What does the future hold for language learning?
I’ve been thinking about this a bit recently and it has started to worry me. What does the future hold for aspiring polyglots, language teachers, and professional translators/interpreters? Because currently those are my three current job goals and hobbies! Will knowing multiple languages become obsolete by the time I’m ready to enter the job market? Will knowing multiple languages become “pointless” in the real world?
Here is a quote from a thread on How to learn any Language‘s forum in a thread called “Your language history – 5 years from now” where users are supposed to write as if they were five years in the future recollecting on their language learning achievements during the past five years. This was written by the poster Iversen and got me thinking about this topic:
[…] Google will in five years time be able to deliver much better translations than me in almost any conceivable language combination, I will have bought a gadget that can speak any language better than me and write 5 versions of simplified Chinese, my TV set will only be sending programs in English (because everything can be translated on the fly) and no Danish politician worth her salt will waste her time on learning anything but Danish and English. And in 20 years more you can drop the requirement of being able to speak Danish.
This is a little unsettling, to me at least. Maybe a lot of people would prefer this? The simpler the better, right? One Universal language (most likely English) so we can just forget all about the other ones and not have to worry about bringing the phrasebook along in your travel bag or that annoying mandatory high school language course, hm?
When I was taking the German class last month we were talking about the future, and one of the topics was whether or not one would need to learn a foreign language to live in or travel to a new country, and if not, would this be a good or bad thing?
I was of course saying that no of course this wouldn’t be a good thing, languages are very important to make the world an interesting place with different cultures, it’s a fun challenge, it’s my hobby, it makes Europe really cool etc. etc. while one of my classmates just said “but it would be so much easier!” True, but at what cost?
I’m not sure how many people are out there reading this (wordpress tells me about 13 a day? yay! thanks for visiting!) but if you have any commentary on this, please feel free to write a little something in the comments of this post because I am interested in what other language learners and enthusiasts envision for the future.