January 23, 2012

The Questionable Value of Learning a New Language

Today, technology exists that allows me to speak into a phone in English, have the phone translate my words, and have it speak to another individual in their own language.

In the purest sense of the idea, communication with other peoples no longer requires I learn a foreign language.

Now, if you are an English-speaking physician working in a largely Hispanic-populated city, this communication "solution" isn't good enough. Likewise, if you plan on moving to a foreign country one day, it's simply more practical to learn that country's specific language.

But, for the rest of us? It taking two years of French in high school a good thing? Sure. But, is it of more value to me than learning how a carburetor works? I'm not sure. I want to know "how much value" learning a foreign language has in a world where, in terms of sheer communication, it's no longer necessary.