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petition Open Letter to the EC, requesting to address the multilingual challenge in their forthcom
Thread poster: Gordana Podvezanec

Gordana Podvezanec  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 01:48
Member (2003)
German to Croatian
+ ...
Mar 23, 2015

Dear colleagues and interested parties,

we would like to ask you for your support of an Open Letter to the EC, requesting to address the multilingual challenge in their forthcoming Strategy on the Digital Single Market (DSM).

Our open letter is a response from the Language (Technology) community – including Linguistics, Computational Linguistics, Natural Language Processing, Data, Knowledge, Cognitive Science, Multilingualism etc. – to the EC consultations for their DSM Strategy.

Unfortunately, there is a very severe danger that our field is completely vanishing from the EC priorities. Currently it’s not yet part of the strategic priorities of EC Vice President Andrus Ansip – we’re trying to change that.

Language Technology has already been removed from the Horizon 2020 Work Programme for 2016/2017. We must act immediately! Otherwise our field won’t be recognised by the EC for the foreseeable future.

This is why we would like to ask you to support our Open Letter which is online for signing at:

http://multilingualeurope.eu

If you agree with our appeal, please sign the letter and circulate this message to your colleagues, friends and networks.

We have to collect as many signatures as possible by the beginning of next week. We will then inform all Commissioners about this letter. On Wednesday (March 25), VP Andrus Ansip will discuss the DSM priorities with his DSM Project Team.

The next few days are our only chance to get the EC's attention. Let’s use it!

Your support is very much needed! Please circulate this message widely.


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Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:48
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sorry? Mar 23, 2015

I may have misunderstood the letter and if so please feel free to correct me, but if I read the letter right you are saying European companies face a challenge because they need to offer their content in multiple languages and that the solution to this is MT and you are asking translators to support the letter?

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Gordana Podvezanec  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 01:48
Member (2003)
German to Croatian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
in my opinion TM alone cannot be used without translators Mar 23, 2015

Europe’s Digital Single Market must be multilingual!
The Digital Single Market strategy must address the challenge of multilingualism to provide equal digital opportunities in all EU official languages




We welcome the plans of the European Commission to establish a Digital Single Market (DSM) in Europe. Many borders and obstacles have already been removed or are addressed in the current DSM objectives. Still, language barriers remain a major obstacle to a truly unified European economy and society.

Linguistic diversity is and must remain a cornerstone and treasured cultural asset of Europe. However, the language barriers created by our 24 official EU languages cause the European market to be fragmented and to fall short of its economic potential. Almost half of European citizens never shop online in languages other than their native tongue, access to public e-services is usually restricted to national languages, and the richness of EU educational and cultural content is confined within linguistic communities. European SME’s are at particular disadvantage, because the cost of providing services in multiple languages is prohibitive and has a negative impact on their competitiveness.

Fortunately, in order to overcome these barriers, Europe does not need to abandon its treasure of language diversity. Technological development has brought us solutions to automate translations and other multilingual processes. Although not perfect, these technologies already bring immense benefits enabling multilingual and cross-lingual access to websites and e-services, extracting knowledge out of multilingual data, and boosting efficiency of translators.

Yet online machine translation and language technology services are dominated by global non-European companies which primarily focus on English and a few of the world’s largest languages neglecting EU languages with less economic power. As a result almost half of Europe’s citizens are digitally disadvantaged due to their mother tongue.

The market alone fails to address the European language challenge which calls for an immediate and concerted EU action. Europe needs a strategy to remove language barriers, enabling EU businesses and people, and providing equal digital opportunities for all EU language communities.

Only if the DSM strategy foresees the use of technological solutions for bridging language barriers can the full potential of the Digital Single Market be unleashed. These solutions should include, among others, a set of digital services for all EU official languages available to all European citizens, businesses and organisations. These key enabling digital language services will allow technology and service companies to create numerous commercial solutions to cover a variety of market needs and requirements

We believe that such technology solutions, based on excellent European industry innovations and research results, will provide all European citizens, businesses and public institutions access to high-quality machine translation and additional sophisticated language solutions for businesses, consumers and cross-border public services. The community of European industry and researchers is currently developing a Strategic Agenda for the multilingual Digital Single Market. This strategy paper will be presented at the Riga Summit 2015 (April 27-29, 2015).

We are convinced that the EC’s strategy for the Digital Single Market must recognise multilingualism not only as a challenge but also as an immense opportunity for economic growth and social cohesion.

We, the undersigned stakeholders – researchers, developers, SMEs, market leaders and opinion makers, and individuals – ask the European Commission to address the multilingual challenge in the DSM strategy and pledge to work together to provide a solution for overcoming language barriers, thereby making a truly integrated Digital Single Market a reality.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 00:48
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No, thank you! Mar 23, 2015

Are you asking translators to support "high-quality machine translation"? Really?

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mladent
Local time: 01:48
English to Croatian
+ ...
CAT tools and spell-checkers ARE Language Technologies Mar 23, 2015

Dear colleagues,
my understanding is that EC is apparently saying that they do not need Language Technologies, none of the language technologies
- including CAT tools (like Trados/Wordfast/... )
- electronic resources (e-dictionaries, glossaries, Translation Memory repositories, corpora)
- grammar and spell-checkers???
- ...

We all use these resources, and hopefully will use many more. But once research institutes in Europe and IT companies stop developing these for 'minor' (i.e. unprofitable) languages like Polish, Croatian, Czech... which tools will we use in future?
The Rosetta stone?

If the EC thinks that EU should stop developing those technologies you really think that EU will need more translators. LOL

Presumably they have found a way to 'solve' the translation problem, and as far as I know they could:
a) Give everything to Google to translate, OR
b) Adopt a 'lingua franca' (presumably not French, or German, or Slovak

And how do you think they plan to establish the Digital Single Market (DSM):
By hiring thousands of translators or by demanding companies to translate all their documents in all EU languages? Given the general inclination to 'cost cutting' this seems unlikely.

My opinion is that we all benefit from language and linguistic research, and that these technologies are enabling people to communicate better. It would be completely pointless here to scaremonger against "Machine Translation". This is a call against cutting resources for language and linguistic research. STOP.

While dropping translation rates which are 'caused' by Machine Translation and not by their greed, as Translation Agencies claim, should be discussed elsewhere.

Thank you.

[Edited at 2015-03-23 15:42 GMT]


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Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 01:48
German to English
+ ...
Why should we sign a petition for more machine translation? Mar 23, 2015

I have never seen any machine translation except for google translate. But my translator colleagues from the European Council tell me that post-editing machine translation is a mind-numbing, boring job and that they would prefer to translate those documents from scratch instead of post-editing the machine output. In my opinion, if there is a communication problem in Europe, it should be solved by more human translation! That's where the money should go. And why are you saying that the cost of providing services in multiple languages is prohibitive? Lots of translators are working for rates between 0,03 and 0,10 EUR per word of source language. Especially translators from Eastern Europe are forced to work for low rates. This is something the European Commission should be concerned about. Therefore, I am not willing to sign this petition.

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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 05:18
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
"I won't sign this" button needed Mar 23, 2015

The fair thing to do would be to add another button adjacent to the "Sign this letter" button titled "I won't sign this letter", and also list those who have opted not to sign along with those who have signed, and also provide space for the dissenters to explain why they are dissenting.

That would be the democratic way of doing things and would lead to a more informed debate and position on the issue. It would also aid the proper allocation of EU translation money in support of struggling translators combating their low pay.

It would also improve the quality of translation in EU, and as a corollary, governance in EU, as simpler language of EU communications and documents would mean more compliance, agreement, and understanding, as human translation is a million times better than machine translation.

It would also create a huge number of jobs in the translation profession - and to that extent contribute its mite to the unemployment problem in Europe.

So all in all, EU needs to address the multilingual challenge, but not necessarily in the way it is desired in the open letter, and the best way to communicate this is to provide dissenters of the letter space to express their views.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 00:48
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I wonder if your understanding is accurate... Mar 23, 2015

mladent wrote:

Dear colleagues,
my understanding is that EC is apparently saying that they do not need Language Technologies, none of the language technologies
- including CAT tools (like Trados/Wordfast/... )
- electronic resources (e-dictionaries, glossaries, Translation Memory repositories, corpora)
- grammar and spell-checkers???
- ...

We all use these resources, and hopefully will use many more. But once research institutes in Europe and IT companies stop developing these for 'minor' (i.e. unprofitable) languages like Polish, Croatian, Czech... which tools will we use in future?
The Rosetta stone?

If the EC thinks that EU should stop developing those technologies you really think that EU will need more translators. LOL

Presumably they have found a way to 'solve' the translation problem, and as far as I know they could:
a) Give everything to Google to translate, OR
b) Adopt a 'lingua franca' (presumably not French, or German, or Slovak

And how do you think they plan to establish the Digital Single Market (DSM):
By hiring thousands of translators or by demanding companies to translate all their documents in all EU languages? Given the general inclination to 'cost cutting' this seems unlikely.

My opinion is that we all benefit from language and linguistic research, and that these technologies are enabling people to communicate better. It would be completely pointless here to scaremonger against "Machine Translation". This is a call against cutting resources for language and linguistic research. STOP.

While dropping translation rates which are 'caused' by Machine Translation and not by their greed, as Translation Agencies claim, should be discussed elsewhere.

Thank you.

[Edited at 2015-03-23 15:42 GMT]


Are you sure that is what the EC intends to do? I worked for 20 years as in-house translator for one of the EU institutions and I promise you that my experience is quite far from what you describe. Maybe things have changed dramatically since I retired in 2006. As far as I know, multilingualism is even enshrined in the Treaties!


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:48
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
I don't understand what you want Mar 23, 2015

Actually this is not true, I fully understand what you want, but I see no reason to sign this open letter/petition.

There is a growing shortage of qualified translators but MT is not the way into the future, it is a dead end.

The multilingual challenge you are describing is in my opinion best handled by improving and supporting the university programs aimed at professional translators.


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Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 01:48
German to English
+ ...
Yes multilingualism is enshrined in the treaties Mar 23, 2015

but only as far as communication between citizens and the EU institutions is concerned. The petition we are asked to sign is about communication between citizens with citizens. And it is true that the European Commission subsidized the development of machine translation in the past (for example the development of Moses, a statistics-based machine translation tool). The Commission now seems to want to discontinue this flow of taxpayers' money and that's why all the researchers and machine translation companies are crying out for help.
Also, machine translation is now being used by the in-house translators of the European Commission and the European Council. But as I said before, the in-house translators I talked to don't like it at all. Besides, as Bala rightly said, subsidizing human translation could contribute to alleviating Europe's huge unemployment problem. Sometimes I think that politicians are crazy. On the one hand, we have Member States with unemployment rates of 25 per cent and higher. On the other hand they are subsidizing artificial intelligence like machine translation with taxpayers' money. This taxpayers' money is more wisely spent on educating translators and subsidizing multilingual communication between citizens via human translation.

[Edited at 2015-03-23 17:12 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-03-23 17:14 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-03-23 17:17 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-03-23 17:18 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-03-23 17:18 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-03-23 17:22 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-03-23 17:28 GMT]


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mladent
Local time: 01:48
English to Croatian
+ ...
Reply to Teresa & Maria Mar 24, 2015

@Teresa Borges:
This was my understanding also. So I was even more surprised to hear that they plan to give up on language technologies!
- First, this will mostly impact 'minor' languages in EU which do not have a profitable linguistic/language market for commercial companies.
- Second, if they are really giving up on language technologies do you really think that they plan to solve this by hiring thousands of new translators??? Frankly, this seems very unlikely to me.
Any other ideas what else they could do?

@ Maria S. Loose:
I fully agree. Unfortunately it doesn't seem likely that they will pour this money in 'human' translation process.

I'm not even sure subsidizing human translation and giving up on Language Technology like Machine Translation is even possible. In history there were just a few cases where humanity agreed to backstep from an already implemented technology and as far as I know those cases concern weapons only, like the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, or on Dumdum bullets

Even Luddittes didn't succeed in destroying all the machines and making more work, only perhaps some work for machine makers

Speaking about how to take over the job performed by Google translate is heading in a completely wrong direction.
1) Machine Translation is good for some purposes and not for others, and we as translators should offer more than a machine, and presumably use newly available resources for our language pairs to get even better at 'human' translation.
2) Google in 2013 used to translate 200 million requests per day. If we assume each request was in average half page, this is 100 million pages a day. What would be the cost of human translation per year? And this was 2 years ago.

I just want to say that there is no feasible way to replace machines, except with better machines, and meanwhile we should use all resources available to our benefit.
This means we need more linguistic and language resources not less.
Thank you.


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Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I won't sign. Mar 24, 2015

That's exactly how I see this and I won't sign.

In fact, similar letters can be drafted by our associations commending the decision to stop subsidising MT development!

Maria S. Loose, LL.M. wrote:
The petition we are asked to sign is about communication between citizens with citizens. And it is true that the European Commission subsidized the development of machine translation in the past (for example the development of Moses, a statistics-based machine translation tool). The Commission now seems to want to discontinue this flow of taxpayers' money and that's why all the researchers and machine translation companies are crying out for help.


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Maria S. Loose, LL.M.  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 01:48
German to English
+ ...
Good idea, Diana Mar 24, 2015

Let's ask our associations to send letters to the European Commission asking it not to subsidize research into machine translation any longer, at least not as long as we have scandalously high unemployment rates in Europe of more than 10 per cent (and youth unemployment rates of 25 per cent).

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Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:48
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I'm with you, Maria! :) Mar 24, 2015

Maria S. Loose, LL.M. wrote:

Let's ask our associations to send letters to the European Commission asking it not to subsidize research into machine translation any longer, at least not as long as we have scandalously high unemployment rates in Europe of more than 10 per cent (and youth unemployment rates of 25 per cent).


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:48
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Please switch the thread back to "on-topic" Mar 24, 2015

unless there is a strong reason to keep the discussion "off-topic". In the latter case I would appreciate a short explanation why this is beyond the scope of business issues.

To me, this seems to be a highly important business issue. The EC spends massive amounts of money on funding translation-related projects. Such funding distorts free competition and has direct or indirect consequences on our profession (and beyond).

I agree with Diana: associations should voice their concerns about (or support for) the public funding of such technologies. For my part, I think that instead of subsidizing MT development, the EC should should devote much more significant resources to other translation-related projects (literary translation, for example).


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