ADAPT Radio: Protecting Minority Languages with AI

04 March 2024

The Irish language is an important part of Ireland’s culture, but it is a minority language and like many ‘at risk’ languages around the world, Irish needs to be protected.

In this month’s ADAPT Radio podcast, our experts discuss how AI can help to boost the Irish language and the importance of diverse data collection in building robust translation systems. They will also discuss how researchers are using natural language processing and other tools to help maintain the richness of the language and make it more accessible and available to those who use it.

Our experts today are passionate about protecting minority languages and are working on technology to improve machine translation of the Irish language with the Adapt Centre. They are postdoctoral researcher, Dr Abigail Walsh and research assistant with eSTÓR, Gráinne Caulfield, both from Dublin City University. 

The podcast kicks off with a discussion on the importance of protecting minority languages with AI. Irish is at risk currently as outside of an official capacity in Ireland, Irish is a minority language spoken daily by a small number of the Irish population. With the decline in Irish speakers, the demand for technology in Irish is not as high as it would be for English, so tools and technologies have not been as developed for Irish as they should be. As well as this, often minority languages are not protected by the government. Technologies like AI and machine learning can help to protect and even nurture these minority or at risk languages. With every language technology, there’s always a need for data, which can be used then to build these systems.

Gráinne Caulfield provided an overview of the eSTÓR project, a project dedicated to helping improve machine translation and promote digital language equality in Europe. Her role is focussed in outreach, searching for publicly available data that can be uploaded to their data repository in Europe so that it can be used, for example, in DCU for the benefit of DCU researchers, and, depending on the licensing, the European Commission to improve their translation platform that they’ve created called E- translation.

Abigail also discussed getting social media platforms on board to make languages more accessible particularly for young people. The hope is that as the technology becomes more available for Irish and machine translation we will see more acceptance and pickup by young people on social media platforms so that Irish becomes more on an equal level to English. 

Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

ADAPT Radio: HumanAIse is ADAPT’s newest podcast series providing an in-depth look at the future of AI, automation and the implications of entrusting machines with our most sensitive information and decisions.