If children could choose between learning a language and having a tool to translate for them, which would they choose? Unfortunately, that time has now come, but the two are still not comparable. University degrees, A-levels, and GCSEs have all seen a decline in young people taking up languages. 10,000 fewer A-level exams in languages were taken last year than in the 1990s.
The ability to speak foreign languages has decreased in popularity, with more focus on translator tools to make peoples’ lives easier, rather than learning the language. According to some, the only language needed in business is English, and programs and apps can translate anything. Right? Wrong. Mandarin and Spanish are the most spoken languages, and 65 percent of businesses value foreign language skills, with French and German being the most sought-after.
Many think technology is the answer to their language inexperience, and there have been many apps and programs built to translate text and speech, but how reliable are they really? Proper nouns, various forms of verbs, and colloquialisms are possible for a human to translate, but appear to be a program or app’s kryptonite.
Unfortunately, many employers are now resorting to employing translators from abroad instead of using home-grown talent.
I always thought learning a language was indispensable, even though I didn’t study one at university, something I now regret. My dad always told me that languages are vital to our lives, yet I never wanted to prove him right. But, it’s never too late for us. Even my Granddad earned his Spanish GCSE when he was seventy-years-old.
Languages give us mobility and international experiences give our lives excitement and adventure: why wouldn’t we want to learn them?