Tag: languages

Will language translation tech ring a death knell for modern language learning?

“100 billion words a day? It is nearly unfathomable that Google’s neural machine translation can accomplish this”

Humans have been trying to find better ways of deciphering different languages for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1949 that the concept of “machine translation” really became a possibility.

According to a paper written by John Hutchins, Yehoshua Bar-Hillel was one of the first ones to take an interest in the field. He led a Georgetown University machine translation team and in partnership with IBM performed a demonstration of an automatic translation machine in 1954 known as the Georgetown-IBM experiment.

It was the height of the cold war, and the machine was capable of translating roughly 250 words from Russian into English. At the time, the demonstration generated a lot of interest, and it was predicted that machine translation would be perfected before 1960. However, computers weren’t advanced enough at this time to handle the complexity of translation, and subsequent experiments for the following few decades were lacklustre at best.

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The world is flat, and all the best universities are at the top edge

“The recognition of institutions of higher learning in the global South as equally desirable as those in the North would be a positive first step in redressing imbalances”

The world is flat, and all the best universities are at the top edge. Between virtually every university prospectus promising to prepare students for a “globalised, interconnected” world, and any recent international league tables, this – intentionally or not – is the message being produced in many quarters of higher education.

As a Canadian who went to Tanzania for a Masters degree, I can happily report that neither of these is the case. The world we live in today is not inevitably converging into a single reality whose ways can be learned at any one institution, and some of the very best educational experiences are to be had at the universities of the global South.

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