by Martha Simons
It is said that learning foreign languages broadens your mind, brings new knowledge, and opens new horizons for future careers. That is all true. But will it be 10 or 20 years from now? The methods of learning and the reasons why we start learning foreign languages change dramatically with time. What will the future bring and will there still be a necessity to speak different languages?
Let's take a moment and think why most of us start learning languages in the first place. We do it at school because we have to. There's no clear understanding how will we use this knowledge in the future and if we will do it at all. We struggle doing our Spanish homework assignments and as we get older and start looking for a job, we don't forget to include the intermediate level of Spanish in our resumes. Unfortunately, without constant practice, the words and grammar rules start fading away from the memory. We still can say “Hola” (Hello) and “Esto es una mesa” (This is a table), but nothing else. So, was it necessary to suffer at school and college if the knowledge we've gained is not applicable in the real life? If the majority of people who don't plan to actually use foreign languages at work realize this, the demand for language classes will disappear. There also might be people who will keep learning foreign languages. It will just be their hobby.
Some experts are rather skeptical about the future of foreign languages learning. With the constant development of digital tools and total computerization of our world, there will be no need for it. We already have such services as Babelverse, which allows you to have your personal interpreter anywhere you go. While traveling, you can simply contact him or her via a mobile phone and have a conversation with a local. You can already use some of the available speech translators on your phone as well. There's also a megaphone that translates Japanese into 3 different languages. It all is happening now and it's difficult to imagine what the future can bring. We might invent a universal translation tool in the nearest future and forget about the language barrier. The point is that the necessity of learning a foreign language already begins to disappear. And digital development and computerization will be very helpful for those who learn languages just for fun. We can consider the possibility of artificial conversation partners to polish your pronunciation.
The abilities of today's machine translation are far from being perfect. We often laugh at the results of Google Translate. But do you remember what that translation looked like a few years ago? There's been a huge improvement since that time and who can say that there won't be in the future. The tools we have now might be far away from the decent level of accuracy but it all can change. Even if the digital tools will never reach the same level of accuracy as human translation, they will definitely make our lives easier. And they will also be of a great help to the professional translators.
It's been scientifically demonstrated that learning foreign languages has a good impact on our brain. It changes its structure and the function making our brain work more efficiently. In the near future, this might be the only practical reason for a person to learn a second language. However, it doesn't concern those who are passionate about every new language they learn and feel happy being a multilingual person.
Martha Simons works at the translation service Translateshark.