Personal tools
A Network of Excellence forging the
Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance


Europe's Digital Single Market must be multilingual!

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2015-04-17 10:06

The European Language and Language Technology community recently published an open letter, asking the EC to address the multilingual challenge in the DSM strategy and pledge to work together to provide a solution for overcoming language barriers, thereby making a truly integrated Digital Single Market a reality.

We’re very happy that, by now, more than 3,300 politicians (including several Members of the European Parliament), industry representatives, language professionals, translators, researchers, academics, administrators, officials and concerned citizens have signed the letter.

The open letter is a response from the Language (Technology) community – including Linguistics, Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing, Data, Knowledge, Cognitive Science, Multilingualism etc. – to the EC consultations for their Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy. There is a severe danger that our field is vanishing from the EC priorities. Currently it’s not yet part of the strategic priorities of EC Vice President Andrus Ansip.

This is why we would like to ask the whole community to support our open letter, first of all, by signing it, but also by spreading the word in your networks, to your friends, colleagues, partners and collaborators. 

Another good way to help is to support our cause on the official EC DSM consultation website called Digital4EU. We posted the open letter on Digital4EU and we would like to ask you to provide supportive comments, feedback, input, additional ideas etc.

In order to present the key aspects in a short, easily comprehensible way, we prepared a fact sheet that provides additional information and figures on the Multilingual Digital Single Market: Why Europe needs a Multilingual Digital Single Market (MDSM Fact Sheet).

Videos of META-FORUM 2013 presentations and panel discussions

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2013-10-23 16:16

Today we made videos of (almost) all META-FORUM 2013 presentations and panel discussions available through our new META-NET youtube channel. Links to the videos are available on the programme page of the conference

In addition we put all videos into a youtube playlist so that you can watch — or re-watch — the whole event with a single click.

The two or three missing videos will be added soon.

New META-NET Language White Paper on Welsh

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2013-10-20 13:41

A new volume of our META-NET White Paper Series has been published: The Welsh Language in the Digital Age / Y Gymraeg yn yr Oes Ddigidol, written by Jeremy Evas (School of Welsh, Cardiff University), discusses the situation and language technology support for Welsh. With the weakest score in all four technology areas surveyed in our cross-language comparison, the addition of Welsh brings the number of European languages in danger of digital extinction to a total of 22. 

META Awards at META-FORUM 2013

by John Judge — last modified 2013-09-25 17:12

META Prize

META-FORUM 2013 was held last week in the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology in Berlin. This, the fourth instance of the event, was another big success with almost 300 delegates in attendance. As is now traditional at META-FORUM the first day of the event closed with the presentation of the annual META Awards on behalf of the META Technology Council.

This year’s awards were presented by Georg Rehm, META-NET Network Manager and Nicoletta Calzolari, President of ELRA. Awarded this year were 4 META Seal of Recognition awards and 1 META Prize winner.

The META Seal of Recognition is awarded by the META Technology Council to software products and services that actively contribute to the European Multilingual Information Society. This year’s recipients, joining the prestigious family of previous recipients including Google Translate, TAUS, Systran, and Kantan MT, were

The META Prize is awarded by the META Technology Council to outstanding products or services supporting the European Multilingual Information Society. From this year’s short list of nominees one clear winner emerged ahead of the pack and so the META Prize was awarded to The Rosetta Foundation for their groundbreaking work enabling the global conversation in communities and social localization, making information available to individuals irrespective of their social status, linguistic or cultural background.

META-NET is proud to be able to recognise the contributions and achievements of such high level work in our field. Congratulations to all our winners!

Infographics: Our languages - Opportunities and Threats

by John Judge — last modified 2012-12-06 13:32

We've produced some more infographics. This time highlighting the opportunities and threats to our languages. Please feel free to share and reuse the images with a link back to this site.


Gap   Disappearing


Language Attitudes   Market


There's also this larger graphic which combines all of the above




Infographic: LT Unlocks the Single Digital Market

by John Judge — last modified 2012-11-16 16:14

We've produced an infographic highlighting the opportunity for growth of the European digital market through Language Technology. Please feel free to share and reuse the image with a link back to this site.

Language Technology Unlocks the Single Digital Market

Full Size Image


Use this code to embed this infographic in your own site

<div id="sensible-embed-widget" ><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script><a href=""><img src=""></a><div style="clear:both;"><!-- --></div><div id="sensible-embed-codes"><textarea cols="30" rows="6"><img src=""><div>The Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance <a href="">META-NET</a> <a href=""></a> </div></textarea></div><div style="clear:both;"><!-- --></div></div></div> <div style="clear: both;"><!-- --></div>

Data Liberation Campaign

by John Judge — last modified 2012-11-12 12:41


Recently we conducted an internal survey to find out about the existence and availability of national corpora (or similar) for the various European languages covered by our network. The results of this small study showed that for almost every European language there exists some reference corpus of an established quality and in many cases produced or otherwise endorsed by the respective official language body. However, despite these corpora existing and being held by national organisations in the majority of cases, it is not possible for language technology researchers to get access to these corpora for their own work. For example, it is not possible for researchers to download or to run their own analysis over the data.

In most cases the reasons cited for these restrictions are copyright and redistribution restrictions that the corpus owners or corpus compilers have with publishers who provided the source data. These restrictions prevent researchers from using the data for non profit purposes such as scientific research which can benefit the entire language and language technology community. This is a striking finding in the wake of our recent publication of the Languages in the Digital Age series which highlighted that a lack of resources or a lack of availability of resources is putting many European languages at risk in the digital age.

In response to these findings, we have prepared an open letter to all the official language bodies in Europe and to those holding onto the various corpora calling on them to consider trying to make this important language data available for research purposes. Our open letter is also addressed to the European Patent Office. In this letter we ask for those with the power to do so to reconsider their distribution policies to allow greater access to their data for research. We also offer to provide a safe and secure mechanism (META-SHARE) to share the data should they choose to do so, and also any help we can provide regarding licensing, copyright and other legal issues.

The open letter, including a recipient list, is reproduced below. If you feel, as we do, that there is a huge benefit to liberating these corpora and making them available for research then please contact your local language body and let them know that you are in favour of our proposal.


Data Liberation Campaign - Open Letter

HLT Days 2012

by John Judge — last modified 2012-09-07 15:52



We are very pleased to announce the Human Language Technology Days 2012 international event to be held on 27–28 September 2012 in Warsaw. The event is organised by the Institute of Computer Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Łódź in the framework of the ICT-PSP project CESAR

(Central and South-East European Resources, part of META-NET).


Human Language Technology Days 2012 intends to promote language technology and its research, economic and societal potential, by gathering experts and users who will discuss the important issues on the future of languages and language processing in a multilingual European and global digital information society. How does massive digitisation of information, knowledge and everyday communication affect our language? Will our language change or even disappear? Will Polish be used in the communication channels of 21st century on equal grounds with other European languages? What steps do we need to take in order to assure that? Under the high patronage of the Minister of Science and Higher Education and the president of the Polish Academy of Sciences, we have gathered speakers from the European Commission, IBM, Google, Polish Academy of Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and many other European research infrastructure institutions.


This event, at the same time, is a Road Show of European language technology, a presentation of the state-of-the-art services in which development of language resources and language tools are currently at and how they can be used for research and business. Particular attention will be drawn to language technology for Polish and the role it plays in research, administration and business within the digital information society.


The event is co-located with ICT Proposers’ Day 2012

, which offers numerous possibilities to have bilateral discussions with the European Commission staff on 26 September 2012 about Language Technology related calls, namely ICT Call 10 and SME-DCA call.


We sincerely invite you to register for HLT Days 2012

and look forward to seeing you in Warsaw!

META-FORUM 2012 – Report and Videos now online

by John Judge — last modified 2012-09-04 16:10

Earlier this year, on June 20/21, hundreds of people from the extended Language Technology community gathered in Brussels for META-NET’s annual conference event – META-FORUM. Among them not only researchers keen to discuss their work, but also representatives of language communities, national and European administration, and many businesses and industry leaders showcasing products and services at the industry showcase META-EXHIBITION which ran in parallel with the main event.

META-FORUM, as the name suggests, serves as a gathering point, a hub for these diverse communities of interest to meet and discuss developments, problems and opportunities presented by the challenges of a modern and multilingual Europe. This year’s event themed “A Strategy for Multilingual Europe” proved to be another exciting and fruitful meeting for the community.

Proceedings opened on the first day with an address on the “Technological Challenges of the European Multilingual Society” from Thibaut Kleiner a member of the cabinet of Neelie Kroes (Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and Vice-President of the European Commission) which gave a warning to the assembled delegates that the language technology community in Europe has to demonstrate that it can make the step from research to innovation or risk losing funding. The day went on to include a joint session with the European Federation of National Institutions for Language (EFNIL) on Europe and its languages including key results from the META-NET Language White Paper Series, a session on home grown European Language Technologies, and a joint session with LT Innovate on future directions in European LT including the Strategic Research Agenda for Multilingual Europe 2020. Day one finished off with the presentation of the annual META Prize and Seal of Recognition awards and presentations from the winners.

The second day’s agenda was as packed as the first. Sessions included a discussion on plans for LT research and innovation on the European level with Roberto Cencioni and Kimmo Rossi representing the European Commission. META-NET’s own META-SHARE infrastructure was showcased and future plans and directions were discussed with the assembled community representatives. Next, national representatives got a chance to present plans for LT research and innovation in member states and regions in the afternoon. META-FORUM 2012 was brought to a close with a keynote address from Fernando Pereira of Google who highlighted Google’s work to develop highly scalable language technology workflows and to create links between natural language text, external knowledge bases, and other types of data.

For those who were unable to attend, or if there was a presentation you want to see again or share with your colleagues who couldn’t make it, there’s good news! We’ve compiled a report summarising the main points of each session. The report provides a synopsis of each speaker’s presentation (including slides), their main points and relevant links to other resources. In addition you’ll also find links to videos of each presentation and panel discussion as well as the opening session by and the closing keynote address. Please have a look and share with your colleagues. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on the discussion forum, on social media through Facebook or Twitter, or email

CHAT 2012: Call for Participation

by Tatiana Gornostay — last modified 2012-05-31 00:00

The second workshop on the Creation, Harmonization and Application of Terminology resources (CHAT 2012) will be held in conjunction with the conference on Terminology and Knowledge Engineering on June 22, 2012, in Madrid, Spain

CHAT 2012 web page

CHAT 2012 programme

Every day the volume of terminology is growing along with the increasing volume of information available on the web. Efficient terminology acquisition and management has become an essential component of intelligible translation, localization, technical writing and other professional language work. The current models for finding, sharing and using terminology data cannot keep up with a growing demand in multilingual Europe. The role of terminology however is today more important than ever to ensure that people communicate efficiently and precisely.

Consistent, harmonized and easily accessible terminology is an extremely important prerequisite for ensuring unambiguous multilingual communication in the European Union and throughout the world. The planned workshop aims at bringing together academic and industrial players in the area of terminology and attracting holders of terminology resources. The workshop also focuses on fostering the cooperation between EU projects and research and development activities in the area of terminology along with sharing experience and discussing recent advances of the consolidation, harmonization, and distribution of terminology resources, as well as their practical application in various domains.

This workshop is organized by FP7 projects TaaS (Terminology as a Service) and TTC (Terminology Extraction, Translation Tools and Comparable Corpora), and ICT-PSP project META-NORD (Baltic and Nordic Branch of the European Open Linguistic Infrastructure) to continue a series of meetings that started as the first CHAT 2011 workshop in Riga in May 2011.

More information

Up-to-date information about the TKE 2012 conference and local information about Madrid is available at the main conference website.

For further information, please, contact or

Looking forward to meeting you in Madrid!

UK Research Funding Body Recognises the Potential of LT Thanks to META-NET’s Vision Paper

by John Judge — last modified 2012-05-04 10:29

The UK's  Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) recently conducted a review of which subject areas to 'grow', 'maintain' or 'reduce', in terms of the proportion of the total EPSRC portfolio. Recognising the multidisciplinary nature of Natural Language Processing and the vital role played by LT underpinning future technological development in areas such as healthcare, the digital economy, and intelligent information infrastructure, the decision was been made to maintain funding for NLP research.

This is a strong endorsement of the potential for Language Technologies and the great work being done in this field in the UK. In addition, the EPSRC recognised META-NET’s work when conducting this review. Amongst the evidence cited in support of the decision was the META-NET Vision Paper, which was produced in conjunction with our three Vision Groups drawn from R&D and Industry experts.

The far reaching potential of LT is being recognised by more and more decision makers throughout Europe and the world. By working together through META-NET and the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance, the Language Technology R&D industry and language communities are successfully helping to shape the agenda for future work in our field. The potential is huge, our impact is large and increasing, and the time for us to act is now.

In the UK, META-NET is represented by the Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton and Sheffield.

To view the EPSRC’s announcement, see:

Portuguese Prime Minister praises META-NET

by John Judge — last modified 2011-12-01 16:56

Last week META-NET partners from the University of Lisbon participated in the 21st Communications Congress, organized by the APDC- Associação Portuguesa para o Desenvolvimento das Comunicações (Portuguese Association for the Development of Communications), where they showcased META-NET’s work and specifically META-SHARE.

The Communications Congress, now in its 21st edition, took place on the 23rd and 24th of November, in Lisbon's Congressional Centre. The theme for the event was "Quantifying the Future”. It is the largest annual congress and trade ICT fair for information and communications technologies and the new media in Portugal. The congress had approximately 1500 participants and 80 speakers, among which were representatives of the sector’s biggest and most important organisations.


Portuguese PM at META-NET StandMETA-NET Stand APDC Congress


The opening session of the Communications Congress was presented the president of APDC, Pedro Norton, along with the president of ANACOM, José Amado da Silva and the Prime Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho.

The University of Lisbon took part in the event with an exhibition stand presenting both META-SHARE and META-NET. The META-SHARE platform was showcased as part of the Congress’ Innovation Lounge, an exhibition area dedicated to innovative products and services and to networking with and among ICT and New Media companies. In this area, about 30 start-ups were represented, along with products and services from the 20 most significant companies in the sector.

During his visit to the fair, the Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho stopped by the META-NET stand, where Ana Tavares and Antonio Branco presented META-SHARE to him. The Prime Minister was made aware of META-NET and our work as a European network of excellence in Language Technology R&D aiming to launch the technological basis for a multilingual information society in Europe. The Prime Minister praised META-NET as a highly relevant project making a significant impact, and underlining the importance of the innovative research undertaken to foster technological development.

META-NET Network Meeting and General Assembly

by John Judge — last modified 2011-10-28 16:38

On Friday and Saturday October 21st and 22nd last META-NETizens from all across Europe came together in Berlin for the first META-NET Network Meeting and General Assembly.

Group Photo October 2011 GM Berlin


On Friday and Saturday October 21st and 22nd last META-NETizens from all across Europe came together in Berlin for the first META-NET Network Meeting and General Assembly. In total 93 participants attended the meetings representing every node in the META-NET Network of Excellence incorporating four European projects, T4ME, CESAR, METANET4U and META-NORD.


For many this meeting was the first time they met their colleagues from other partner organisations in the Network and so, in addition to the agenda items, it proved a useful opportunity to meet each other and discuss current work and new ideas.


The agenda included updates on the current state of play and next steps in the overall META-NET initiative, each of the partner projects, as well as an update and discussion about rolling out META-SHARE. We also engaged in extensive discussions about the forthcoming publication of the Language Whitepapers. Cross language comparison and clustering with respect to tools and resources was the hot topic for discussion here. But thanks to the strong representation from all partners the issues were thrashed out and tough decisions were taken to move the papers forward. There were also some lively discussions around the visions presented in the Strategic Research Agenda being drafted by the Technology Council. Then followed some discussion on cooperation on horizontal issues across work packages and projects and some closing remarks from Hans Uszkoreit to bring proceedings to a close.


The first META-NET Network Meeting and General Assembly was a fruitful and engaging meeting for all. The many interactive sessions gave each partner a chance to get involved and help shape the work of the Network and the informal discussions amongst partners helped strengthen the close working relationships in the Network. We’re looking forward to acting on all this to further the META-NET cause.


European Day of Languages promotes Multilingualism

by John Judge — last modified 2011-09-26 11:22

Since the latter half of the 20th century and right up to the present day the society in which we live in has changed dramatically. Advances in medicine have extended our lives. Economic and social changes have shaped the way we work and live. Improvements in technology and increased access have made information and communication technology a part of our daily lives and have helped us make further advances through sharing information and ideas. Possibly the most noticeable change brought about by these advances has been the growth in the number of languages we encounter in going about our business. Improved communication and information sharing opens up a whole new world of possibilities to us, but that world speaks with many voices in many languages. Understanding one’s neighbour and being able to share his insight has become a part of life for the modern European citizen; and with that so too has the need for multilingualism. We stand looking forward into the 21st century living in a rich and diverse multilingual Europe. In his/her daily life a citizen will encounter many different languages on public transport, in the media or on product packaging.

Yet, in this linguistically rich multilingual Europe we find that some languages are at risk of dying out or being left behind in the information society. This is shocking given that no language is inherently more difficult to learn or use for communication than another and that as Europeans we value all of our languages equally. As our society becomes more and more technologically enabled in the home, at the  workplace, and at school, the language in which information is produced, accessed and exchanged becomes a crucial factor. If a language is poorly resourced with technology which supports information communication, it is at risk of being left behind other languages more readily better resourced with websites, online discussion fora and other information technology tools. Thus we risk our cultural heritage and riches, a part of our own identity by allowing our languages to fall behind in the information age.

META-NET has undertaken a systematic review and comparison of 30 European languages, covering each country and official language as well as regional and minority languages. These reviews concentrate on the social and economic status of each language in the country/countries where it is spoken and look at how well equipped they are to cope with the emerging multilingual European information society. These reviews have been formulated into a Language Whitepaper for each language which presents this view in a frank manner and draws comparisons across other European languages to give a true picture of European multilingualism and where each language is positioned in the Language Technology landscape.

Today, on the European Day of Languages, we celebrate linguistic diversity in Europe and reaffirm our commitment to foster and preserve our languages as a cultural asset. Language Technology is a crucial tool in this task both in ensuring preservation of a language in the information age, as a teaching and learning tool, and in improving our everyday lives. We invite you to read these Language Whitepapers and consider the situation for your own languages and those you encounter in daily life and ask how can Language Technology for your language improve things for you?

In a multi agency, multilingual push to emphasise the importance of the findings of these Whitepapers, META-NET members are today issuing press releases in each country and each language. The individual releases highlight the importance of multilingualism in each region and emphasise specific LT issues affecting each region and language. We invite you to read these press releases and statements which have been prepared in consultation with and are backed by various national stakeholders including National Institutes of Language, publishing houses, the media and government ministries.

Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, United Kingdom


META-FORUM 2011: Videos of Presentations

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2011-09-06 12:18

At the end of June 2011 our annual conference META-FORUM took place in Budapest, Hungary. We've now processed and uploaded to YouTube videos of (almost) all presentations. 

Links to the videos are available on the META-FORUM 2011 programme page.

Multilingual Semantic Web Workshop

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2011-07-29 12:29

Our colleagues from the project Monnet are organising a workshop on the Multilingual Semantic Web at the International Semantic Web Conference in Bonn, Germany (October 23/24):

Multilingualism has become an issue of major interest for the Semantic Web community, in light of the substantial growth of internet users that create and update knowledge all over the world in languages other than English. This process has been accelerated due to initiatives such as the Linked Data initiative, which encourages not only governments and public institutes to make their data available to the public, but also private organizations in domains as far apart as medicine, cartography or music. These actors publish their data sources in the languages they are available in, and as such, in order to make this information available to an international community, multilingual knowledge representation, access and translation are an impending need.

Given the success of the first edition of this workshop, which was co-located with the 19th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2010), we intend to continue with this workshop series. Further encouragement derives from the growing amount of research in this emerging area. In this 2011 edition we will have a special focus on:

  • representation of multilingual information and language resources in Semantic Web and Linked Data formats
  • cross-lingual discovery and representation of mappings between multilingual Linked Data vocabularies and datasets
  • cross-lingual querying of knowledge repositories and Linked Data
  • machine translation and localization strategies for the Semantic Web

The 2nd Workshop on the Multilingual Semantic Web

Are Europe’s Languages in Danger?

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2011-06-23 10:38

META-FORUM 2011 sends a mix of alarming and optimistic messages 

META-FORUM 2011, to be held in Budapest, Hungary on June 27/28, is an international conference on powerful technologies for the multilingual European information society and an official event of the Hungarian EU Presidency.

Cultural and linguistic diversity is a hallmark of European integration. While the European Union works in 23 official languages, a total of about 60 languages are spoken on our continent when regional languages are taken into account. Information provided to citizens, business partners, consumers and tourists keeps growing at a fast pace. Will businesses and public administrations be able to translate this vast quantity of text into 23 or 60 languages? For 23 languages, we already have 506 pairs of source and target languages, for 60 languages 3540 pairs are needed. Surely, we cannot afford to sacrifice our linguistic diversity. But, can we afford to maintain it?

European integration is removing the borders for people, goods and capital. The global Internet permits the free exchange of information, and human language is the only medium for storing and sharing mankind’s knowledge, thus serving as the fabric of the Web. Yet, this Web consists of many languages, and non-English content is growing very fast. The last remaining borders that hinder the free flow of ideas and thought are our language boundaries. Huge regional market opportunities remain unused today because of language barriers. A recent UNESCO report on multilingualism states that languages are an essential medium for executing fundamental rights, such as political expression, education and participation in society. Concerned citizens have started using the social media of the Internet for lively dialogues on pressing social issues such as securing sustainable energy, reforming the financial system and dealing with demographic changes; but, these discussions are still parcelled by language boundaries. Successful European e-democracy needs to extend across linguistic borders.

Language technology is anticipated to provide the means for overcoming language boundaries. Indeed, in the last few years, automatic translation has improved considerably. Nevertheless, research and development are still much too slow and fragmented to solve our language problems in time. For obvious economic reasons, most research and development is centred on English. The majority of European languages are severely under-resourced and some are almost completely neglected. In this sense, our languages are not yet future-proof.

META-FORUM 2011 will report on the findings of 30 language white papers each surveying the status of a European language in the digital age. The conference brings together representatives of top-notch European research centres; small and large technology corporations; translation services and other users of language technology; language communities; and policy makers responsible for supporting research and innovation.

The meeting is organized by META-NET, a Network of Excellence consisting of 47 research centres in 31 countries and funded by the European Commission. META-NET is forging the “Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance” uniting technology researchers, providers and users for a large European research and innovation effort. Representatives of more than 280 organisations from 40 countries have already joined the alliance.

In his opening speech, Zoran Stančič, Deputy Director-General for Information Society and Media in the Euro¬pean Commission, formulates clear expectations: "In the European Union we have lifted to a large extent the physical borders between countries, still there are many borders remaining, including linguistic ones. Access to information in all languages is a necessary condition to enhance the circulation of products and services, and to boost the advent of a seamless digital single market. I strongly believe that Europe can further develop its leadership in language technologies and deliver solutions that will benefit the European society and economy at large. The only way we can achieve this, however, is to combine efforts and build a strong partnership with all stakeholders concerned. The place of language technologies in the future European research and innovation landscape will depend heavily on the ability of the field to speak with one voice."

The participants of META-FORUM will debate the guiding visions and initial plans for the envisaged technology push. In three vision groups and in a public web dialogue, experts from more than 100 companies and research organi-sations have already assembled bold visions for future research and visions about powerful language technology applications that will change our work and everyday life. The visions will be presented and discussed at the Budapest conference. The shared vision will serve as the starting point for a strategic research agenda, whose first outline will also be discussed at META-FORUM. As Hans Uszkoreit, the META-NET coordinator, explained, “With the right vision, actors and agenda, we can secure the future of Europe’s languages and the competitiveness of a European industry sector in a key area of technological growth. The public costs for such an effort might not be higher than those for 100 kilometres of highway in a new member state.”

The planned large-scale effort will not only improve automatic translation but also create enabling technologies for many other applications. Language technology is generally acknowledged today as one of the key growth areas in information technology. Large international corporations such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and Nuance have invested substantially in this area. In Europe, hundreds of small and medium enterprises have specialized in certain language technology applications or services. Language technology allows people to collaborate, learn, do business and share knowledge across language borders and independently of their computer skills.

Already today, language technology supports us in everyday tasks, such as writing e-mails or buying tickets. We benefit from language technology when searching for and translating web pages; using a word processor’s spell and grammar checking features; operating our car’s entertainment system or our mobile phone with spoken commands; getting recommendations in an online book-store; or following the instructions spoken by a mobile navigation app. In the near future, we will be able to talk to computer programs as well as machines and appliances including those long awaited service robots that will soon enter our homes and work places. Wherever we are, when we need information, we will simply ask for it, and, when we need help, we will outspokenly demand it. Removing the communication barrier between people and technology will change our world.

At META-FORUM, keynote speakers Thomas Hofmann of Google Europe and Bran Boguraev of IBM USA will report on technological advances and plans in their large international corporations. Some of the foremost European language technology scientists will summarize the state of the art, disclose new breakthroughs and share success stories about European research. Representatives of large language technology users, such as the translation service of the European Commission, Daimler Corporation and Vodafone will speak about the benefits of language technology applications, and they will present their needs.

On Tuesday, 28 June 2011, the META-Prize, which honours outstanding research, technologies and services for the European multilingual information society, will be awarded, and several META-Seals of Recognition will be presented for innovative multilingual products and services. An industry exhibition that concurrently runs with the main conference will feature presentations and demonstrations from large and small businesses working across the field of language technologies and showcase recent R&D results by EU-funded projects.

Two countries with multilingual societies—India with its 19 “official” languages and South Africa with 11 national languages—are conducting systematic language technology programs. At META-FORUM, these programs will be represented together with EU and national research programs. In two panel discussions, problems and solution strategies of multilingual societies and lesser-resourced European languages will be compared and discussed.

A prerequisite for the creation of successful applications for a language are large volumes of collected and interpreted language data, such as texts and speech recordings. Another precondition is the existence of basic language analysis technology for each language. At the Budapest forum, META-NET will unveil a new service for sharing and maintaining such resources, called META-SHARE, which will greatly facilitate research and development. The existence and quality of such resources vary from language to language, depending on the commercial relevance of the language, the problems the language poses for automatic processing and the research already devoted to it. Before the META-NET white papers, no one had assessed the state of European languages in regards to technology support. Now, META-NET can show why most languages are facing serious problems, and pinpoint the most threatening gaps.

The main message of META-FORUM 2011: Although the EU and its member states have already supported numerous individual research projects, the technology gap between “big” and “small” languages still keeps widening. No effort of sufficient scale and coordination has yet been made in Europe to create the missing resources and technologies as well as transfer technology to the majority of languages. There are strong reasons for approa-ching this immense challenge in a community effort involving the EU, its member states and industry, including: the high per-capita financial burden for smaller language communities; the needed transfer of technologies between languages; the interoperability of resources, tools and services; and the fact that linguistic borders often do not coincide with political borders. Europe must take action to prepare its languages for the digital age. They are a precious component of our cultural heritage and, as such, they deserve future-proofing.

More than half EU internet surfers use foreign language when online

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2011-05-11 16:10

The European Commission recently conducted a study about the languages preferred by European internet users. The results of the Eurobarometer study strongly underline the need for sophisticated multilingual language technologies:

While 90% of Internet surfers in the EU prefer to access websites in their own language, 55% at least occasionally use a language other than their own when online. However, 44% of European Internet users feel they are missing interesting information because web pages are not in a language that they understand and only 18% buy products online in a foreign language. The results underline the need for investment in online translation tools so that EU Internet users are not excluded from finding information or products online because they lack the language skills. 

Neelie Kroes, EC Vice President for the Digital Agenda, said "If we are serious about making every European digital, we need to make sure that they can understand the web content they want."

The Eurobarometer study (PDF, English) 

The Eurobarometer study press release (including links to versions in other languages)

META-NET Vision Paper Updated

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2011-04-25 20:51

Today we published an updated version of our vision paper The Future European Multilingual Information Society. Have a look and discuss our technology visions for multilingual Europe, realised by sophisticated Language Technology, in our online discussion forum.

META-FORUM 2011: Registration now open

by Georg Rehm — last modified 2011-04-21 11:00

We just opened the registration for our upcoming conference META-FORUM 2011 – Solutions for Multilingual Europe. The conference will take place in Budapest, Hungary, on June 27/28 and it is an official event of the Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union. Registration is free of charge.