Developing an agenda and a roadmap
for achieving full digital language
equality in Europe by 2030


How do ELE and ELG work together towards Digital Language Equality?

© Adobe Stock/bernardbodo

Europe’s diversity in terms of culture and communication sets it apart from other major players in the global field of Language Technology (LT) that usually concentrate on single languages. The number of European languages provides a unique opportunity to work together and to learn from each other in the process of developing digital language tools. In order to access this potential, it is crucial that every official, unofficial and minority language is equally represented in the digital world and LT landscape. This is one of the reasons why Digital Language Equality (DLE, further described here) is an important goal that needs to be actively worked towards. One of the main aspects of this work is handling the fragmentation of the European LT landscape that is still prevalent. The ELG project addresses this issue by building a platform that aims to host all European LT resources – the European Language Grid (ELG). Having one unified hub will support the LT community greatly. Developers will have an easier time getting the word out about a product, while consumers are more likely to hear of and be able to use it. Furthermore, a centralised platform will give LT creators a broader reach and encourage collaboration, communication and learning from one another.

While ELG is bringing the LT landscape together, it is also necessary to combat the existing language inequality actively and directly. This is where ELE comes in: During the runtime of the project, 70+ European languages are being researched and analysed to find out where exactly the inequalities lie. This effort spans Europe’s official, and many unofficial and minority languages. By the end of the project, a strategic agenda and roadmap detailing the best approach to the existing discrepancies will be presented. This research will lay important groundwork for a long-term funding program that will be able to provide support based on the discovered disparities.

ELE and ELG are working in tandem to combat the digital inequality found among European languages. ELG is establishing a platform and marketplace to bring the LT community together. Meanwhile, ELE is dedicated to understanding which aspects need to be focused on to reach DLE by 2030 as well as establishing a funding program as a tool to ease the way.

The goal of DLE is only possible with the ELE research as a blueprint and the ELG platform as the facilitator of that vision. These combined efforts aim to create an environment where the barriers that currently fragment the European LT landscape fall and languages are able to flourish alongside and in interaction with each other.

Survey for LT developers and users: Shape the future of European Language Technology

Despite the recognizable advantages and historical and cultural worth of multilingualism, the many European languages face a striking imbalance in terms of their preservation in the digital world and their support by language technology. The European Language Equality project (ELE) addresses this risk to European identity in the digital age by preparing a Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda and Roadmap working towards digital language equality by 2030. The European Language Grid (ELG) is closely related to this project, offering LT developers, researchers and providers an inclusive platform to present, share and market their language technologies and connect within the European LT community.

As part of the two projects that are funded by the European Commission and address an appeal by the European Parliament resolution titled “Language equality in the digital age”, we are reaching out both to LT developers and LT users to participate in a large-scale, EU-wide consultation that will impact and shape the future of language technologies in the multilingual continent. The two surveys are aimed on the one hand at academic and commercial developers in the field of Language Technology (LT), Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Language-centric Artificial Intelligence (AI) and on the other at all Language Technology users and consumers.

The questionnaire takes approximately 20 minutes to fill in; your answers will help evaluating the level of LT support for European Languages, indicating the challenges and highlighting the needs and expectations of professionals and users in the future. Your contributions will be carefully taken into account when preparing the ELE strategic agenda and roadmap.

The European Language Equality project is a pan-European effort that will significantly impact the field and funding situation of LT in Europe for the next 10 to 15 years. Help us shape the future of multilingualism in the digital age – join in!

  • Survey for Language Technology developers

  • Survey for Language Technology users and consumers

  • What is Digital Language Equality?

    Europe shines in its diversity, which is expressed in part in its multilingualism. According to the European Constitution, all 24 official European languages are equal. Unfortunately, in the digital age, that is not entirely the case, as there are notable discrepancies in the field of Language Technology (LT). Back in 2012, the META-NET White Paper series Europe’s Languages in the Digital Age showed that languages with more speakers had better support through Language Technology. For example, Spanish had fairly strong LT support, though not quite on the same level as English. Among the lesser-spoken languages, Estonian was slightly better equipped, though especially Machine Translation showed some gaps.

    Differences like these pose a challenge to preserving and nurturing Europe’s multilingualism. Considering the current LT landscape, every language has its own gaps and its own needs for the future. Therefore, it is necessary to address and support each language individually.

    To that purpose, the EU-funded project European Language Equality (ELE) is re-examining the LT support of the 31 languages covered in the META-NET White Papers ten years ago, alongside previously unevaluated ones. In total, ELE’s efforts span the 24 official and 32 additional EU-languages as well as 33 endangered minority languages. Over the course of the project, the results of this research will create the basis of a strategic agenda and roadmap towards ELE’s main goal: Digital Language Equality (DLE) by 2030.

    DLE can come across as a vague term, so a specific definition is imperative in order to know what we are working towards. Our preliminary definition describes DLE as all relevant languages having the necessary support to “continue to exist and prosper as living languages in the digital age”.

    This necessary support involves two categories of factors, though they are not without overlap. First, there are technological factors. Some examples are tools and services (e.g., grammar checkers), corpora (e.g., audio transcripts) and projects or organizations active in the LT community. The second category involves contextual factors, which are essentially the political and social but also economic situation in the region where a language is spoken.

    In order for this definition to be useful when examining the current LT support of a language, these factors need to be accurately quantifiable. So far, no such score exists, which is why ELE is creating the “DLE metric”. As of now, the metric consists of a comprehensive list of the aforementioned factors that make up a language’s LT support. Aspects like scoring and weighting (including the introduction of potential penalties) the individual factors will be worked out over the course of the project.

    Once complete, the metric will enable the direct comparison of the technology support of our languages, allowing for the identification of current problem areas as well as future priorities due to the empirical data the metric is based upon. Additionally, the metric will enable us to track the development of the LT landscape for each individual language over time, creating a long-term overview.

    The ability to measure the level of LT support in a way that is precise and consistent across languages will form an important step towards our primary goal – establishing Digital Language Equality by 2030.