lesson type is a full 10-20 minute audio lesson, delivered by Alexa. These lessons follow themes like “Exercise” and “How to order at a restaurant”. A new audio lesson is available every single day.

With Daily Dose, you can choose the intensity of your language learning experience. Remember, don’t bite off more than you can chew! It is better to do less each day if it means that you can be more consistent.


5. Download Interview Prep to improve your career


If you are learning English for your career, it is important to get comfortable with answering interview questions in English. Interview Prep is an Alexa Skill that asks you questions which are commonly part of an interview.

You need to listen carefully to the question and give an appropriate response. You can choose what kind of job you are interviewing for; for example programming, a management position, or for large international companies like Google or Amazon.

It’s a great way to practise, because you can’t guess what Alexa is going to ask. And in this way, it emulates the interview experience. Of course, Alexa isn’t able to listen to your response and give you feedback, but answering the questions will at least help you to build your fluency and confidence.


6. Use games to learn vocabulary


You may already be familiar with this popular television show: Jeopardy! It’s a general knowledge quiz broken up into categories with several questions. Well, now you can play it at home and improve your language skills at the same time! Download this Alexa skill here.

Alexa introduces a category and reads out a question. You have a limited amount of time to give the correct answer. The numerous categories mean that you can choose a topic you are familiar with. This means you can review vocabulary or take the opportunity to learn about an unfamiliar topic.

Not only does Alexa’s Jeopardy! test your general knowledge skills, but it also gives you a fun way to practise your listening and comprehension under time pressure – something that is not often taken into account during self-study.

Using Alexa to help you practise your English in an unconventional way can keep your language learning experience fresh and dynamic. We are not at the stage where AI virtual assistants are exactly the same as interacting with another human, but who knows what future advances in technology will bring?

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Plot (n): a series of events that form the story for a movie or book.

The latter (n): the way to refer to the last thing you mentioned in a previous sentence.

Budget (n): the money that is available to you.

All-rounder (n): something, or someone, that has a complete set of skills.

To bite off more than you can chew (exp): to try to do more than you can manage.

Under time pressure (exp): when you have a limited time to do something.

To take something into account (exp): to consider something when making a decision.


n = noun

exp = expression

Study English at Oxford House Barcelona

Interested in taking an English course at Oxford House Barcelona? Check all of our different English courses, or contact us for more information.

Leave a Reply

Captcha *