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February 2016: L2TOR: Using Robots to Help Immigrant Children Learn German

Monday, February 29, 2016

February 2016: L2TOR: Using Robots to Help Immigrant Children Learn German

With hundreds of thousands of refugee children entering the German school system, teachers face unprecedented challenges. Teaching a child a second language individually is something that most classrooms cannot do. However, language acquisition is imperative to integration.

Could technical assistants be used to help prepare immigrant children for school and teach them a new language? L2TOR, pronounced 'el tutor' which stands for 'Second Language Tutoring Using Social Robots,' is a new project financed by the European Commission that is researching this very question.

One research group at Bielefeld University's Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) plans to provide tutoring systems with tablet PCs and the cute programmable robot 'Nao' to assist in language training. To do this, the researchers are developing modules that recognize a child's language abilities and motivation so that the robot can react individually to each child.

"We are investigating how interactive robots can be used to help teach children between the ages of four and six a second language," said Prof. Dr. Stefan Kopp, who heads the research group Social Cognitive Systems, which belongs to the Faculty of Technology and is part of CITEC. "We are working to provide children with the language abilities that they need for school."

Dr. Kirsten Bergmann, who works in Kopp's research group, explained, "It is important that the robot recognizes how the child being taught feels and whether he or she is frustrated or confused, for example." She continued, "We program the robot so that it can shape its interaction with the child so that he or she is being supported in the best way possible."

L2TOR just launched last month and will run for three years. Computer scientists, educators, and linguists are working together on this project as a consortium of five universities and two companies.

To read more in New Scientist's article "Robot language tutors to get kids up to speed before school," click here.

For further questions, contact Prof. Dr. Stefan Kopp at or Dr. Kirsten Bergmann at

Source & Image: CITEC/Bielefeld University