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Will Technology Make Learning New Languages Obsolete?

16 posts in this topic

With cell phones, and new language apps being created all the time, do you think it's just a matter of time before we don't have to struggle when it comes to learning a new language?

One company has already made great strides toward a universal translator:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/16/tech/innovation/microsoft-skype-universal-translator/

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gs&hl=en

 

I personally love learning a new language for myself, but I can see the UT's as the way things will eventually be done-- in this universe, anyway.

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Short answer: no, not at all.

Long answer: this is perhaps only going to work with mono-lingual people, since they generally are unaware of the fact that languages are more different from each other than just vocabulary.
Machines are equally unaware of this, so even now you should take translation technology with a grain of salt.

Recently I've been travelling by train and I've been sitting next to somebody who only speaks Spanish.
He asked me how to get to Schiedam central station (which we already passed back then, as he asked it while we were at Rotterdam central station).
Even Google Translate on my phone was of no help, since it translated our dialogues very strangely both ways.
We were both glad a Spanish speaking American showed up and told him all the details.

So as you can see, even now language learning is much more beneficial than technology.

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Technology never will render the learning of new languages obsolete. While yes I've heard of these new ear buds which can allegedly translate languages in real time, at the present the best you can hope for is word by word translation provided the speaker enunciates their words clearly. That said, if you want to read something written in a language you don't know machine translations won't do because there'll be something lost in translation. That's why people will still have to learn new languages that interest them.

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I don't think technology will make language-learning obsolete. If anything, it can make it much easier! Back in the day, one would usually have to hire an expensive private tutor to be taught a new language; now, you can download free apps like duolingo, or pay smaller fees for online courses. This definitely speeds up the learning process and integrates it into our fast-paced, technology-driven lives. I have been more motivated to learn new languages because of technology – not the other way around! I know that there are apps such as google translate, that give you instant translations and such, but I still don't think that it replaces the actual need to know another language. Now, pretty much anyone can learn a new language, which is great! 

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I think yes. Technology is making communicate easier. Even if you do not know a certain language,you can use technology to communicate with a person who is using a language different from yours. There are many software and apps that help you in communication. Even if you want to learn a language, you can learn it easily.

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On 7/27/2016 at 0:56 PM, John Snort said:

Technology never will render the learning of new languages obsolete.

I feel like letting technology in our lives for everything eliminates the culture in things. I don't want to let technology make learning another language obsolete. I want to connect with the culture, sure it's good for basic things and helping out, but I don't want it ti just take over completely. That is if I had the choice.

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I think eventually when technology evolves enough it will become the main tool for translating so I do believe it will eventually be made obsolete by software. However I do think translating between languages is a bit too complex for even present day technology to cope with despite it already being so advanced so I personally am guessing that it will take many decades more before this would be perfected enough to serve as a substitute.

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Google Translate sucks at translating some words that have 2 different meanings, like in Tagalog, the word "mahal" can mean "love" or "expensive", so I don't think technology will be able to replace the conventional studying of a foreign language, whether that's through immersion or through studying via a tutor. Technology can make things easier and more convenient, but it can't make you really 100% fluent. Those online translators are erroneous to begin with!

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I don't think that a universal translator will be able to replace language learning in the next 50 years or so, if at all. For one, it will be difficult for machine translators to tell the nuances of each language. In French, Spanish, and Filipino, we can form questions by simply raising the tone at the end of what seems like a declarative sentence. Sounds simple, but how do computers translate questions like that and still make it appear like a question? In Filipino, there's this classic joke about the question "Bababa ba?" In English, it means "Is it going down?" I am sure that the machine translator will simply go crazy with that. 

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Language for me is a social thing. One can never fully learn a language without speaking it out and practicing it with actual people. We learn languages so we can communicate better with people of different languages. So I think that despite the emergence of technological features and innovations to help us translate and learn languages through apps and the internet, they will only serve as minor guides for us. Still, our learning primarily comes from our interaction with other people who speak our language and the language that we are trying to master. So, my answer is a big NO. :)

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Well I think that is a little far fetched, but it is certainly interesting to think about.  You can certainly make the argument and I would not really be there to say you were wrong, but if anything I would say that it would take a long time and we are talking like Brave New World and Harrison Bergeron like scenarios.  Those are always fun to ponder and imagine if we lived like that though, and there is a reason it is some of the more popular literature and entertainment sources out there.  Very interesting though, and I am curious to see what others thing, so thanks for sharing.

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4 hours ago, rz3300 said:

Well I think that is a little far fetched, but it is certainly interesting to think about.  You can certainly make the argument and I would not really be there to say you were wrong, but if anything I would say that it would take a long time and we are talking like Brave New World and Harrison Bergeron like scenarios.  Those are always fun to ponder and imagine if we lived like that though, and there is a reason it is some of the more popular literature and entertainment sources out there.  Very interesting though, and I am curious to see what others thing, so thanks for sharing.

I agree. I think it will take a long time for translation tools to evolve in a way where it can be seen as flawless enough to be put to daily practical use. I'm also interested in seeing what will happen when that comes about and what tools will come out because of it, but given the state of translation tools we have now I have to assume it is a bit far off in the future. If it's going to be anybody who will invent this I am guessing it will have to be google who will eventually perfect this technology though. 

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No, I don't think it will, there are too many people out there who wouldn't let it happen. I would not want it to, and it's nice to be able to stick to traditional ways of teaching our kids how to do something. This is tradition, and we shouldn't let tech do everything for us. I agree with @hades_leae, I want to see culture being taught by people and not tech.

It's much more passionate and meaningful, and you don't want your kids relying on tech for everything.

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Actually, you can never be really sure how far technology can go. It's progressing really fast lately, so in the future, there's always the possibility of technology making languages "universal". Maybe one day all we need is to speak something in our preferred language, and the other person will hear it in their preferred language. I think Google Translate is already starting it, where two speakers can speak in two different languages, the app will do all the translation.

Tech is supposed to make our lives easier, so I'm actually fine with relying on tech. I'm currently living in a country which doesn't speak English that much, so it's pretty tough for me to just get by. Ordering food, asking where the bus will stop at, etc. If I had a universal translator, I would definitely use it. Problem is, I don't foresee such a refined technology being created anytime soon.

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The only translation programme I use regularly is Google Translate. If this is an indication of the state of the art in machine translation, then I think human translators will still be in high demand for a long time to come. Most of the time, I use Google Translate to translate from English to Thai. It's not that I don't know Thai. I am simply hopeless at typing in Thai. So I use Google Translate to type in Thai for me. Since I am fluent in both English and Thai, I can immediately see where Google Translate has gone wrong. Now I have learned to put the English version in such a way that Google Translate will get it right in the Thai version.

Can machine translations improve over time? Well, that's a possibility. What's needed is to build in an AI for learning on the job, so to speak. A language is made up of so many things which cannot be fully covered by rules set in stone. As my English teacher used to say, it all depends on the usage. The very same words can mean different things with different inflexions and different body language. That's something which machine translations will have a hard time coping with.

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The advances made in computer translations are absolutely amazing compared to yesteryear.  But will it ever completely replace learning another language?  No.  I'm not convinced a machine can ever get the nuisances completely right.  And learning language isn't completely utilitarian, it is enriching in its own right.  Still, it is an interesting topic and I am fascinated by what the world of technology will come up with next.

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