Let me ask you a question: what’s the point in spending 100s of hours mastering the vocabulary, grammar, idiomatic expressions (and much more) learning a foreign language, when nowadays machine translation (such as Google Translate) can translate it instantly for you?
You might say these kinds of tools are nowhere near as accurate or effective as a human. In the past you would have been completely right. However, things are changing…and they’re changing fast. Tools like Google Translate are quickly becoming more and more accurate and effective.
For example, Google’s new Neural Machine Translation System can now mimic the functioning of the human brain, meaning that accuracy has increased by as much as 60%. What’s even more disturbing for us dedicated, hardworking language learners is the advance of wearable technology. Google claim their new Pixel buds can translate 40 spoken languages in near-real time.Whilst they may not be perfect solutions right now and it’s unclear just how effective they currently are, the technology (which will inevitably be constantly evolving and improving at a very fast rate) undoubtedly presents a very real threat to us linguists. After all, what’s the point in businesses hiring linguists to communicate with customers and suppliers in other countries when it can be done at a fraction of the price?
So should we just simply give up?
Why should we continue to practice speaking and writing English, French, German, Spanish, and all the many other languages out there?
What’s the point in sites like Lingora where people who learn a foreign language can practice their speaking and writing skills and receive valuable feedback from native speakers? After all, language learning is not easy. As we know, it takes a lot of time, practice and patience for us to see visible improvements in our speaking, reading, writing and listening skills.
Wait a minute…. surely all those hours we’ve spent learning a foreign language count for something?
• All those hours we’ve spent learning new vocabulary….
• All those hours we’ve spent learning how to pronounce tricky words and phrases in our target language.
• All those hours we’ve spent listening to clips of native speakers and trying like mad to understand them.
• All those hours we’ve spent mastering the grammar of our target language.
Of course they do!
Enough of the pessimism and self-doubt! Here are some of the many benefits of learning another language.
Why not print out these amazing benefits of language learning and stick them on your bedroom wall? They’ll be sure to motivate you.
Learning a foreign language boosts our brain power and memory
When we learn how to speak and write a foreign language, our brain will hugely benefit. According to this study, the parts of our brain related to memory actually physically grow in size when we learn a new language. So all those hours we’ve spent mastering pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary in the languages we learn has definitely been worth it!
What’s even more encouraging is scientific research like this which finds that people who go to the effort of learning how to speak and write a foreign language are less likely to develop dementia later on in life than people who never bother learning a foreign language.
It’s a fantastic boost for our self-confidence
Learning a foreign language regularly encourages us to meet and interact with new people. It goes without saying that the more people we interact with from other countries, cultures and backgrounds, the more well-rounded individuals we will become. Learning languages simply (and the need to practice speaking them with native speakers) forces us to become more confident, outgoing and engaging individuals.
It’s great for our career prospects
We live in an increasingly global network. An ever-growing number of companies operate in international environments and are in desperate need for people who speak other languages to interact with their suppliers, customers and employees in other countries. Even if we’re not advanced speakers of the languages we learn, the very fact we’re learning languages demonstrates we’re dedicated to self-improvement - an attribute which is highly valued in any employee.
We’ll become way more creative individuals
Language learning not only improves our problem-solving skills and encourages us to think more logically, it inspires us to experiment with new words and phrases.
Think about it…we’ve all been there as language learners: we’re trying to remember a specific word or phrase (when practicing our speaking skills with a native speaker) but we’re just can’t do it. We therefore must quickly think of alternative words and phrases to get our message across effectively. These situations we find ourselves in enhance our ability to identify solutions to multiple problems: a hugely valued skill in any discipline.