ADAPT Deputy Director Prof. Andy Way publishes book focussed on European Language Equality

09 June 2023

ADAPT Deputy Director, Professor Andy Way (Dublin City University), has recently announced a new academic title now fully accessible on Springer. European Language Equality: A Strategic Agenda for Digital Language Equality presents the results of the European Language Equality (ELE) project, with key suggestions on achieving digital language equality in Europe by 2030. It offers an in-depth analysis of the technology support for over 30 European languages and is of benefit to both students and researchers from language and speech technology, natural language processing (NLP) or language-centric artificial intelligence (AI).

For nearly 2.5 years, Prof. Way has been coordinating the ELE project which has been striving to persuade the European Commission to fund a significant programme of language technology to allow all European languages to be digitally equal. The ELE team have demonstrated that tools and data are currently widely available in English, and to a sufficient extent in major languages such as German, French, Spanish and Italian, however, the gap between English and the other languages has widened significantly within the last decade. Additionally, other European languages which are less used are suffering from insufficient resources, forcing speakers to communicate via one of the more major languages rather than their preferred language. 

As the world has over 7,000 languages, it is startling to consider that for most there are no resources at all. Furthermore, when this topic is discussed, the focus is usually on text-based resources making accessing resources incredibly difficult for languages without a written tradition, including sign language. Even for the most used languages, there is a dearth in the availability of spoken resources. 

In relation to the work being undertaking by the ELE project, Prof. Way highlights the importance of initiatives like ELE:

“It is tempting to think that multilingualism begins and ends with the languages that have a guaranteed official status … But in the EU alone there are at least 60 other languages that also deserve to be preserved and encouraged, despite the fact that they do not have official status. That is why we must welcome initiatives like the ELE project, and work together towards a Union in which all languages, especially minority ones, enjoy the same rights.”

The book is open access and can be read via Springer here. The book was also co-edited by Georg Rehm (Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, Kaiserslautern, Germany).