Monday, 30 May 2011

Feature deletion (ii)

In February I suggested that BE trainers court obsolescence.

Our functions as trainers will gradually be replaced by computer programmes, by internet modules, and by online meeting points for  professionals to practise their business English with each other.

What we do will still be there, but we won't be needed to do it, like an automated factory.

However, I think I may have been short-sighted, behind-the-times, and a little bit optimistic in my assessment.

This is because not only will we disappear, but what we do too.

Technology is constantly coming on-stream which does not aid learners in their language quests, but actually does away with the need for it altogether.

The astonishing Word Lens, for example, translates whatever printed text is in front of you , wherever you are, using your mobile phone.

With advances in speech software, it is only a matter of time before Douglas Adam's Babel fish becomes a technological reality.

If the need to learn language is disappearing, so too are the skills that a BE trainer imparts in that language.

Worried about delivering a presentation in English with all these awkward words?

No problem: just install PowerTalk and have a machine read out the whole thing for you!

You've spell-checked, and grammar-checked that tricky email in English, but you're still not sure if you've used the right tone?

No need to employ an expensive BE trainer to tell you how: simply install Tone Check and let the programme tell you if you're being inappropriate!

Of course, these are just examples of a technology that's still in its infancy.

Ten years down the road things will be much more sophisticated and demand for us commensurately weaker.

Or maybe I'm being too optimistic again....


  1. Yes, we have been talking about this sort of technology for years. It's taking a bit longer than expected, but, as you say, we'll get there in the end.

    But technology is only one of the threats. New thinking about how people learn may also influence our profession - if we look at sociocultural approaches, for example, we may find that the whole idea of learning in classrooms with teachers will become a thing of the past.

    The problem is trying to work out when to move out of teaching language and communication into something else. :-)

  2. Ha! I was being too optimistic! Thanks Evan. :)