While keeping up with my fair share of technology news, I come across the odd article on language learning and how technology is helping us in this field. The question is helping us with what? While one side is offering different ways to assist us with language learning itself (Mango, Rosetta Stone, LiveMocha, etc), the dark side, as I will deem it, is taking away the need to actually learn anything.
This darker side (usually promoted by Google) encourages the use of technology over the study of another language, so that we may take a picture of a menu or street sign in another language (see article link above) instead of actually knowing what the sign or menu says because we have put hard work into studying that langauge. Additionally, there are advances in translation software, helped along by crowd-sourced corrections, that practically render knowing another language for business or pleasure obsolete. Team that with the fact so many of us are walking around with mini computers in our pockets which are wired to the Internet and for the would-be budding lingophile, the magic comes from someone else’s knowledge rather than our own. As icing on the cake, Google is hard at work on voice-to-voice translation technology as well.
For the more beautiful living langauges among us, such as Portuguese, where does that leave us? It will most-likely leave us with a population of would-be language lovers who visit Brazil without the need to place any effort into understanding the intricacies of its culture, much less the language because their smartphone puts the magic of language learning at the tips of their fingers rather than on the tips of their tongues.
For more on the subject, see the comments section for a follow-up discussion.