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Mimishu1995's avatar

What's the point of learning languages when you have all kinds of translation gadget?

Asked by Mimishu1995 (17609points) June 23rd, 2019

Suppose you have to convince someone to learn a new language, and that’s their argument against learning, what would you say?

I’ve seen tourists use Google Translate to communicate. And they are developing an interpreter machine that can recognize voice and our technology is only going up. Has learning languages become obsolete?

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20 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

Most of them don’t work worth a shit.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

What happens when the battery dies??

Brian1946's avatar


They finally resume paying attention to their driving? ;-)

ragingloli's avatar

Machine translators are very literal and have no concept of context, which in many languages is vital for meaning.
For example, the sentence “Ich werde das Kind umfahren.” can both mean “I will drive around the child.” and “I will run over the child.”

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@ragingloli I get where your coming from with context, but in todays world nobody seems to give a shit about context hence the craze with texting.

zenvelo's avatar

Translators don’t understand idiom or nuance. Literal translation results in odd phrases.

A local bicycle racing/touring club fancied itself as being similar to Italian bicycle clubs. They gave themselves an Italian name, that somebody translated from the English “The Road is Always Hard” to indicate how they pushed themselves in riding up mountains. The name they came up wit is “Strada Sempre Duro”.

They had jerseys and t shirts made up. And then a couple years later they organized a tour of Italy one of the women went into a cafe full of Italian men, and the place erupted in laughter and obscene gestures. That’s when they found out that their club name translated to ”Road of the Hard-Ons”

Zaku's avatar

The above remarks are correct.

However, if someone is arguing about not wanting to learn a language, let them not learn a language. until they care enough to listen to why they might want to.

Translation software is lame, and even if it were much much better than it is, would never be the same as actually understanding and being able to speak the language.

Different languages offer very different ways of saying and expressing things, even of thinking and relating to other people.

If someone’s so primitive that they can’t get that or aren’t interested, I would not bother arguing with them about it.

gondwanalon's avatar

The translation gizmos can be an aid to learning a new language and can help with fundamental communication like directions.

Yellowdog's avatar

I have very little else to contribute that hasn’t already been said.

But when you learn the language, it comes from within and you are a little more immersed or initiated into the culture which you are mingling and immersing yourself into

A number of jellies have expressed a desire to visit Iceland. All Icelanders speak fluent English, but part of the experience is the language if you can learn or comprehend it.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@zenvelo “Translators don’t understand idiom or nuance. Literal translation results in odd phrases.”

While this was long before the age of translator software and the like, another good example about literal translation can be found with the 1959 French film Les Quatre Cents Coups. The title refers to a French idiom that means “to raise hell”. The US distributor, however, chose to go with a literal translation and thus produced the nonsensical English title the 400 Blows.

Patty_Melt's avatar

While all languages have those nuances, English has all sorts of pitfalls. For instance, bow. There are two pronunciations for that and enough definitions to take up two dictionary pages. Then we have sew sow and so. Three spellings, all pronounced the same, but sow has two pronunciations, and of course two definitions. Milk is both a verb and a noun. The same goes for smoke.
I would only use a translator if I knew the language fairly well and needed it only for an occasional word.

JLeslie's avatar

Because some things just don’t directly translate, and it is when you use a language, and especially when you spend time in the culture that you begin to understand the subtleties. The word choice and rhythm of a language helps to understand the people.

janbb's avatar

In addition to all of the above good reasons, learning another language, especially as a child, is great for cognitive development. Children who are bilingual are able to use both the right and left hemispheres of their brains more effectively. Studying as an adult helps slow down cognitive impairment – at least, j’espere!

Mimishu1995's avatar

Thanks everyone. I notice that some people are so stuck in their own world that they believe that everything can be literally translated from one language to another. When they learn languages, they refuse to accept that some things can be translated literally. They are the people who will most likely argue against learning.

But with the technology constantly evolving, I have my doubt. The translation machines can make people even lazier and more dependent. Maybe, like @Zaku said, I shouldn’t bother with those people. But can the machines make more people less likely to learn?

stanleybmanly's avatar

You bet they can and do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Because you can’t hold a conversation with a person through those things. Well, if you’re both literate adults you can try. But last year I found myself substitute teaching in a preK class room, and there was one poor student who was on his 2nd day and he did not speak English, and I did not speak Spanish. That poor child. He was so close to tears the entire time. With hand signals I told him to come here and sit on my lap. He just sank in, and started doing a little better for the rest of the day after that.
I was so mad at the school for not providing a little one on one until he learned some English.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^ In spite of our language barrier I had him mostly grinning and laughing by the end of the day, mainly by me looking up how to say things in Spanish, then saying it him and mangling it horribly (on purpose.) He just laughed and laughed and told me how to say it right.
I must have asked him 20 times if he needed to go to the bathroom because I knew how to say it! Again, met with giggles. :) We were fast buddies by the end of the day.
My heart broke when I though about him walking in the next morning and I wasn’t there….only his “regular” teacher would be there and he’d only met her once before.

Yellowdog's avatar

When I tried to ask for a fresh pot of coffee, I asked for coffee and fresh Marijuana.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Did they fill your order?

Zaku's avatar

Introducing people to interesting people who are native speakers of a foreign language can help.

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