May 15, 2021

Digital transformation threatens less prepared languages ​​| Trends

Digital transformation threatens less prepared languages ​​| Trends


The Internet and the emergence of artificial intelligence can jeopardize the survival of many languages ​​that will end up dying if they do not manage to acquire sufficient resources to jump into the digital world, now dominated by English, within a small group of large languages, some experts warn the agency Efe.

"Languages ​​that can not access the digital plane on equal terms with English and other major languages ​​are in serious danger of extinction," says Efe Maite Melero, a member of the General Technical Office of the National Plan for Promoting Language Technologies (TL), promoted by the Secretary of State for Digital Advancement.

Automated translations, "intelligent" content analysis, text mining, voice assistants: digital in the field of languages ​​is an unstoppable reality.

Science, medicine, business, education, any social or economic area depends on the analysis of digitized textual data. Everything points to future human-machine interactions being oral and, if robots only understand a few languages, many people will not be able to communicate with them.

With more and more popular virtual assistants like Siri (from Apple), Alexa (from Amazon) or Google Home, speakers of minority languages ​​who want to enjoy these technological advances will not be able to address them in their language, because they are not programmed to understand them. and they will have to do it in another dominant language, warns Melero, who is also a member of Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).

The objective of this impulse plan that collaborates with projects at a European level is to promote linguistic technologies for Spanish and co-official languages, particularly in public administration, with measures that increase the number, quality and availability of language infrastructures.

"When a language has a good technological support, new developments are easier," says the expert.

Beyond English and a small group of five or six other large languages, including Spanish, for which technological resources are being developed, "most languages, even in Europe, lack the necessary technological resources", continues

In this context, the European Parliament recently approved with the support of just over 590 deputies and only 45 votes against and 44 abstentions, a motion in favor of linguistic equality in the digital age, presented by the Welsh MEP of the group of the Greens, Jill Evans. Experts such as Maite Melero or Iñaki Irazabalbeitia and Kepa Sarasola from the IXA group of the University of the Basque Country participated in its development.

Multilingualism represents one of the main assets of Europe's diversity and at the same time one of the most important challenges for the creation of a truly integrated Union, according to the aforementioned motion on linguistic equality.

Although EE. UU and Asia dominate the market for language technologies and machine translation with US giants such as Google or Facebook, Europe should not be left behind, according to many MEPs who demand greater support for these technologies that can help achieve the objectives of the digital single market.

The gap between those languages ​​well endowed with digital resources versus those that are not is growing, warns Melero, who proposes to the autonomous parliaments in the Spanish case to support initiatives such as those of the EU to support the weakest languages ​​in this new digital era.

The expert concludes that "the future will be for languages ​​that know how to provide themselves with useful linguistic resources for technological development", such as dictionaries, well annotated corpus, ontologies (data systems that define the relationships between the concepts of a domain) and large Quantities of quality data that include digital support.

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