European conference highlights “perilous state of affairs that most of our European languages face” and roadmap for promoting greater language equality in Europe

27 June 2023

Dublin 27th June, 2023: The European Language Equality (ELE) project, dedicated to promoting full digital language equality in Europe, presented its accomplishments at the prestigious META-Forum 2023 Conference in Brussels this week (June 27th and 28th 2023).  

Established in 2010, META-FORUM is an established international conference series on powerful and innovative Language Technologies (LTs), and brings together experts, stakeholders, and decision makers from academia, research, public administration and industry. This year, META-FORUM has been scheduled to coincide with the end of the second phase of the ELE research programme. The conference marks the pinnacle of ELE’s Europe-wide outreach and community engagement efforts, and aims to facilitate maximum participation from European politicians and decision makers who have shown an interest in language equality initiatives.

During the conference, members of the ELE consortium presented highlights from the project, focusing on its results, including the updated Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) and roadmap for achieving full digital language equality in Europe by 2030.  

Speaking at the event, ELE Coordinator and Deputy Director of the ADAPT Centre and Professor of Computer Science at DCU, Professor Andy Way, said: “The META-FORUM provides an ideal platform to showcase the significant achievements of the ELE consortium and share the vision for achieving full digital language equality in Europe by 2030. I am encouraged by the discussions and contributions from senior EU politicians and key stakeholders representing various European language communities. 

“ELE has delivered a huge body of incontrovertible evidence of the perilous state of affairs that most of our European languages face. Over the past 10 years or so, the gap between available tools and data for English and all other European languages has grown, rather than diminished. Europe purports to value our wide range of languages which underpin diversity and our cultural heritage that we all hold dear; now is the time to deliver on the roadmap for digital language equality in Europe to preserve all our languages, and ensure that they thrive in future; the alternative is stark, and not one that we want to come to pass.” 

The majority of European languages are in danger of digital extinction due to a severe lack of technological or infrastructural support.  Over the past decade, the introduction of neural technologies has precipitated a revolution in digital language services, allowing for ever faster and more accurate automatic speech recognition (ASR) and machine translation (MT) results. Nonetheless, a stark imbalance persists in technology support between the five most spoken EU languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Italian), and the remaining 19 official ones. 

This digital inequality increases still further when regional and minority languages are considered, leading to a dearth of online technological support for both written (text) input as well as for multimodal (audio and video, as well as sign-language) content. As digital services become a more integral part of our lives, such digital language inequalities are already threatening the digital survival of some EU languages.

The seven member ELE consortium (DCU, DFKI Berlin, Charles University Prague, ILSP Athens, European Federation of National Institutions for Language, the University of the Basque Country, Donostia, European Language Equality Network) will close out the project in Brussels at the end of June.  

Outputs from the group to date include the ELE open access book co-edited by ADAPT Deputy Director Professor Andy Way of DCU, along with Professor Georg Rehm of DFKI, Berlin. This was published by Springer at the end of the 30-month initiative which presents a comprehensive collection of the project’s results, its strategic agenda and roadmap with key recommendations to the European Union on how to achieve full DLE in Europe by 2030. It is already beginning to have wide-ranging impacts, with over 13,000 engagements on the website since early June 2023.

In addition, the ELE/Digital Language Equality (DLE) Dashboard provides a measure of the digital readiness of European languages and enables comparisons across them based on a variety of factors and parameters. The dashboard, which uses the European Language Grid (ELG) catalogue and other data as input, presents an intuitive and user-friendly measurement of the DLE Metric scores as well as other technological readiness indicators for European languages. This powerful interface facilitates effective communication of the key ELE messages to stakeholders and decision-makers. The information about specific languages, or comparisons between various European languages, can be seen in a range of formats, useful to underpin the argument that the wide-ranging ELE Programme to address language technology for all our languages is needed today more than ever before.

Visit the ELE Website Here.

Access ELE’s Book Here.