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[Xmca-l] TECH FLASH: Universal Translators


Seems there is a raft of new tech making big splashes in the news.

This one caught my eye (which was published about a week ago), and I suspect would tickle the curiosity of many on this list!

Machines, Lost In Translation: The Dream Of Universal Understanding


The title is a little misleading, depending on what definition of "understanding" you want to use.

What I wonder, though, is what this means for language learning? It can't be the end of foreign language classes (and need for teachers!), but I wonder if such technology could function as scaffolding while learning a language? And if so, how?

But also, does anything change about Vygotskian-based theories if tools can talk back to you or talk for you? Is there an extra layer of complexity that changes anything about development, interaction, and how tools shape our minds? Or does everything stay the same?

Next question: would a machine's statistical analysis of written texts provide equivalent "rules" to those we've uncovered about language as studied by linguists?

An aside: I find it regrettable that the "original" scientists researching this technology felt it would "give Americans a security edge over the Soviets but also promote world peace by eliminating language barriers." I'm not sure that those two things are synonymous exactly. But it was in the mid-1950s and the height of the cold war, so it goes with the zeitgeist...

Another aside: If Leibniz were alive, I do not doubt he'd flip his wig about all this. [&#X1f60a]

Kind regards,


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