If computers can soon translate human speech from one language to another, should people continue to learn a foreign language?

by Chief Spanish Learner on April 15, 2012

So I queried a few other bloggers, asking “If computers can soon translate human speech from one language to another, should people continue to learn a foreign language?”

Here is the first reply:

As anyone who has ever attempted to learn a foreign language can tell you, there’s a difference between functionality and fluency in a language. While I think computers can ultimately (and thankfully) replace the awkward struggles with vacation phrase books that were like a neon sign saying “tourist”, they can never replace a deeper level of learning.

Every language contains humor, sarcasm, slang, idioms, and expressions that are hard for a native speaker to understand at times, let along a computer. While software translating your own voice into another language is spectacularly cool, can you ever really feel connected to someone speaking a different language than you if you have to interact through a computer? Can you think of any interaction between people that wouldn’t be smoother if there was no computer involved and the two parties could talk directly?

There’s a market for computers translating speech, but at the same time, I think we’re a VERY long ways away from the point where we wouldn’t benefit from taking the time to learn another language. If nothing else, taking the time to learn a language properly gets you far more credibility with foreign cultures than using translation software.

contributed by Alex Conde at Searchingforhappy.com – A website about one man’s experiments in increasing happiness

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