Is language teaching as a profession doomed by technology?


I see myself teaching languages in the future because I have an easy time understanding their workings and teaching myself them, but I’m also very aware of the rise of artificial intelligence and have a pretty good idea of how that is going to affect the way people will use (not learn) .

Already as it is in 2018, Youtube’s on-the-fly subtitle algorithm is (on average) 80% accurate and it works in several other languages aside from English. You can test this right now. Make sure you click the CC button on Youtube’s player, then click the gear icon and set the subtitles to “auto-generated” (very important). You’ll know it worked because you’ll see the subtitles showing word by word instead of a full sentence (as they do when it’s a human transcription). The subtitles you’ll see are automatically generated, not transcribed by a human.

You’ll see they work impressively well (not yet 100% perfect, I know) and this is only as of 2018. In the next decade, we will witness craaaazy big deal achievements and advancements in artificial intelligence which are going to make people’s lives a lot easier when it comes to foreign languages. What I mean is that that same on-the-fly transcription algorithm Youtube uses in its videos can VERY EASILY be implemented on Android phones (Youtube is owned by Google and so is Android) to have the user speak into their phones, have the algorithm transcribe what was said, translate that into a foreign language and have the phone speak out the translation (anyone out there thinking about becoming a real-time interpreter should rethink their career choice).

This matters because the way I see it is that very few people learn languages for fun compared to those who learn them out of necessity (work, moving to a new country etc). People will downright skip any learning and classes altogether and just use technology to get their point across, thus practically rendering language teachers a thing of the past. Granted, SOME people will want to learn them because they actually enjoy languages, but this demographic is going to be very small compared to everyone else who will rely 100% on technology and won’t need to rely on learning anything.

So, am I on the right track here? Any AI engineers out there to give out their opinion? Are the 2020s going to be the last decade of language teachers?

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