A hand reaching toward a translation device.

Do translation devices make language learning obsolete?

Translation devices play a crucial role in breaking down language barriers and enabling communication. However, concerns about their impact on language learning and brain activity continue to be debated.

The 21st century is a time of rapid change and drastic development in all fields of life, but especially digital technology. The digital revolution is upon us, transforming the way we live and work. One of the fields that have been affected by the evolution of technology is language translation. An age-old practice that breaks down barriers and establishes communication between people around the world, translation is vital in the modern world. What was once a process that took hours to days to manually translate texts, now takes seconds to minutes thanks to digital translation. Translation aided by Artificial Intelligence (AI) provides fast and efficient results to the point where it is almost unnecessary for humans to intervene. However, there are still certain aspects of translation that machines cannot handle, such as metaphors or dialects typical for certain regions. That means that a collaboration between humans and machines leads to the best and most accurate results. But with the convenience and quickness of AI translation, we are relying more and more on technology to do the work for us. That creates an unsettling perspective: are we too dependent on machines and are they changing the way we process information and perceive foreign languages? In this article, the advantages and disadvantages of AI translation will be discussed in order to reach an answer to the question whether translation devices are eliminating the need for learning languages or on the contrary – aiding it.


The future is now: translation devices are taking over

Translation has always been necessary in business, education and personal life. It is one of the best ways to break down cultural barriers and establish communication and understanding between nations. With the help of digital translation, that is achieved faster and easier than ever before. Translation devices are virtually everywhere – the most prominent examples include the Google Translate software, smart phone applications, virtual assistants and translation gadgets that can be used both online and offline. Since their introduction, they have improved greatly to reach the form they have today. Despite some small differences, they all work in a similar way to output quick and as-accurate-as-possible translation.


How translation devices work

Electronic translators work in a number of ways. The modern devices support both voice recognition and text scanning. If you want to interpret signs, you can simply read them out loud to the device. Alternatively, it is also possible to scan Spanish words, for example, and have the device tell you what they mean. Like many voice recognition devices, language translation devices rely on Artificial Intelligence to process and convey data to you. Some have apps that help interpret the information you feed them. The devices also have internal memory cards that enable you to save favorite or frequently used words and phrases. A huge benefit with modern translators is that they handle a multitude of languages. A good device can help you understand up to 50 languages.

Some devices are clumsy and require you to type what you need to be translated. With the best devices, it is possible to simply record your conversations with foreigners. The device will translate everything in your primary language. The presence of ultra-sensitive speakers makes the translations accurate. A good device also translates fast without requiring you to follow multiple procedures. The most advanced devices on the market provide real-time translation with little room for structural or logical inaccuracies. Naturally, the price of the devices usually reflects the extent and quality of their functions. A good device should be able to offer good value for your money. If it is relatively expensive, you can even learn more than a few words and phrases yourself. Fortunately, technology has helped improve Machine Learning to the point where it is unnecessary to teach your devices how to translate properly. It is even the other way around. You can type a whole paragraph and have the device tell you what it means and how to translate the words.


More than just fast: the advantages of electronic translators

As already established, translation devices have come a long way. They work in a fast and efficient way and are easily accessible. More than that, they do a great job in overcoming the hurdle of foreign languages and essentially bringing people closer together, be it professionally or personally. Translation software has more than one advantage.

  • Speed

Perhaps the most obvious advantage of AI translation software is its speed. Compared to a human translator who may need hours to days to translate longer texts, machine translators do that in minutes. The truth is that machines replace humans in repetitive, tedious tasks and in many laborious places of work. Machine Translation can happen at the snap of a finger. It can be output very quickly and requires little to no quality assurance.

  • Cost

Translation software is very inexpensive, and in some cases even free. There are hundreds of applications available to translate text, images, written and spoken words by just clicking a button. They are cost-efficient for large volumes of translations, especially because the price typically does not vary depending on the volume of the text, as it does with human translators. A translator usually translates 2,000 words per day for around 20 cents per word. As the volume of information grows, it surpasses the capacity of human translators and enterprise budgets. Corporations want to translate more for less and they need to do it fast. Machine translation is the only viable solution to translate content that would not be translated otherwise because it is quick and the cost is independent of the volume translated.

  • Easy to use

Translation software is extremely easy and convenient to use. It is adaptable, programmable, and developer-friendly. The machine translators are very simple to understand, with applications allowing words and phrases to be typed, spoken, photographed or written on screen. Anyone can download a translation application or access a website.

  • Variety of languages

While a human translator is typically fluent in two to three languages, a machine can be programmed to translate a lot more. Translation software generates publishable quality translations for organizations to bridge the multilingual communications gap both internally and externally. Furthermore, for the average businessman on the go, or the avid traveler, it is extremely convenient to have a device that can help establish communication in any country around the world.

AI-aided translation has a number of proven advantages. It is a fact that it has significantly improved life by giving everyone quick and easy access to virtually any language in the world. Its purpose spans beyond traditional translation. Looking at translation software from a different perspective shows that it can also have a leading role in learning foreign languages.


Translation software as a language teacher

As it has done with almost every other field, the digital revolution has infiltrated and transformed language learning. Traditional classrooms, although not outdated, are now just one of the options. With many applications and computer programs, it is easier than ever to learn a foreign language. For some the language barrier is a challenge to be avoided, while others want to learn to speak in whatever tongue their business requires. Whatever the motive behind learning a new language, there are now many ways in which AI translation can help.

One of the biggest pros of learning a language with the help of translation software is that it is accessible from any point in the world. Some programs and applications can even work offline, so all you need to do is launch them and work ahead. You can type, speak, and even draw to get an instant translation. Because they are so easily accessible and convenient to use, translation applications not only are being integrated into websites of all kinds including social media, but are also being used for educational purposes.

It has been noticed by people who work in education that many young people want to try to learn one or more foreign languages to connect with people around the world. Some might start out using Google Translate, but then decide they want to expand their learning and knowledge in the classroom. So, apart from assisting in translation and igniting the learning process, translation software may actually inspire people to pursue foreign languages further and switch from self-learning to an actual classroom. What is more, technologies like Machine Translation are giving teachers many more tools to assist in teaching languages. With the help of translation software, teachers can explore new ways to get their message across and make students more interested in a new language. Digital technology and machine translators specifically, present a number of opportunities for interactive language learning. It is true that they make students more independent from teachers, but they also encourage additional activities and exercises related to the learning process, such as educational games and the ability to self-test and track your progress. There have even been cases of teachers using translation software with their students to have them analyze why it is accurate or inaccurate.

With the many applications of translation software, it is no wonder that its popularity is constantly increasing. We can communicate around the globe in an instant, businesses easily straddle language barriers, and traveling overseas for work is as common as a cross-town commute. That is why Machine Translation has developed immensely and expanded its reach.


AI translation growing in popularity

With the growing popularity of digital content and customers’ expectations for quality translations in their own local language, translation companies experience a great deal of pressure from international businesses to target their content in order to gain optimum online presence in accordance with the audience’s culture and language. That is where Machine Translation comes to play. Human translators alone cannot meet the emerging translation needs of global businesses – technology must help in this process. Machine translation is the key to meet the rising translation needs of global businesses, and aid them in staying ahead in a competitive arena.

Large corporations, ecommerce stores, government agencies, and content writers are getting good benefits of hiring and optimizing machine translation services. There are many more added advantages of using machine translation. They result in enhanced productivity, faster and cheap translation. You need not have to muddle your head in finding whether the vendor has a good team of translators or not. Nor have you to worry they have the expertise to understand your market or not. All your translation work will be completed easily and without any hassle. They are flexible enough to suit any type of project. This, among other reasons, is why translation devices have become widely accessible and available not only to businesses, but to the average consumer.

The popularity of machine translation services is increasing by leaps and bounds. However, it is not all positives. Despite being a great service that provides fast results and saves money and effort, translation devices have faced their fair share of criticism.


Why AI translation is not making learning languages obsolete

Learning languages has always been an integral part of anyone’s education. The process is the best way to break down barriers and develop valuable personal skills. However, the evolution of machine translators is affecting language learning. When a machine can do all the translation, where is the need to spend years learning a language yourself? However, the reality is not that simple, because Machine Learning has its downsides, too.


The logistics of translation devices

As helpful and innovative as they are, translation devices still rely on their batteries, charging cables and, some of them, internet connection. If one of the factors is taken away or unavailable in a certain situation, the translation devices will become virtually unusable. Portable chargers and batteries are widely accessible, but there are some remote locations where even electricity is not an option. In that case, the only safe plan is to learn the local language in order to get around and communicate.


How accurate AI translation really is

One of the fundamental issues with translation devices is their seemingly bad reputation. People are used to them providing somewhat questionable results in terms of translation quality. This is mostly owed to the results Google Translate used to produce. They were generally inaccurate and full of mistakes. Although AI translation has come a long way since the “funny” Google Translate days, there are still doubts towards its quality. And rightfully so – as accurate as translation devices can be, they hit a brick wall when it comes to translating dialects and local phrases, especially if they are not trained to. This makes AI translation reliable only to a certain extent, because essentially, it cannot translate everything.


Translation devices globally: are they to be relied on?

In recent years, AI has drastically enhanced the accuracy and quality of foreign-language translations – allowing machines to help break down language barriers for customer service teams and tourists alike. However, the worry is that people will increasingly lean on emerging technology for translation and language learning. Globally, English-language skills are key to accessing higher education, the business world, and international travel. It goes without saying that having to rely on translation devices to communicate in English puts you at a disadvantage, compared to others who can speak without any tech assistance. On the other hand, in non-English-speaking countries, learning a new language is more than just a past-time activity. Learning English is the route to success.

It is obvious that the demand for learning language is not decreasing. But there is a contrast between native English speakers who mostly rely on Machine Translation without having to learn foreign languages, and non-natives who learn foreign languages from a very young age. So, to discuss whether AI translation is making language learning obsolete, the situation needs to be looked at from two perspectives.

It is true that some people more than others are increasingly relying on translation devices. When they do all the work, one might think that the need for going to a classroom and spending the time to learn a new language becomes non-existent. But the reality is that globally, the need for learning foreign languages is not decreasing drastically. One of the important dimensions of language learning is being exposed to native cultural nuances. Relying solely on software for answers is not enough to fully appreciate a language. For instance, when someone chucks a phrase through Google Translate, the results can often be awkward and wooden to say the least.  Language skills remain essential to everyday life, whether it is communicating with friends, family, passersby, or in a business context.

Advancements in AI should not stop us from learning languages. Rather, they have the power to do the opposite, adding a vibrancy to language learning that enables us to learn more quickly and easily than ever before. It is the collaboration between machines and humans that makes language learning that much more interesting and interactive.


Extracting the positives from translation devices

In the past few years, there has been unprecedented progress in the area of machine translation, especially with Neural Machine Translation. However, according to scientists, a human brain’s understanding and perception of the world and its reality is still far superior to a machine’s grasp of this domain. So, by default humans cannot entirely rely on something inferior to do the thinking for them.

Despite their downsides, translation devices are ultimately designed to aid humanity and establish communication between people who speak different languages. Used sensibly and moderately, they can boost language learning by providing more creativity and interactivity for the studying process. With AI, we are now able to take far more information into account when providing translations. New technologies and learning methods will only help Machine Translation improve as time goes on. In turn, Machine Translation will improve the understanding of languages and dialects, and enhance the language learning process for people around the globe.

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