XTM Advent Calendar Day Nine – Why not choose both?
Every day we’re invited to choose sides on all sorts of issues. Some are trivial while others can have a major impact on our lives.
Sometimes we don’t have to choose at all.
When Python programming overtook French as the most widely taught language in British primary schools, a survey by Ocado Technology indicated that three out of five parents and three out of four children wanted to learn Python coding instead of the language of Marcel Proust and Simone de Beauvoir.
On one hand it’s good to see children taking an early interest in information technology. On the other it will be deeply unfortunate if this comes at the expense of an interest in learning a second language.
Today’s Language Trends Wales report revealed that the numbers of French and German GCSE entries in Wales have halved since 2015, and predicted that Welsh schools could have fewer than 100 French and German GCSE entries by the end of the decade.
Entries for GCSE French and German declined by 11% and 12% in the past year alone, and 20% of the schools surveyed said they had no students studying international languages by the age of 16.
The problem isn’t confined to Wales, and the prospect of young people around Britain being cut off from the rest of the world, linguistically and culturally, is an unhappy one. In parts of mainland Europe, children of primary school age will be on the way to fluency not only in a second language but a third.
Making computer science a mandatory subject might gain short term traction with schoolchildren, but what if they lose interest and abandon the subject when given that option? Interestingly, learning a second language may help counteract that.
A 2012 study at Lund University in Sweden revealed that learning languages trains our brains, actually causing parts of the cerebral cortex to grow. Students introduced to new languages find that their ability to absorb and retain information is enhanced in ways that general education can’t achieve. Language learning doesn’t just make you more employable, it makes you more receptive to new information and better able to retain it. It can capture and preserve the inquisitiveness of young people and enable them to put it to good use in, for example, information technology.
The alliance of multilingual communication and ground-breaking technology has never been more fruitful than it is today. Natural Language Processing – the process that aids computers in understanding human language – applies algorithms to identify language rules and “teach” these rules to computers. XTM International has refined this process with the development of Inter-language Vector Space (ILVS). ILVS indicates the approximate closeness between source and target words within a language segment, offering a precise view of the accuracy of a machine translation. It mirrors the linguistic problem-solving of the human brain on a macro-level, analysing similarities between words across over 30,000 language pairs and drawing on vast amounts of online data, without ever undervaluing the role of linguists and project managers in the overall translation process. It combines the best of technology with the best of human ingenuity. It works.
IT or languages? Master technology or speak to the world?
The only thing we should be rejecting here is the idea of choosing between them. Both paths lead to a place that’s worth reaching, and they intersect in fascinating and helpful ways. IT or languages? Why not choose both?