Why do I have to learn to speak English? Can’t I just use one of those new-fangled translation programs that let me speak in my own native tongue, have my speech translated automatically and then spew out the translation into pristine and understandable English? Or just feed what I want to say to a free internet site translator?
Well, in a nutshell, no! Speech-to-speech translation programs are great if you are in travel mode and need a quick and dirty way of just being understood, within a limited context. Or if you have a lot of time on your hands to try to really communicate with all of the unfortunate errors such programs still make. They work fine if you limit your speech to very limited phrases or very easy and fully correct forms within well-defined domains. But hey! Speech is so much more complicated than that. We want to be able to say anything, to anyone, about all things. We don’t want to be constrained. And automatic methods are certainly NOT failsafe. Take the example of the unfortunate Chinese restaurateur who tried to unsuccessfully use automatic translation for his restaurant sign. Output? His restaurant is apparently called “Translate Server Error”!
If you want to really communicate, then learning by yourself is the way to go. Not to mention the huge opportunities that come with bettering yourself by learning English, the international language of the world – improved career, education and employment opportunities. After all, if a company wants its workers to be able to speak in English, and you pull out your translating machine, or start fumbling for an online translation program, I don’t think your employment interview will go very well.
So, do you really need to learn to speak English? Your next job interview tells you “Yes!”