Towards the Primary Platform for
Language Technologies in Europe

Multilinguism in Europe

In Europe’s multilingual setup, all 24 official EU Member State languages are granted equal status by the EU Charter and the Treaty on the European Union. In addition, there are more than 60 regional and minority languages as well as the languages of immigrants and important trade partners. However, omnipresent language barriers still hamper cross-lingual communication and the free flow of knowledge and thought across languages. Multilingualism is one of the key cultural cornerstones of Europe and signifies what it means to be and to feel European.

European Commission VP Andrus Ansip and Director General Roberto Viola (DG Connect) have made several appeals for the need to strengthen multilingualism through technological innovations. The ELG will significantly contribute to the overarching goal of establishing technology-enabled multilingualism in Europe, not only for an inclusive Digital Single Market but also beyond.
While language diversity and multilingualism are at the core of the European identity and society, many languages are in danger of digital extinction. The META-NET White Paper Series has shown that the existing gaps of easily accessible, powerful and multilingual LTs need to be filled. While only English and a few other languages are sufficiently supported through Language Technologies, many other European languages only have fragmented, weak or no broad technology support at all. The result is that native speakers of these languages (e.g., Maltese, Lithuanian, Estonian etc.) cannot use their languages online, which is why they fall back to other languages such as English or Spanish, further supporting the use and predominance of the few languages that already enjoy very good support.

Since the publication of the META-NET White Papers in 2012, the situation has improved considerably for several languages (including Latvian and Lithuanian) but still a lot needs to be done in terms of research, development, innovation, visibility, outreach etc. By incorporating all European languages into the ELG platform, cultural diversity will be preserved and the process of digital extinction addressed.

The recent STOA “Language equality in the digital age – Towards a Human Language Project” study explains how language barriers can have significant social consequences by (1) fostering a language divide and hampering access to information and cultural knowledge, (2) hindering the access to cross-border services and (3) limiting citizens’ engagement and participation in the political process. LT can help overcome these dangers and empower citizens to access the wealth of digital information.

Opportunities:
Contribute to the creation of the Multilingual Digital Single Market and a fair and socially inclusive Europe
Create multilingual solutions for all European languages to address the threat of digital extinction
Empower LT SMEs and bring Europe to a leading position in research, innovation and industry