In 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 because there are new technologies that will translate for you.
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.
Likewise, I suppose, you don’t need to learn to write, because there are apps that translate voice to text. It’s not much of an extension to suppose that you don’t need to learn math, because computers.
Learning a foreign language is about more than understanding another culture. Thinking in a foreign language can change who you are. As illustrated by this piece from Scientific American.
Several recent studies have focused on how people think about ethics in a non-native language—as might take place, for example, among a group of delegates at the United Nations using a lingua franca to hash out a resolution. The findings suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they do indeed respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their native tongue.
I guess if ordering a beer or asking for the bathroom are you only considerations, then Google translate is enough. But is that the goal of education?
If we were to follow the author’s proscriptions to their logical extreme, soon we’d be living in paradise, waiting, like the Eloi, for the Morlocks to come harvest us at night. I can’t wait.
That’s education in El Paso. In other places, it’s like this: