Is Technology Killing English as a Lingua-Franca?

The proliferation of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools have professionals everywhere nervy about the future utility of their skill set. And when you take a peek at some of the exciting advances in these fields, it’s hard not to ask yourself “will I be replaced by a robot?”

There are plenty of other blogs you can read if you’re interested in the coming regime of automaton overlords, but here, we’re more interested in the future of language. Specifically, are new language technologies phasing out the likelihood of people learning languages beyond their mother tongue? And will advances in these technologies cut out the need to learn English as a “lingua-franca”, or go-between language between two individuals of differing native languages?

In short. no.

These topics were explored at length in BBC’s four-part series, “From Language to Algorithm”. Rather than spell a doomsday sentence for translators and polyglots, language experts paint an optimistic future of more access to the knowledge economy, empowerment and greater efficiency for translators, and widespread access to crucial information (like purchasing a railway ticket electronically), even amongst illiterate populations.

But how far are we really from “babel fish” technology? Does communicating in English, even without learning it, breakdown the barrier to entering many jobs? And has English technology enabled communication in other languages, without necessarily replacing itself? Well, you’ll just have to tune in to find out. Stream part 1 of the series below.