Advances in technology have always had an impact on the way we work and the tasks that we perform ever since the start of the industrial revolution. Now, with advances in artificial intelligence, machines are often better and faster than humans, especially when performing repetitive tasks. This leads people to constantly try to predict the skills that will be required in the future so that appropriate training can be provided and meaningful employment created. On the one hand, problem-solving and technological skills are increasingly in demand to develop these new technologies. Programmers and engineers of all kinds are in high demand. On the other hand, we can see a continued need for ‘soft skills’ which dictionary.com defines as ‘personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.’ Soft skills are necessary because people like to have contact with other people, not just with technology.
Clearly, the ability to communicate well with others is an important soft skill but one which has many elements. There are some areas of life where, perhaps, we will always prefer ‘the human touch’ rather than a technological interaction. For example, mobile phone apps and online translators provide useful support but I suspect that we would always rather speak with each other in the same language than via a translator. Even if the translation is simultaneous and accurate, when the movement of the lips that we see and the sound that we hear don’t match, it is more than a little off-putting and the personal connection is interrupted to some extent.
Further evidence of this is the news this week that the company that created the language learning app Babbel is moving into the language travel market. So, people still like to learn from other people too; good news for language teachers the world over.