My ears always prick up when I read something about the usefulness of language learning. In short, I believe it to be something good, without any reservations. And I am dismayed by how language learning falls by the wayside in UK education, against all warnings about it from multiple sources.
Just this morning I read two pieces, which I thought were worth sharing. The first one is about Skype as a translation software, and how this (and other services) may shape language teaching. Having been told 20 years ago when I learnt Japanese, that software would take over soon, I was right not to hold my breath. However, I am pretty sure that this argument will come back, and may become more convincing in the next decade or two, as computing power will become strong enough to facilitate two-language conversations at appropriate speed or accuracy. The article goes on to point out that this may help focus student motivation for language learning. Have a look here: Now Skype can translate for us, what’s the point in learning a language?
The second article looks at the language learner, more specifically the bilingual – which I kinda count myself as, due to being thrown into an English primary school as a five-year-old German who spoke no English. My parents thought that ‘the boy must learn to survive outside’ our then UK home – anyone reading this blog will have heard that sob story before. But back to the article: it points out to the effect on cognitive abilities in bilinguals, which they go into from a neurological perspective. Here it is: Keeping actively bilingual makes our brains more efficient at relaying information
Good stuff, all this, and an interesting read.