Could the language barrier actually fall within the next 10 years?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Plazma Inferno!, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. Plazma Inferno! Ding Ding Ding Ding Administrator

    In a recent Wall Street Journal article, technology policy expert Alec Ross argued that, within a decade or so, the language barrier will fall and we'll be able to communicate with one another via small earpieces with built-in microphones.
    Still, it's up to computers and how fast they would learn, because language contains nuances that are impossible for computers to ever learn how to interpret. So far machines can't take our place, but what if engineers actually find a way to breathe a soul into a computer?
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  3. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

    Another Star Trek prediction, universal translators?
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  5. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    Google Translate is pretty impressive already.
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Obviously it won't be long before the huge populations who speak the most widely-used languages will be able to talk to each other through an electronic translator, so long as we're careful to speak properly and more-or-less carefully, and avoid dialects that have not been well catalogued yet.

    Translating Navajo to Xhosa may be a little lower on the agenda.
    Dr_Toad and ajanta like this.
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The way it's been put in places, the approach with the best chances is a two stage one with a central language, the way magicians do memory tricks.

    So the translator would take every language into and out of that one language - rather than Navajo to Xhosa, it would be Navajo to {computer Esperanto equivalent}, and from there to Xhosa. So each language would be added to the library once only (with updates, naturally, sparser than in the main languages handled).
    ajanta and sideshowbob like this.
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's very difficult to translate from one language to another, for various reasons.

    One obvious reason is that the speakers of Language A comprise a society in which a particular concept is so important, and spoken of so commonly, that a single word has evolved to represent it.

    But the speakers of Language B have a society in which this concept is rarely discussed, and in fact few people have even heard of it. So, obviously, they have no reason for their language to bother with a special word for it. If it comes up in a university lecture, a philosophy book, or a TV show about strange foreign cultures, it will be described in a three- or four-word phrase.

    No matter which major language is used as the "central language" you postulate, it's not going to have the same vocabulary as Language A, so some of its words will be rendered as phrases. When a sentence containing one of these words has been translated from Language A into the central language, and it comes time to re-translate the resulting phrase into Language B, the result will be awkward--and possibly even unrecognizable, even if Language B actually has a one-word translation.

    We'll end up with the "telephone game." Every time a sentence is passed from one language to another, it will lose a bit of accuracy and precision, and, on the average, come out a little bit longer than the original.

    I don't think the U.N. would buy this software.

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  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

  11. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    I ain't so optimistic.
    It seems to me that many (most?) people don't seem to understand their native language.
    For example: A few years ago, I was helping a doctoral candidate in english move her belongings out of a flooded cottage by the river.
    I mentioned that one should expect that when moving onto a floodplain. She was taken aback, then contemplative. She confessed that she had used the word without understanding what it meant.

    Language is a growing living thing. The meanings of the words are constantly changing.

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