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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 press release (including links to versions in other languages)
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.
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.
We're very happy that our article about META-NET, Multilingual Europe: A challenge for language tech, has been published in MultiLingual (issue April/May 2011, page 51/52).
Speaking one’s mother tongue, be it Latvian, Hungarian, or Portuguese, must not become a social or economic disadvantage in the networked European information society of the twenty-first century. Many European languages run the risk of becoming victims of the digital age, as they are under-represented and under-resourced. Huge regional market opportunities remain untapped because of language barriers.
The full text of the article is available online.
The Workshop aims at bringing various groups together who are concerned with the broad topic of "Language Technology for a multilingual Europe". This encompasses on the one hand representatives from research and development in the field of language technologies, on the other hand users from quite divers areas. Two examples of the application of language technology is (automatic / machine) translation, and processing of texts from the humanities with methods from language technology, like automatic topic indexing, text mining, integrating numerous texts and additional information across languages etc. These kinds of application areas and research and development in language technology have in common that they rely on resources (lexica, corpora, grammars, ontologies etc.), or that they produce these resources. A multilingual Europe, being supported by language technology, is only possible if an adequate, interoperable infrastructure of resources, including the related tooling, is available for all European languages. In addition it is necessary that the aforementioned and other communities of developers and users of language technology stand as one, homogenous community. Only in this way it will be possible to assure the long-term political acceptance of the topic "language technology" in Europe. The workshop is co-organised by two GSCL working groups ("Text Technology" and "Machine Translation") and META-NET. META-NET, a Network of Excellence consisting of 44 research centres from 31 countries, is dedicated to building the technological foundations of a multilingual European information society. META-NET is forging META, the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance. The full CFP can be found on the GSCL 2011 website.
The Workshop aims at bringing various groups together who are concerned with the broad topic of "Language Technology for a multilingual Europe". This encompasses on the one hand representatives from research and development in the field of language technologies, on the other hand users from quite divers areas. Two examples of the application of language technology is (automatic / machine) translation, and processing of texts from the humanities with methods from language technology, like automatic topic indexing, text mining, integrating numerous texts and additional information across languages etc.
These kinds of application areas and research and development in language technology have in common that they rely on resources (lexica, corpora, grammars, ontologies etc.), or that they produce these resources. A multilingual Europe, being supported by language technology, is only possible if an adequate, interoperable infrastructure of resources, including the related tooling, is available for all European languages. In addition it is necessary that the aforementioned and other communities of developers and users of language technology stand as one, homogenous community. Only in this way it will be possible to assure the long-term political acceptance of the topic "language technology" in Europe.
The workshop is co-organised by two GSCL working groups ("Text Technology" and "Machine Translation") and META-NET. META-NET, a Network of Excellence consisting of 44 research centres from 31 countries, is dedicated to building the technological foundations of a multilingual European information society. META-NET is forging META, the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance.
The full CFP can be found on the GSCL 2011 website.
Together with Aljoscha Burchardt and Felix Sasaki we wrote an article on META-NET that was published in LIBREAS – Library Ideas, Das mehrsprachige Europa: eine Herausforderung für die Sprachtechnologie. The article is written in German but of course you can use one of the freely available high-quality Machine Translation engines integrated into your browser and operating system of choice to translate it into any other language instantly.*
* We're working on it.
On February 10th, META-NET will be among those celebrating the launch of the W3C German-Austrian Office at its new location: DFKI Berlin. The W3C German-Austrian Office launch event will be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how European research and various industries can contribute and, at the same time, benefit from the emerging W3C standard computing platform that will make Web apps even more powerful than they are now, available everywhere, for every user, in every culture.
Like META-NET, W3C is a place for community building with regard to multilingualism. Through its Internationalization Activity, W3C has gained long-term achievements for making the World Wide Web truly world wide. Hence, the W3C German-Austrian Office being hosted by DFKI, the coordinating partner of the META-NET Network of Excellence, will strengthen the relations between the Language Technology and the Web technology communities and will lead to new alliances for the multilingual information society on and via the Web.
Our colleagues from the MOLTO project organise a Summer School on GF, Grammatical Framework. Please find the official announcement and call for participation below.
GF Summer School
Frontiers of Multilingual Technologies
Barcelona, 15-26 August 2011
Topics: Introductory and Advanced Tutorials on GF, Type Theory, SMT, Parsing and Multilingual Application Development
Registration and Contact: http://school.grammaticalframework.org
Location: Vertex Building, UPC, Barcelona
Organizers: O. Caprotti, L. Màrquez, A. Ranta, J. Saludes, S. Xambó
Travel Grants: Via application procedure
Sponsors: CLT Gothenburg, MOLTO EU FP7-ICT-247914, UPC.
The European Commission will announce a new call for proposals under objective 4.1. "SME Initiative on Digital Content and Languages" in February 2011. The SME-DCL Call makes available 35 MEUR funding for consortia that must include at least two SMEs, but which may of course include other types of organisations as appropriate for the proposal. The overall goal is to generate added value from trading, pooling and exploiting data (including language resources) in order to produce novel technologies, products and services.
In connection with the SME-DCL Call, an Information & Networking Day will be held on 21 January 2011 in the Jean Monnet Conference Centre in Luxembourg. For details on the agenda and how to register please check http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/language-technologies/fp7-sme_en.html.
META-FORUM 2010 took place on November 17 and 18, 2010 in the European capital, Brussels. This was the first large outreach event organised by META-NET, a Network of Excellence forging the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance (META). Against the backdrop of a cold and foggy autumn day outside, the historic “Theatre” hall of the Hotel Le Plaza provided a fitting venue for the event and welcome respite from the elements outside. Here, assembled for META-FORUM 2010, the inaugural conference of the META-FORUM series of events, were more than 250 participants from a total of 37 countries – a turnout far exceeding our expectations.
As the name suggests, META-FORUM serves as a gathering point, a hub for diverse communities of interest to meet and discuss developments, problems and opportunities presented by the challenges of a modern and multilingual Europe. In front of the Theatre, the foyer played host to many diverse presentations from ten partner projects highlighting their plans and details of collaboration with META-NET. Alongside these presentations, software demonstrations from within META-NET itself complemented the picture by showcasing the open resource exchange infrastructure META-SHARE, the Virtual Information Centre and the first results of the Machine Translation research arm of the META-NET initiative.
In his welcome address, MEP and former foreign minister of Lithuania Algirdas Saudargas, conveyed the clear and direct message that language must be handled with the utmost care because it is a strong but also fragile band that ties together communities, social groups, and even nations. In his address Roberto Cencioni (European Commission, Luxembourg) echoed this sentiment with his advice to stakeholders from Language Technology research and development that this highly fragmented sector has to join forces to reach critical mass and that it has to improve its credibility and visibility. Hans Uszkoreit (DFKI, Germany), the coordinator of META-NET, took up the same topic when he introduced the three lines of action the initiative pursues to reach exactly these strategic goals: building bridges to neighbouring technology fields, designing and implementing META-SHARE, the open resource exchange facility, and building a homogeneous European LT community with a shared vision and strategic research agenda.
The first invited keynote speech highlighted accessibility and multilingualism as key challenges for the audiovisual industry in the digital age. In her speech, Yota Georgakopoulou (European Captioning Institute, UK) left no doubt that in the near future there will be an immense economic need within the audiovisual sector to make use of various Language Technology applications.
In the session entitled “From Shared Visions to a Strategic Research Agenda” industry representatives and language professionals that had been invited by META-NET into three think tanks – Vision Groups – presented the results of their first two rounds of meetings. These presentations then served as a platform for introducing the panel session that followed. The session was lively and informative and raised some interesting points of view and new insights. The discussion is now continued in an online forum and will, together with input and feedback collected through several other means, ultimately lead to the vision paper “European Multilingual Information Society 2020” and a Strategic Research Agenda. If you are interested in the needs and visions that have been and will be further discussed in the Vision Groups, you are encouraged to visit the online forum where you can join in and contribute to the discussions.
Georg Artelsmair (European Patent Office, Germany) presented recent developments concerning the machine translation policy at the European Patent Office in the second invited keynote speech. The EPO has become a heavy user of multilingual Language Technology in recent years and they anticipate that the demand will only increase. Concluding the first day, Bill Dolan (Microsoft Research, USA) highlighted the need for and the opportunities to be gained through close cooperation between industry and the research community, especially regarding the importance of sharing not just technology but also data.
During the second (half) day of META-FORUM 2010 the floor was given over to companies that either employ or build Language Technologies. Seven industry representatives formulated their needs, problems, and wishes for European LT research and development. In a first step to help strengthen the industry community, Jochen Hummel (ESTeam GmbH, Germany) introduced the Language Technology Business Association (LTBA), which is currently in a preparatory phase and will be officially launched at the beginning of 2011. John Hendrik Weitzmann (Creative Commons Initiative, Germany) and Prodromos Tsiavos (Creative Commons Initiative, Greece, UK, Norway) addressed some of the problems and solutions regarding legal issues in basic and industrial research on Language Technology. Their talk highlighted how best to approach the sharing of Language Resources through META-SHARE.
The closing keynote address from Swaran Lata (Department of Information Technology, Government of India, New Delhi) provided an overview of numerous multilingual initiatives in India in the past 20 years. She presented how India, with its 22 languages (and various different scripts), can serve as a blueprint to European initiatives towards multilingualism and LT supported language initiatives.
META-FORUM 2010 may be over, but the work continues in earnest. The next META-FORUM will take place in Budapest on June 27th and 28th 2011. Details will be published as they become available. In the meantime there are many ways in which you can keep in touch and stay informed about our work. The Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance, META, has launched. You can join online and please get involved in the discussions in our forums which will help continue the work begun at META-FORUM 2010. Find us on Facebook and Linked In to keep up to date with the latest news and developments, and to connect with other members. The META-NET website is regularly updated with new content and news. Here you can also find the calendar of events not just for META and META-NET but also the whole Language Technology community so check back regularly for updates.
Madalena Cruz-Ferreira just started a new blog, Being Multilingual, in which she wants to discuss what it means to be multilingual. Madalena thinks that multilingualism is often misunderstood and that these myths and misconceptions need to be dealt with.
Another crucial point Madalena notices is that it is often the languages used by multilinguals that typically receive the most attention. In contrast, Being Multilingual will focus on the people, as languages do not exist independently of their users: "Multilingualism is not about what several languages can do to people, it is about what people can do with several languages."
META-NET is proud to announce the first META-FORUM conference event, entitled “Challenges for Multilingual Europe”. META-FORUM 2010 takes place on November 17 and 18, right in the heart of the European capital, Brussels.
This event will provide a focal point for bringing together Language Technology experts from research and industry, users and also providers of Language Technology solutions, along with language communities, educators and local and European policy makers. The first steps towards building a strategic research agenda for Language Technologies will be presented at META-FORUM 2010, along with a demonstration of META-SHARE, META-NET’s open resource exchange infrastructure. META-FORUM will also play host to an information session detailing important information on upcoming calls from the European Commission.
META-FORUM serves as a gathering point for diverse communities of interest to meet and discuss developments, problems and opportunities presented by the challenges and opportunities of a modern and multilingual Europe. However, META-FORUM is not just a great networking opportunity. The interactive sessions, panel discussions and the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance provide the perfect platform for you to have your say and speak directly with decision makers, researchers, policy makers and more.
Got an opinion on Multilingual Europe? Let us know at META-FORUM 2010 – Challenges for Multilingual Europe!
Interest in the conference is beyond our expectations. If you would like to participate, please register your attendance as soon as possible.
The Network of Excellence “Technologies for the Multilingual European Information Society”, henceforth META-NET, established by DG INFSO of the European Commission (EC) under Framework Programme 7, and the “Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure”, henceforth CLARIN, a consortium established under the Research Infrastructures Programme of the EC, recognise the complementarity of their objectives and declare their intent for multi-level collaboration.
CLARIN and META-NET are two complementary initiatives that have identified shared interests and approaches with respect to methods and instruments in the area of language resource infrastructures concerning both technical solutions and organizational models. Both projects aim at describing language resources with appropriate metadata, as well as their sharing, maintenance and reuse. While the fact that the two projects target different user communities may call for different metadata profiles, CLARIN and META-NET envisage an open metadata domain of data and tools, based on interoperable metadata descriptions for categories of data and tools relevant to their joint user communities. The purpose of interoperable metadata descriptions is to enable cooperation, the possibility to link data objects and/or their descriptions, the exchange of data of interest to both communities and the way towards fostering standardisation and interoperability of data and tools, wherever possible and necessary.