Machine translation is improving, no doubt. But with the rise of AI, neural networks, machine learning, corpus linguistics and a number of other supporting fields we can see a real difference. I just wanted to note the improvement regarding the translation to and from English/German; a real advancement! For years I have been experimenting with the pair English/Spanish where the results were more than satisfactory. At the same time English/German did not seem to get much attention from Google translate. But now, after the announcement of Google in September that they were changing their algorithm I have noticed the difference. Their “Neural Machine Translation” system works now in eight pairs of languages that represent the languages of 35% of the global population; impressive isn’t it? The system is also reported to have achieved translation between languages not previously known to the system something which means a much more profound understanding of the human language! Impressive isn’t it!
Taking the above as fact, I believe that education has to lean over these changes and start a real discussion on language teaching especially foreign language teaching and learning. Is the methodology changing or is foreign language learning just not needed? Are the teachers of languages losing their jobs or do they have a new role in the learning process? Many such questions emerge and given the speed of change in the technological sector we have to consider these questions the sooner.
Read more about Google Translate at https://blog.google/products/translate/