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What’s the point of learning foreign languages?

Medical Pharmaceutical Translations • Aug 6, 2020 12:00:00 AM

Nowadays, it’s possible to get machine translations for individual words, long passages, and even entire manuscripts. Portable tech like phone apps and translating earbuds can serve as real-time electronic interpreters. There are even apps that can translate the text in photographs.

This might make it seem like it’s pointless to learn another language, especially because technology marches forward: at the rate we’re going, it will be increasingly easier to communicate with people who don’t speak our native tongue.

But there are some things that humans learning and speaking a foreign language will never replace.

For one thing, as we often point out on this blog, machine translations are far from infallible, especially if source material uses figurative language, humor, or is a work of poetry or fiction.

Another reason for learning a language is, simply, that it benefits our brains. Research shows that people who speak more than one language tend to have improved decision-making skills and cognitive health, among other things. Bernhard  Niesner, founder of the language learning app Busuu, even suggests that it’s good for our well-being and self-esteem.

Read on to find out more about the advances in translation AI, and why all of that can’t quite replace human learning.

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