Tiede ja korkeakoulu

Round table on Robot, Artificial Intelligence and Language: what are we talking about?

torstai 18/11/2021 17:30

Can we really discuss and learn with a robot?

European School of Helsinki
Bulevardi 18 00100 Helsinki

Whether in literature, movies or TV series, for decades humans have been projecting an artificial intelligence into a more or less humanoid or animal body, or an avatar. We dream of an assistant, or even a companion, while we fear a predator, a substitute. How much of this is fantasy, how much is marketing, and how much is concrete, technical reality in the development of these so-called ”social” agents?

To share this question, a discussion on the deeply interactional and social nature of human language is one way to, on the one hand, update the nuances that exist between Siri or Alexa and a person who says hello to us, and, on the other, not too radically condemn the technological development of AIs. The discussion is also expected to focus on the interaction between the robot and the children in foreign language learning context based on experiences conducted in Finnish classes. How do children respond verbally and emotionally to robots in language learning situations?

The round table will comprise 4 experts, working on these topics and will be moderated by Jean-Philippe Payette, French teacher at the European School of Helsinki

(Event in english)

Nicolas Rollet, who holds a PhD in language sciences (ILPGA, Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, 2012), has specialized in the study of interactions in ordinary and professional contexts such as family meetings, musical rehearsals, digital library use, emergency medical interaction, human-robot interaction or prenatal ultrasound sessions (Télécom Paris, SAMU-Centre15, Urgence 114, CNRS, BNF).  His work falls within the framework of Ethnomethodology, and Conversational Analysis accompanied by an ethnographic sensitivity. He is interested, among other things, in the way language is integrated into the body and in the integration of technical devices in complex social activities. He is Assistant professor at Telecom Paris in the social sciences department.


Marjut Johansson is a Professor at the Department of French Studies, at the School of Languages and Translation Studies, University of Turku. Her most recent topic focuses on interaction that is based on artificial intelligence, such as chatbots and robot-human interaction. Her other work covers topics on digital interaction and discourse and it includes work that examines online news discourse, social media, Twitter and discussion forum discussions, and videos. She has co-edited several volumes pertaining to these topics. She is also interested in multimodal, digital humanities, and mixed method approaches.


Liisa Peura is a PhD student at the Department of French at the University of Turku, Finland. She is a member of the research team RoboLang (https://sites.utu.fi/robolang/). Her main interest is in interaction and FL learning in school contexts – new pedagogical designs, affective reactions to Robot Assisted Language Learning (RALL), willingness to communicate and learning outcomes in RALL. She has a long experience as a French teacher developing language learning in Espoo. Her inspiration is to bridge pragmatism and research through language learning at school.


Teppo Jakonen eworks as Academy of Finland Research Fellow at the School of Languages and Translation Studies, University of Turku. In broad terms, his research explores the role of social interaction in language teaching and learning activities from a multimodal conversation analytic perspective. His previous work has addressed issues related to how the human body and physical objects are used as resources for learning, how technological devices organise interaction, as well as what interactional practices and language norms are like in bilingual classrooms. He participates in the project Telepresence robot mediated embodied interaction in hybrid language learning environments (2021-2026), which studies how robots can be used to support distance participation in classroom teaching.