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Old 08-20-2013, 10:03 AM
 
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I took Chinese and Japanese in school, but I lived in a place with a very high Asian immigrant population.

As an ESL teacher, I think it is very wise for students to learn a bit of Chinese or other Asian languages, particularly if they want to go into business. The concept of respect is very deep in Asian cultures (particularly in business), even if a student has no real fluency due to lack of practice, a little bit of "Ni hao/wo jiao John/ xie xie" (Hello/My name is John/Thank you) will go a long way in making a polite first impression before the conversation shifts to the lingua franca English.
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Old 08-20-2013, 10:55 AM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
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There are about 12,000 US college students currently studying in China. Every Chinese person who has the opportunity is trying to learn English. Our economy is tied to theirs. My daughter has a degree in Mandarin. When she took a summer immersion course at the Middlebury Language School to boost her proficiency before she went to school in China, many of her classmates were people in their 30s and 40s who worked in business or government. She had FBI employees and a woman who spent one week of every month in Beijing on business. I do understand it is becoming more common to offer Mandarin in elementary schools.
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Old 08-20-2013, 02:29 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Software translation programs and miniaturized electronics will eliminate the utility of being multi-lingual within a decade. Teaching your kids additional languages will be like teaching them to write in cursive.

If you're patient, you can already hold a reasonably-coherent conversation in most languages, through your smartphone. You can read signs and documents in most languages using the camera and current image-recognition/translation software programs.

The side-benefits of being multi-lingual will not be affected, but knowing multiple languages is going to become more of a hobby, rather than a useful or necessary skill.
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Old 08-20-2013, 02:35 PM
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
85,119 posts, read 99,277,101 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sponger42 View Post
Software translation programs and miniaturized electronics will eliminate the utility of being multi-lingual within a decade. Teaching your kids additional languages will be like teaching them to write in cursive.

If you're patient, you can already hold a reasonably-coherent conversation in most languages, through your smartphone. You can read signs and documents in most languages using the camera and current image-recognition/translation software programs.

The side-benefits of being multi-lingual will not be affected, but knowing multiple languages is going to become more of a hobby, rather than a useful or necessary skill.
Ha! That's what was being said 30 years ago (minus the part about smart phones)!
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Old 08-20-2013, 02:39 PM
 
3,072 posts, read 4,086,035 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sponger42 View Post
Software translation programs and miniaturized electronics will eliminate the utility of being multi-lingual within a decade. Teaching your kids additional languages will be like teaching them to write in cursive.

If you're patient, you can already hold a reasonably-coherent conversation in most languages, through your smartphone. You can read signs and documents in most languages using the camera and current image-recognition/translation software programs.

The side-benefits of being multi-lingual will not be affected, but knowing multiple languages is going to become more of a hobby, rather than a useful or necessary skill.
Are you bilingual? Surely if you speak more than one language, you realize how incoherent and devoid of pragmatics that computer translations are? Being bilingual and functioning bilingually in an office and life in general is a hell of a lot more complicated than just some device that students use to fiddle their way through a university class.

I teach ESL and I live life daily in my second language (French). Electronic translating devices are absolutely useless when it comes to practical needs. I use them for when I write a comprehensive essay by myself and still have to verify words through a variety of sources to confirm meaning. You wouldn't believe the kind of stupid translations I get as homework. Did you know that in Chinese, MA means four completely different things based on slight pronunciation alone? Say "mA-h" and "mA/h" incorrect, you've just called their mother a horse.

Have fun with your translator!
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Old 08-20-2013, 02:40 PM
 
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My son attended a 4 week Chinese Emerson academy this summer sponsered by our local school division. They took 60 rising 5th graders, but they had over 180 applicants. It was a great program, and I wish they could have taken more children.
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Old 08-20-2013, 05:36 PM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
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Those translation programs return some hilarious results.
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Old 08-20-2013, 05:41 PM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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Originally Posted by aliss2 View Post
Are you bilingual? Surely if you speak more than one language, you realize how incoherent and devoid of pragmatics that computer translations are? Being bilingual and functioning bilingually in an office and life in general is a hell of a lot more complicated than just some device that students use to fiddle their way through a university class.
No, I have a functional grasp of two additional languages, but I'm certainly nowhere near bi/trilingual. How many kids are going to be bilingual from taking a few (or even 12) years of Mandarin while living in Omaha? Speaking multiple languages fluently takes constant exposure both in-and-out of school, otherwise language skills atrophy. If you just want your kids to remember how to say ni'hao and wan'an in 22 years, when they're conducting business overseas, an electronic translator is a better bet than classes now.

Almost no one, other than ex-pats have need or opportunity to exercise their school-acquired bi-lingual skills. You have the opportunity to exercise and polish your language skills, daily, so you will probably always be better than an electronic translator. Most people will not, and it's a stern chase, at this point, for them to even try. Teach your kids a second language and culture to broaden their minds and make their neurons denser (or whatever), but don't count on them obtaining an advantage directly from their ability to do, manually, what a computer will soon do better.

Quote:
I use them for when I write a comprehensive essay by myself and still have to verify words through a variety of sources to confirm meaning. You wouldn't believe the kind of stupid translations I get as homework. Did you know that in Chinese, MA means four completely different things based on slight pronunciation alone? Say "mA-h" and "mA/h" incorrect, you've just called their mother a horse.
Or you called her a shout. The thing is, most westerners who speak Mandarin do so with a heavy accent and numerous mistakes, anyway.

Computer translations are awful today. But ten years ago, they were nonexistent. Two years ago they were tethered to PC's and mostly unintelligible. Last year I had a conversation with my relatives in Mandarin, then again through my smartphone. Thanks to my abysmal language skills, it was a tie. Next time, I'll lose.

It should be telling to you that you now use google translate for your first cut when interpreting a document (just like everyone else). Do you remember what year you started using a computer aid to do translations faster?

Of course, a smartphone doesn't have the processing power (yet) to do in-situ voice recognition and translation. It's merely a portal that sends voice recordings to a translation service. And that service (Google translate, for example) is translating millions of words every minute, with adaptive software that improves with every word.

Yes, the art of translating will still rest with humans for the foreseeable future. Just as penmanship does today. However, the average person, with no language training, will become functionally multi-lingual through technology aids within the decade, negating the direct advantage of early bilingual training.

So, unless you are certain little Johnny is going to be living in Kunming, and not Bucharest, when he's 25, additional language skills might not be the best investment.
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Old 08-20-2013, 07:00 PM
 
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
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Originally Posted by jtab4994 View Post
Utah, you say? A lot of Mormons adopt orphaned (i.e., abandoned) Chinese baby girls. Maybe there is some affinity among the elders and school board members for Mandarin based on that connection?
Well, the LDS Church has many young people serve their mission all over the world, thus learning various languages are immensely useful for their 2-3 year stint. Many of these missionaries return with hard-learned lingustic skills. And there are also foreign nationals, who are Mormons, that come to Utah.

SLC has a pretty good foundation of people speaking several languages.
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Old 08-20-2013, 07:03 PM
 
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
8,532 posts, read 5,927,247 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sponger42 View Post
Software translation programs and miniaturized electronics will eliminate the utility of being multi-lingual within a decade. Teaching your kids additional languages will be like teaching them to write in cursive.

If you're patient, you can already hold a reasonably-coherent conversation in most languages, through your smartphone. You can read signs and documents in most languages using the camera and current image-recognition/translation software programs.

The side-benefits of being multi-lingual will not be affected, but knowing multiple languages is going to become more of a hobby, rather than a useful or necessary skill.
While electronic/software programs are useful, they have their limitations. Also, no matter how good they are, they cannot impart the cultural context that comes with learning other languages.
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