Automatic language translation

Tim Holt recently wrote this opinion piece for  El Paso Herald Post.

He wrote about various automatic language translation services that are available today.

He concluded with:

You can see where this is heading. It is pretty clear that in a few years, the need for conversational foreign language as course of study will no longer be needed. No more conjugating Spanish verbs. No longer trying to understand where the umlaut goes in German. There will be no need, except for those that wish to pursue a college career in languages. But even there, the question I would ask is “why?” Duolingo and Rosetta Stone better rethink their business model.

Losing foreign languages as a course in school may or may not be a good thing, as foreign languages also teach about cultures as well. On the other hand, the vast majority of people on the planet will be able to carry on meaningful conversations with each other without having to actually learn the language of the person they are conversing with, and in the process will learn about those cultures as part of the conversation.

This makes me wonder about the language programs at our local schools.  It should not be long before people will be able to carry a device that will translate between languages and thus only need to be fluent in one language.

Please remember that Mr. Holt does not run the school district that he works for.

I applaud him for publishing the article.

We deserve better


6 Responses to Automatic language translation

  1. Anonymous says:

    Recently I went to China. I’ve been going there every few years on business since the 80s but typically was traveling with English speakers so the language barrier was a big deal. This trip I had some free weekend time so I decided to explore the local economy, taking the subway. I got a bilingual map at the hotel and spent a day chatting with Madarin speakers using an iPhone app. It was pretty cool. While don’t think computer translators will replace the need to learn languages in environments that you live in every day, they do open up a whole new world in travel. One of things we need to keep in mind though is that citizens of most developed nations learn multiple languages in school and tend to think less of monolingual people. Fluency in multiple languages is very culturally engrained in Europe and parts of Asia. So I think it is an issue to look at from multiple dimensions.


  2. Ronald says:

    In a few years? I already need a language translation device just to place my order in English at my local Whattaburger.


  3. Concerned Taxpayer says:

    Why is the district pushing so much for dual language programs? Based on Tim Holt’s article, the program is not needed.


  4. Jaime Escuelante says:

    Some of our Spanish speaking high school students already do this and see no need to learn English. The apps will do all the work for them.


  5. […] this piece that I picked up from Brutus’ blog, and which appeared here originally, the author says you don’t need to learn a new language […]


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