Some years ago I was gripped into Dan Brown´s new book ORIGIN and fascinated by the whole plot which revolved around two vital questions: where do we come from as a human species and where are we going? These questions kept resonating in my mind together with the intriguing topic of AI – Automated Intelligence. What most of us think to be something of the future, is in fact a reality now. And in fact, when we think of the language learning world, we can really observe how automation is taking over. Mobile apps, robots for learning, mechanical online learning platforms and even simultaneous translation ear pieces are all becoming the rage for learning or instantly speaking languages. We are in a period of modern technology replacing human delivery, but in fact I do believe that the human dimension in learning is absolutely irreplaceable. Technology versus the Brain – that is the question!

Ultimately, we know from neuroscience that we are wired up to be social. Matt D. Lieberman is a neuroscientist who has profoundly studied the “social” aspect and need that we all have to be social. And we have proof with the Super Agers – people of 80 and above who are just as sharp in their brain as people 30 or 40 years younger than they are. One of the key factors contributing to this appears to be that these Super Agers have deep and meaningful social relationships, and this greatly impacts the “prolonged sharpness” of the brain. We also know that the more real and personal the learning process is, the more effective the learning is – so in my humble estimation “real and personal” is not achieved through mechanical means or technology and the human dimension in learning is and always will be the most effective way that we, as social beings learn.

Now, coming back to Dan Brown´s questions, I did in fact connect these to language learning and the training world. Who are we as language educators? Where do we come from? And where are we now? And most importantly where are we going? Essential questions which I think we should all be deeply considering, especially in this ever-changing, constantly globalizing world that we all live in. Languages are no longer a luxury in life or in business. Languages are ESSENTIAL. And how do we as educators really consider how to help our learners to come into the language in a faster and more efficient manner? How do we get our executive clients to normalize the use of a foreign language in their operational day to day work? Only this week I was working closely with a top executive who is a tax adviser in his own language, who greatly needs to have the ability to communicate perfectly and precisely regarding tax issues in English. His level is really excellent, however he personally feels he is not yet comfortable explaining such detailed issues and we are now working on goals and strategies to really get him more comfortable and his brain more “normalized” in English.

And finally, as I wrote above, I do believe that the key is the brain and knowing more and more about how we function, how we react and how we learn (and we are all different). This knowledge, together with the human aspect of learning together with a coach or a trainer is the ideal scenario for learning and complemented by the modern technology available to us today. This year we have suffered greatly on our “social side” of life – we have shifted more and more online and been unable to connect with friends and family as much as we are used to. In this regard I think we need to become much more cautious and aware. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying we should not use modern technology, what I am saying is that the human element should come first and technology should support and accompany that humanized process. As a species, and returning to Dan Brown´s book, we may find ourselves endangered by AI. So, respecting and honouring our human aspect should ensure our future not only as language educators but also potentially as a species.

So what can you do to bring in the human element to your online sessions? That is the burning question for us all today.

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