Does a picture paint a thousand words?

Apr 16, 2013 | Translation

WalkingI recently read an interesting article in The Telegraph which asked if pictographs could mean the death of foreign language learning.

From pre-historic days to now, pictures have always been used as a simple communication tool. We’ve all been grateful for the little men and women on toilet doors (although I confess to finding even these ambiguous on occasion! Or is that just me…?) Fast-food joints use lovely glossy pictures to advertise their wares (although these bear little resemblance to what you see when you peer into the packaging) and icons are now, of course, obligatory on computers, tablets and phones.

The Telegraph reports that some linguists are predicting that this is the future of language, with pictures taking the place of words more and more. Particularly in cities, tourists will be able to find their way around without need of phrase books or strange arm-waving conversations with the natives.

This all makes sense, of course, but will it mean the need to learn a new language will disappear? I don’t think so. Pictures (like machine translation!) will never take the place of human interaction and, until a single language takes over the world, there will still be a need for learning and translation.


What do you think?

Image: arthurep @ stock.xchng