About 5 years ago I was tired of my students trying to pass off work done on Google Translate as their own, so I prepared an entire lesson showing them the limitations of online translators like Google. We looked at the translators inability to choose correctly between the verbs SER and ESTAR, the Preterite and the Imperfect Tenses, and to select the correct word when it's English counterpart had multiple meanings. I dusted off this lesson just this year and found that I can no longer use it. In just 5 years, the sentences and examples that the translator of 2009 was getting wrong, the translator of 2014 was getting right.
I recently read an article about a new technology, a pair of glasses actually, that translates in real time what you say to the language of your choice. Traveling abroad? No need to know the language! Just drop some dough on these glasses!
I truly believe that our profession is on the brink of a big shift in purpose and if we don't adapt (which, let's face it, the educational system here is not known for timely change), we will find our jobs outsourced to these cheaper alternatives. The good news is that I also believe that there is something that we do that can not be replaced by these technological advancements. Ironically, it is the one thing that we probably neglect the most in our classrooms - culture.
The key to keeping our jobs and staying relevant is to teach the language through the culture. To help students understand how to use words in a cultural context. To help them see the values and belief system of the people that they will need to work with, play with, or live among. To understand the social, environmental, and political issues that are affecting change in these places. To enjoy and appreciate the cultures of others and allow them to make your own life richer. These are things that machines would be hard pressed to accomplish.