For a long time, the common experience of learning a new language – especially in school – was to use a textbook, a dictionary, and likely some interaction with a teacher. People would repeat words and phrases, and learn verbs by rote. It’s a tiresome and dated approach and the only one that fits into a school curriculum. Technology has changed all of that for anyone with the inclination to try to learn a new language today.
How technology has changed the way we learn languages
These days, almost everything is digital. We can read books, watch movies, listen to music, play games and talk to friends and family all through a smartphone. Digitization has brought the world to our fingertips and has led to the development of language learning technology from which everyday student can benefit.
E-resources instead of bulky books
Gone are the days of needing to carry a hefty dictionary around all day. Online dictionaries and ebook editions have made it easier to access dictionary definitions and translations. While this isn’t the most practical way to learn a language, it’s enormously beneficial to be able to translate a word on the spot when reading a text in a foreign language, no matter where you are.
Before the rise of the smartphone, multimedia technology began to change the language learning experience through the use of tapes and audio CDs. Language learning technology was revolutionized by the introduction of audio, bringing the spoken word to a student’s ears. Studying at home became more viable, even before the introduction of more advanced tools.
Linguistic Quality Assurance
Linguistic Quality Assurance is the fancy term used in the translation industry for any piece of technology that assists in the correction of spelling and grammar. This is used in programs operated by Google and Microsoft, as well as software like Grammarly. These sorts of tools, though simple, can help a language learner spot mistakes in their writing.
There’s an app for that
Today, when you ask someone to name something related to language learning technology, you’re more likely than not to get the name of an app back as an answer. Language apps have changed the way we learn. Duolingo, one of the most well-known apps, has 35 courses available for English speakers, including Spanish, French, Japanese, and Mandarin. Thanks to popular demand, they even have a course in development on Klingon, from Star Trek.
More control over your learning experience
As well as greater accessibility to opportunities to learn, language learning technology opens up doors in terms of when we learn languages. We can build the experience into our day, at a time that suits us, rather than relying on the schedule of another person. This sort of control, while coming without direct contact with a teacher, allows someone to develop some proficiency with a language regardless of their location, and whether or not there is an instructor available at any given time.
Best practices for learning languages
Language learning technology is a tool, but you still need to do the work. The simplest advice we can offer for learning new languages, even with technology on your side is this:
- Practice every day, even just a little bit
- Consume more media in the language you are trying to learn, outside of your lessons
- Have conversations with a native speaker
When it comes to the last point, we recommend making use of another marvel of technology: video chats. Not everyone lives locally to a native speaker in their desired language, and not everyone can attend a class to learn a language, but online connections can still be used to your benefit.
Does language learning technology mean the end of translation services?
We can definitively say that the availability of language learning technology doesn’t remove the need for translation services, for a number of reasons:
- Not everyone likes to learn new languages
- Not everyone will learn the same languages
- Some people are not adept at learning new languages
- Some information is too important to assume people will learn a language correctly for it to be understood properly, such as medical or legal documents
- Most people focus on learning only one language, meaning there are still well over a hundred languages with which they have no experience
To put it simply, the availability of calculators didn’t remove the need for accountants. Technology makes life easier in many regards, but it doesn’t take away the need for professionals.
We love language learning technology. The more people learning new languages, the better. We’re confident we’ll still have an important job to do, and maybe more translators to work with going forward. For everyone who still needs a translator, our doors are open. Get in touch for a quote, and check out the languages we can work with.