While politicians in Britain have been pounding the pavement up and down the UK over the last month, key players in the translation technology industry have been presenting a manifesto of a different sort as they try to secure their part in the future of the European Commission’s translation strategy. As decision makers in the “Language Resources” department debate where to mark X on the ballot paper, we examine some of the contenders and what their products could mean for the future of the Commission.
March this year saw the second Language Technology Day take place and was attended by delegates representing different initiatives under consideration by the Language Resources team. The Commission, like the rest of industry, is focussed on one hot topic: machine translation versus computer aided human translation. Some stakeholders argued in favour of harnessing the billions of words already translated in one central TM, other extolled the cost savings that machine translation could generate. However, both sides seem to be in favour of developing one central translation resource for every translator working for the European Union. The benefits are clear, principally in the form of cost savings and increased efficiency, but with the knock on effect that thousands of words that may previously have been considered too expensive or time consuming to translate could then be translated due to improved access to resources. This is particularly significant for less widely spoken languages such as Irish and Maltese, for which the Commission has less translation data.
Key players such as TAUS Data Agency, ELRA (European Language Resource Association), CLARIN (Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure) and META-NET presented their experiences of sharing language resources across borders. As these projects move on from the pilot phases, national governments will consider whether to share their own language resources with EU translation departments, and if so, how much information to make available. Supported by EU funding, the principal aim of the project run by CLARIN is not to develop new technology, but to maximise the amount of centrally held information in order to increase efficiency. Other bodies, such as META-NET are involved in developing an infrastructure to support such an enormous amount of data and establishing a standard format to facilitate consolidation of the information.
With 100 million Euros earmarked for the project, the decision is not one that the EC Information Society and Media Directorate will be taking lightly. As the campaign for support draws to a close, the winner has yet to be announced, but it is certain that the outcome will have a considerable impact on the future of the EU’s translation strategy.