Duolingo’s new chatbots help you brush up on your foreign language conversation skills

A lot of startups are talking about the possibilities of chatbots, but Duolingo recently launched one of the most interesting uses so far — practicing a new language.

The Duolingo chatbots allow users to hold text message conversations in French, Spanish or German, with the chatbots taking on different personas to discuss different topics. You probably won’t mistake them for real people, but they do allow you to get closer to the experience of conversing with a native speaker. And if you’re not sure what to say next, you can get some suggestions by hitting the “help my reply” button.

I did a quick demo of the chatbots (which are currently iOS-only) in the video above. Specifically, I tried the Spanish chatbot, because it’s a language that I can kinda, sorta speak. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you have to complete the first few Duolingo lessons before you get access to the chatbot feature — which meant that as a newbie, I had to borrow my sister’s account (thanks Laura!).

With their bright, colorful characters and their tendency to stick to a single topic, the chatbots reminded me of my Spanish textbook, but hey, they gave me the chance to exercise my conversational skills — frankly, in a way that I haven’t in a long, long time.