This week I tried out several language exchange apps and sites. In my mind, the best to judge them is not by the number of bells and whistles (some of them feature things like the ability to record and send audio and voice to text translation) but by whether or not you get any language exchange partners.
Judged by that standard, they were mostly dismal failures. The exception was actually the simplest site: conversation exchange. I got two new language exchange partners from that site.
By the way, is the ability to get translations of messages and even voice recordings automatically actually a good thing in a language exchange site or app? Some of them clearly seem to think so, but I don’t know that I agree. It makes it too easy. If you can just push a button and get a translation, how often will you rely on that rather than on your own brain?
In the course of teaching, I have found an awful lot of students who can’t do basic arithmetic because they have become so used to having a calculator around, and I really do mean basic arithmetic, such as “What is 20 x 1000?” I had a college student recently tell me that the answer was 2 million. When I told her that was wrong, she told me that she needed a calculator to do the math, and that was not an isolated incident.
So, is the ability to click a button and get a translation helpful, or is it another step down the path of not being to do things for ourselves?
I’m not opposed to technology (obviously, since this is a blog) but I am opposed to letting it become a crutch that we can’t do without. Of course, if it does, that isn’t the fault of the technology. It’s the fault of the person pushing the buttons.