Lithuanian Presidency of
Lithuanian Presidency of
Meeting of the Chairpersons of the Committees on Education, Science and Culture and the Committees on the Development of Information Society "United in Diversity: Political and Social Development Aspects of EU Languages and Cultures"
26–27 September 2013, Vilnius
The Meeting of the Chairpersons of the Committees on Education, Science and Culture and the Committees on the Development of Information Society United in Diversity: Political and Social Development Aspects of EU Languages and Cultures was held in the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania on 26–27 September 2013.
The Meeting focused on two topics: Machine translation of European languages: problems, challenges, prospects and Digitalisation of a language as a part of cultural heritage.
The Meeting was opened by Ms Audronė PITRĖNIENĖ, Chair of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. The introductory remarks were followed by welcome addresses by Dr Vydas GEDVILAS, Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, and Mr Rimantas SINKEVIČIUS, Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania.
Session I was chaired by Ms Audronė PITRĖNIENĖ, Chair of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture, where the following keynote speakers took the floor: Dr Sabine KIRCHMEIER-ANDERSEN, Director of the Danish Language Council; Mr Jan TRUSZCZYŃSKI, Director General of the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission; Ms Maria Cristina DE PRETER, Head of the Portuguese Language Department of the Directorate General for Translation of the European Commission; Dr Algirdas SAUDARGAS, Member of the European Parliament; Dr Andrejs VASIĻJEVS, Director of Tilde.
In session II, chaired by Dr Mindaugas BASTYS, Chair of the Committee on the Development of Information Society of the Seimas, the floor was taken by the following keynote speakers : Mr Kimmo ROSSI, Head of the Research and Innovation Sector of the Unit Data Value Chain of the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology of the European Commission; Prof Hans USZKOREIT, scientist, Chair of the META-NET Executive Board, Coordinator of META-NET and T4ME; Ms Kaisa OLKKONEN, Member of the Executive Board of the Association DIGITALEUROPE, Vice President for Government Relations of Nokia Corporation.
The presentations were followed by a general debate. The Meeting concluded in consideration and adoption of the Conclusions.
Conclusions of the Meeting
EU policy on multilingualism in times of information technology
Endangered European languages and linguistic diversity in the European Union
Ways to satisfy the needs of EU multilingual society in the digital space
Promotable initiatives on language and its heritage resource digitalisation
The participants of the Meeting encourage and welcome the initiatives which:
Overview of the presentations and debates
SESSION I: MACHINE TRANSLATION OF EUROPEAN LANGUAGES: PROBLEMS, CHALLENGES, PROSPECTS
In her presentation, Dr KIRCHMEIER-ANDERSEN, Director of the Danish Language Council, stressed that languages were closely linked to our identity and that they allowed seeing the world from a different perspective not only from the cultural point of view but also in terms of commerce or politics. She stressed that machine translation (MT) was becoming more prevalent and that in the future MT would be reachable instantaneously, for example on our smartphones. The current most widespread MT resource was Google Translate, but it worked well only for well digitised languages and only in the general domain. Dr KIRCHMEIER-ANDERSEN pointed out that market forces alone would not be sufficient to develop MT systems, and that was why significant funds that the EU spent on the development of such systems should be welcomed. She noted that the development of such systems would allow information to flow easily between different languages in Europe.
Mr Jan TRUSZCZYŃSKI, Director General of the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission, referred to the scientific conference United in diversity: the importance of languages for mobility, employment and active citizenship that had taken place in the Seimas in the days preceding the Meeting. During the conference the importance of languages for jobs and mobility had been discussed. He stressed that languages were on top of the priority list for the Commission in education policy. Translation into other EU languages was also a key factor ensuring democratic legitimacy of the EU, as European citizens required to access information on EU decisions and legislation in their own languages. He also mentioned that, after the 2004 enlargement, the EU managed to cope with the influx of new languages well largely due to language processing technologies. The EU intended to continue supporting language technologies through different funding programmes, such as the Horizon 2020, for example.
Ms Maria Cristina DE PRETER, Head of the Portuguese Language Department of the Directorate General for Translation of the European Commission, mentioned that out of the 6000 languages that existed in the world 40% were vulnerable. She stressed that the EU stood for language diversity and that it invested heavily in MT technology and had developed its own MT system called MT@EC. She pointed out that MT could help the languages survive. One of the MT systems funded by the Commission and most widely used in the world was Moses. Such systems brought us closer to the goal of enabling people in Europe to interact with each other in their own languages. She also emphasised that the Commission saw MT as an important factor in completing the single market in the EU.
Dr Algirdas SAUDARGAS MEP, stressed that English was the contemporary lingua franca. Even if people used their native languages, English was the language connecting people. MT was currently rooted in English but if real multilingualism was to be ensured, the situation had to be turned upside down to root MT in native languages, not English. He underlined the importance of other languages catching up with English, and that this could be achieved only with the use of public funds. He emphasised the importance of acting and thinking glocal, i.e. strengthening local identities while at the same time increasing global interaction.
Dr Andrejs VASIĻJEVS, Director of Tilde, started his presentation by pointing out that capital and people could move freely in Europe, but that the language barrier still existed. According to him, less than 40% of Europeans used online content in foreign languages and 46% were not able to hold a conversation in a foreign language. Technology could help overcome the language barrier. MT was sometimes already good enough for publication and could save money and improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in the EU’s single market. It would also enable citizens to get better acquainted with other cultures in Europe. That is why the EU should move forward towards creating a real single digital marketplace, which would mean that Europeans would be able to access any products or services in their own language. This would signify a truly multilingual society. He also pointed out that globalisation was a race against time and that the dominance of English would be even more felt in the future. But this should encourage the EU to invest in other languages to make the EU a truly multilingual community.
During the debate many participants stressed that all languages should be supported in the EU, not only English. But in efforts to develop effective MT more efforts should be made to digitise European languages. This would also potentially allow developing automated voice interpretation in the future. It was mentioned that the idea of united Europe rested on multilingualism, not the dominance of one or two languages. Participants also spoke of the need for the EU to develop its own strong MT sector. One of the priorities should be to introduce translation technologies for pupils at schools. It was also important to prevent languages from digital extinction and thus to support the digitisation of languages to avoid the gap between the real and the digital space. Concern was expressed that MT could create disincentives for Europeans to learn other languages. It was therefore stressed that Europeans should be encouraged to learn other languages as well.
SESSION II: DIGITALISATION OF A LANGUAGE AS A PART OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
In his presentation Mr Kimmo ROSSI, Head of the Research and Innovation Sector of the Unit Data Value Chain of the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology of the European Commission, stressed the barriers that the lack of language knowledge presented in the single market. Mr ROSSI said that 80% of e-commerce in the EU was in one language only. The EU spent around 150 million EUR on MT systems through its 7th Framework Programme. Now funding for that purpose would be allocated through Horizon 2020, the Connecting Europe Facility and the structural funds. Yet the development of such technologies was not the same as their deployment. In this area there should be more coordination between the Commission and the Member States. For example, in order to develop automated translation there was a need to collect and digitise linguistic resources. This could only be achieved by the Member States themselves, even if with the help of the Commission. The Member States should be the ones most interested in the preservation of their languages and therefore assist the Commission in its efforts.
Prof Hans USZKOREIT, Chair of the META-NET Executive Board, Coordinator of META-NET and T4ME, pointed out that technology had improved dramatically, and now robots were talking, search engines had improved, and MT systems had advanced. He identified three major problems in terms of language diversity in Europe: 1) the language barrier remained one of the most significant obstacles in completing the EU single market; 2) European companies had a competitive disadvantage because of the diversity of languages in the EU; 3) many European languages, with the notable exception of English, were poorly digitised, which prevented effective MT systems from being developed for these languages. Poor digitisation could even lead to digital language death. He stressed that European companies and researchers were leaders in MT technology but that the EU’s competitive advantage was weakened by market fragmentation. He singled out priority themes for researchers: developing a translingual cloud, improving social intelligence, and working on socially aware interactive assistants.
Ms Kaisa OLKKONEN, Member of the Executive Board of the Association DIGITALEUROPE, noted that consumers wanted services in their own languages. Therefore companies on the internet that provided services or information in local languages had an advantage over those than only operated in English. Even if it was costly to create content in a local language, at the end it paid off. Moreover, ICT technologies could help harness economies of scale. In the EU single market companies were faced with a load of national regulations that came only in the national language. This prevented many companies from starting operations in another Member State. More efficient and affordable MT systems would allow solving this problem.
The participants stressed that languages in the EU, especially the smaller ones, were vulnerable and that digitisation was one of the measures to protect them. That is why projects like METANET and others should be funded from the EU and/or national budgets. It was stressed that public funding could lead to landmark technologies, like the GPS, which had been developed with the help of the government in the United States. An idea was raised that the EU should contemplate the creation of a central repository for digital content in order to protect the linguistic and cultural diversity.
Invitation Letter from the Chair of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture and the Chair of the Committee on the Development of Information Society (LT)
Welcome Address by Rimantas Sinkevičius, Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania
Speech by Mr Jan Truszczyński, Director General of the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission
Speech by Maria Cristina de Preter, Portuguese Language Department, Directorate-General for Translation, European Commission
An Interesting Photo
European Commission and the Council are called on to support all European languages and linguistic diversity
Parliamentary dimension event of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU focuses on multilingualism and the importance of its preservation in the digital age
Event of the parliamentary dimension of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU: importance of multilingualism and its preservation in the digital age