Will Language Learning Become Obsolete? (We Find Out)


As technology continues to advance, one may wonder if language learning will go the way of the dinosaurs. Through apps and technological advancements, some say the need for learning new languages is diminishing, but many argue otherwise. Knowing multiple languages gives you an advantage, but to what extent? So, will language learning become obsolete?

No, second and foreign language learning will not become obsolete. Despite the resources available to bridge the language barrier, technology cannot replace the significance of speaking and understanding foreign languages, nor can it compensate for cultural appreciation. 

Every situation differs, but everyone is likely to experience a situation where they will have a language barrier. In this article, you will see the factors that may render language learning obsolete and the benefits of language learning. You will also discover the future of language learning based on technological advancements and marketability.

Why Language Learning May Become Obsolete

Technological advancements are the main reason why the importance of language learning is diminishing. Tech companies everywhere are developing apps and other resources to help shorten language barrier gaps. In this section, you will see some of the advancements and apps that are making language learning less significant today.

AppsDevices
iTranslate Voice 3WT2 Language Translator 
SayHiPocketalk Language Translator
TextGrabber ili Instant Offline Translator 
MyLingoLincom Language Translator Device
Apps and devices make language barriers less cumbersome.

Though these apps have the same goal, many are niche products. The apps and devices being developed are not as black and white as just language translators. Some are specific for voice, while others are utilized for texting. Some are used with in-person interactions, while others are designed for activities like going to the movies.

The diversity in these products shows that as more tech companies get involved in translator apps and devices, the more niche products there will be in the market. In this next section, you will read about some of these devices and apps and discuss what makes each of them a viable product.

Apps and Devices

The interesting thing to note about apps and devices is that there are so many being produced that they are tackling niche markets. While some technology is targeted towards travelers, others are targeted towards activities like going to the movies or speaking on the phone.

Although some would see the rapid growth of this technology and see it as a reason why language learning may see a decline, the reality is that new technology is opening more doors. The more access to language learning resources you have, the more likely you are to begin to pick up those new languages.

Take the MyLingo app, for example. This app is designed to help users translate movies into their language while at the movie theatres. Several Spanish speaking Americans who migrated from different Spanish speaking countries have credited American television with being an early resource for learning English. (Here is my article about using Netflix to learn languages.)

When you combine a tactic that has proven to work and combine it with an app like MyLingo, it may expedite the language learning process. Apps such as MyLingo, DuoLingo, SayHi, TextGrabber, and so many others, have knocked down barriers and turned language learning from a chore to a potential convenient hobby.

Why Language Learning Will Remain Important

Although technology is shortening the language barrier in today’s society, the value of knowing and being able to communicate in different languages still remains prevalent. In a world with constant migration and travel, it seems like an advantage now more than ever to be fluent in different languages. 

From a global perspective, being able to communicate in different languages puts you at an advantage, regardless of other qualifications. Having to use translator devices makes you dependent and puts you at a disadvantage. For English speakers, they are already at an advantage because of the impact the English language has on the world.

For those who do not speak English, learning it is seen as a stepping stone to more opportunities and success. Below you will see a few of the reasons why language learning will still remain important despite the pace of today’s technological advancements:

  • Technology can be used to learn new languages
  • Apps and devices can be ineffective
  • Better within the job market, both for you and the company
  • It will improve person to person interaction and overall better for your mind

Language Learning Summarized 

Translator devices make life easier for those who do not speak other languages. There is no doubt about that. However, these devices give users a false sense of security and only create a shortcut towards what would normally be a longer path. Having some sense of independent comprehension will make your experience smoother.

The advantages of learning languages are tenfold. Not only is it impressive on a resume, but it gives you a better sense of confidence in real-life situations where you encounter a language different than yours.

Speaking different languages enhances your mind and gives you different perspectives.

Language learning is another scenario in which knowledge is power. In many countries, English is a necessity if you want to be successful, so why shouldn’t language learning be a stepping stone towards a career filled with more opportunities? It is common to encounter language barriers within your day-to-day work life. Why not be prepared?

Some believe that the future of language learning is in a bind. Technology has made the future of language learning grim in the sense that many are fine with depending on technology to do their bidding for them. In the next section, you will see the positive breakthroughs technology has brought to language learning and its outlook.

What Is the Future of Language Learning?

The future of language learning faces an exciting situation. On the one hand, you have technological advancements such as devices and apps that offer convenience and make language learning seem unimportant. On the other hand, you have a growing population and global companies that speak different languages working side by side. 

Major corporations such as FIFA, which deal with a plethora of language barriers due to its diverse reach, use these devices to simplify their language barrier issues. Still, many of its biggest proponents take it upon themselves to learn multiple languages. This is an example of a major corporation using the best of both worlds to attain success.

The future of language learning has a lot to be excited about. If appropriately used, the number of resources that will be available to potential language learners will only speed up the process. Below you will see some of the things to look forward to in this new era of language learning.

  • Combined learning methods
  • More obtainable resources
  • Learning at your convenience
  • Flexible learning
  • Quicker feedback

Is Translator Tech Hurting the Value of Language Learning?

Google Translate, although a good product, still has limits in best word choice selection for certain contexts.

There is no shortage of variety in translator technology. The market for these products will more likely than not continue to grow, creating opportunities for more niche devices and apps. When you have a translator for even the most mundane activities, it is not difficult to understand why many people do not feel the need to learn new languages.

So, does technology like this render language learning obsolete? Perhaps to a certain extent, but technology alone will not solve all of your real-life issues when dealing with a language barrier. Conveying emotion is an immediate issue that comes to mind that will be discussed later in the article. As well, translator apps are context and slang limited.

There is no reason to think that technological advancements and language learning cannot work in tandem. You have already seen the positive impact technology has had on the language learning experience aside from the convenience offered by translator devices, and it is likely to continue to enhance your experiences.

There are a plethora of reasons as to why language learning will continue to be an advantage in society going forward. In this next section, you will see some of the reasons why learning languages will still be essential as the world continues to adapt.

Factors to Be Excited About 

Combined learning methods will be beneficial to schools that offer language courses by diversifying the way they deliver their curriculum. Aside from traditional methods of teaching, apps like Duolingo will make it easier to give students a different resource that may be more efficient to them than textbooks and hand-written assignments. 

As a former ESL teacher in public schools across the US, I can attest to the excitement from the education world regarding the advancements. I know I’ve used multiple translator apps for communicating with families, as well as language learning programs to help my English learners stay motivated and excited while facing the challenges of immersion. Here is an article where I address the importance of motivation in learning language. 

Research also supports the importance of fun in learning for both children and adults. (Source: The Fourth International Conference on Adult Education, 2014)

Resources will be more attainable than ever due to the advancements made in language learning technology. 

If you are not a student or do not want to enroll in language learning courses, there will still be plenty of resources for you to use. You can learn on the go and cater your learning experience to what you are most comfortable with. Duolingo or paid courses are among several options. 

One of the biggest issues people face is not having the time to learn a new language. With access to all these resources, you can learn on the go. Whether you are on a plane, on your lunch break, getting ready for bed, or stuck in rush hour traffic, the convenience of being able to pull out your device and learn a new language makes the experience easier than ever.

Instant results make understanding whether your learning methods have been effective or not a lot easier to comprehend. Whether you are a teacher assigning your students vocabulary practice or you are just someone trying to learn a new language for personal fulfillment, quicker feedback will make the learning process smoother and deliver quicker results.

Language Learning in the Workplace

Language learning will remain important in the workplace for many reasons. For job seekers, you may notice that many job postings require or prefer a candidate that speaks multiple languages. Language learning is just as important to the employee as it is to the employer. Some of the reasons why include:

  • Diversifying your clientele
  • More career opportunities in diverse areas
  • Traveling abroad
  • Diversifying from within

In a time where inclusivity is as important as ever, language learning takes center stage. Being bilingual will bring you better luck on the job market as more businesses look to bring in assets that will help them expand their business. Knowing different languages will increase your chances of being hired and your growth potential.

Many businesses also like their employers to travel abroad, and having team members that can speak foreign languages will simplify international business meetings. The wider the range of your business, the more successful it will be. Leaving the potential for foreign partnerships open will increase the value of a company and improve its overall diversity.

Language Learning in Your Community

As of 2015, of the world’s almost 600 million Spanish-speakers, the Instituto Cervantes in Spain said the U.S. has the second largest population of people who speak it.

Just as with businesses, your communities are becoming more diverse by the day. People move from all around the world for various reasons such as work, family, and new opportunities. In most major cities, you will encounter people from various cultures whose first language may not be the same as yours.

The communal factor will keep the necessity for language learning alive, whether it is for the family that just moved from their country to yours trying to adapt or you trying to diversify your knowledge and make them feel more welcomed. For some, language learning is a hobby, but for others, it is an absolute necessity to survive.

Throughout history, people have continuously migrated to places with better opportunities for them. Part of the journey has always been adapting to the new environment and learning the language and culture to be a valuable part of their new community.

As long as people continue to leave their home countries for others, language learning will not become obsolete. The new technological advancements in language learning will not be so much a threat as it is an asset to people attempting to pick up a new language. Many schools and educators are beginning to adopt these resources.

The Emotional Barrier

Just as it would be through text, the emotion behind a conversation may go missing when you use translator apps or devices. Different cultures convey different emotions when speaking. Language learning will allow you to convey some sort of emotion, even if you are not fully fluent in your new language.

Emotion is one of the biggest factors behind a strong outlook for the future of language learning. Machines will never be able to depict emotion through their translations. In some cultures, certain phrases may come off as offensive if not delivered with the right tone and emotion. 

Conveying emotion is especially important for frequent travelers. Once you have stepped into a foreign language speaking city, you are now the minority, and you may not always have accommodations made for your language. Emotion is an irreplaceable part of any conversation, and as long as it remains important, language learning will too.

Texting is a relevant example of how technology can fail you in a conversation.

This is why many businesses continue to conduct important meetings in person or through webcam apps, not to mention use human ‘checks’ to ensure tech-derived language is conveyed appropriately.

If written communication is absolutely necessary with a foreign client, punctuation and tone should still be important details to understand.

Public Perception on the Future of Language Learning?

Tech companies are shaping the future of language learning, but its fate is dependent on people and the way they choose to go about it. Below you will see some of the questions people face when deciding whether they believe language learning is a priority to them.

  • Will this help my career path?
  • Do I have the time and patience to learn a new language?
  • Which available resources will help me obtain this goal?
  • Why learn a new language when I have access to so many translator resources?
  • Can I get by speaking only one language?

Many of the concerns and doubts about the future of language learning come from the internal struggle people face when deciding whether to take on the challenge of learning a new language and whether they will ever feel comfortable speaking it. As long as schools and businesses continue to prioritize language learning, it will remain relevant.

While some of the listed questions are up to the individual, questions such as whether a new language will help their career path and what available resources are available to help are answered directly in the earlier sections of the article.

Final Talking Point on Language Learning Becoming Obsolete

So, will language learning become obsolete? There are arguments to both sides. Technology affects our day-to-day in more ways than you realize. It has broken down language barriers and made communication easier than ever, but technology on its own is not enough to render language learning completely obsolete.

Language learning will continue to be an important aspect of daily life. As companies expand globally and people from all over the world continue to migrate, communication with others is becoming more important than it ever has. Relying on translation apps could prove catastrophic for business as technology is incapable of accounting for emotion, context, and tone from spoken language. If you want to diversify your opportunities and develop different perspectives, it is imperative to learn new languages.

Take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal. Language learning will not soon become obsolete but instead will become easier than ever. Learning different languages will open up new opportunities and will help develop your confidence in your industry and the real world.

Sources

Tech Native

ITranslateVoice

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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