Deepfaking Multilingualism

There’s no way around it: This is going to freak the “second” out of a lot of English as a Second Language Teachers.

If we weren’t already dealing with concern about ChatGPT commandeering students’ writing, here comes AI for their speaking, too. 

That’s right; for only $3 you can speak – actually speak – English (or a smattering of other languages), show yourself talking on video, enunciate the sounds with your lips, and upload it to your teachers online. Oh, and all of this in your own voice, natch.

Don’t believe me? Check out this video of me speaking Chinese, a language I didn’t know I could speak!

Alright, so unless you really haven’t been paying attention you probably had at least an idea that something like this might come along. Honestly, I knew it was coming fast, but I thought this type of stuff would become available in Spring of ’24, not Summer of ’23. Not that the extra 8-9 months would have given us a lot of breathing room. So here we are. 

Before we get into implications for ESL, can we pause for a minute and just admire HOW AWESOME THAT IS?!?! I mean, I know people are worried about the future of the field, but come on

Updates to Deepfaking

This is less of a deepfake and more of a very sophisticated filter. Unlike in the Deepfaking Myself post, this actually is a video of me talking, and it is saying what I’m saying, it’s just that it’s all in Chinese — which again — I do not speak. Also, it seems like they made me a little prettier in the Chinese version🤷🏻‍♂️. 

Less than a month ago Ixchell and I put out an episode called Will AI Kill TESOL? We got some feedback that there’s no need to scare people, but that wasn’t our intention. If we’re serious about our profession, we need to be willing to have open talks about where things are in the field, and like my doctor said, “You can’t just ignore that thing growing on your nose”

Listen in here. I think it’s a fair conversation:

How Easy Is It?

Crazy easy. I thought the few steps for deepfaking myself were easy, but they’re nothing compared to this.

I made an account with HeyGen and jumped into their “Labs” section. Basically, this is still considered to be in Beta, but you already saw what it’s producing above.

(note using the link above gives me a free credit to experiment more. If you don’t want to use a Friend Link, you can go directly to

You upload a video of yourself, and then about 5 minutes later you download yourself speaking in another language. That’s it. 

The only problem is that it takes 1.5 credits, and you are only given 1 credit to sample, so you actually have to make a purchase to get it. Hey Gen gives you 15 credits for $29, so doing the math it cost me $3 to make that video. 

Cool things you could do for your students

I know there are concerns, but first let’s think about some of the very cool things you could do with this. At the moment you can have yourself speak in the following languages:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Hindi
  • Italian
  • German
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Mandarin
  • Japanese
  • Dutch
  • Turkish
  • Korean

For those of you teaching true beginners, imagine how powerful a video of you greeting your students in their language before the class even began would be. You don’t have to —and shouldn’t— make videos of everything, of course, but it would be a gesture that could go a long way, especially for students who are shy or unsure of what to expect.

You could also have students introduce each other to each other in different languages. This would seem to be the real goal of being a multilingual learner if we can strip away our idea that English is the way to do that. 

With a little imagination, you can start to see the ways this can make your life easier, and your students’ lives better.

Ok, I do admit this is a fair question:

But what do I do if my students start using it?

Alright. Let’s get down to brass tacks. It’s a come-to-Jesus moment for some, but here’s the truth:





Students are going to find these tools and find use in them. As Ixchell and I talked about in Episode 88 above, we’re going to need to start looking at student motivation for learning English. It’s becoming more and more apparent that they won’t need English to communicate and succeed in a multi-cultural world. 

Will we lose some students? Yes. 

Will other students start to see that learning a language has value beyond communicating an idea? Yes! 

Students will study English just like they study anything else in the world. Most people who study cross-stitching or engine repair or photography don’t need those things, but they find joy and value in them, and they continue to find ways to get better at them – often with the support of excellent teachers. So will be the case with English. A wonderful hobby with a rich and deep culture that can open up people’s minds to the world and increase their ability to be at the high end of critical thinkers and global citizens. 

Isn’t that, after all, what we’re teaching them for?

2 responses to “Deepfaking Multilingualism”

  1. Michael Beamer Avatar
    Michael Beamer

    The comments from the student on your Chinese speaking video are really enlightening. As with calculator watches which came out when I was in elementary school, teachers will be as innovative as they need to be to circumvent possible cheating. As you said, they are going to find and use these tools, so we have to adapt along with them.

    One use I do see this being really awesome for (and I’m not up on current apps which may do this to varying degrees) is people traveling to other countries, either for pleasure or business.

    Thanks for all you two do! (Hi, Ixchell!)

    1. Brent Avatar

      Hi Michael! This will be hugely beneficial to travelers. It won’t be long before the translations are real-time, so we’re going to see some massive shifts in how people experience international travel. Definitely lots of cool stuff on the horizon!

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