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Commission approves new programme to promote language diversity within the European Information Society

Businesses and citizens, whatever their language, should enjoy equal opportunities for participation in the new information age. With this in mind, the European Commission approved, on 8 November 1995, a proposal for a multi-annual Community programme covering language aspects...

Businesses and citizens, whatever their language, should enjoy equal opportunities for participation in the new information age. With this in mind, the European Commission approved, on 8 November 1995, a proposal for a multi-annual Community programme covering language aspects of the Information Society (MLIS). The programme will run for a period of three years 1996-1998 and have a budget of ECU 15 million. If European citizens and SMEs are to take full advantage of the global Information Society, they will need multilingual facilities for creating, exchanging and accessing information, wherever they happen to be. Textual information already in electronic form can be handled more easily. In the near future this will affect health and financial information, laws and regulations, travel information, patents and a variety of instructions. Although access to such data banks may be restricted for reasons of confidentiality, automatic tools will become available that rapidly interpret texts from one particular language into another. Interactive transactions such as in telebanking and teleshopping will progressively be conducted in the citizen's own language, written or spoken. Authors drafting reports in their language or a foreign language will have more automated tools available to facilitate their work, such as electronic dictionaries and more powerful grammar and style checkers. Translators and interpreters will be reached via networks wherever they are, whatever languages they handle, and can thus be consulted during meetings or legal and business negotiations. The opportunities are unlimited, but making these a reality will require dedicated and sustained effort on the part of developers and service providers. Europe has a solid scientific and technological base in this field which has been strengthened by Community research and development programmes, in particular the programmes relating to information and communications technologies (ICT) and telematic systems of general interest. However, the European market lags behind when it comes to exploiting the advances made by research in the area of language engineering. A concentrated effort needs to be made to speed up the process of getting new language processing technology onto the market, particularly as part of the actions for disseminating and exploiting the results of research carried out under the Framework Programme and the specific programmes for research and technological development and demonstration. The three action lines proposed in the present programme seek to create an environment which is conducive to the expansion of the language industries such as language engineering and translation industries: - Action Line 1: Supporting the construction of an infrastructure for European language resources: Language resources such as dictionaries, terminological databanks, grammar books, collections of texts and voice recordings are an essential raw material for linguistic research, the development of language-processing tools integrated into data processing systems and for improving translation services. Considerable amounts of money have already been invested by the Member States, the Commission and some private companies on producing language resources of varying size and complexity. The full utilization of these resources is currently being hampered by the fact that they are mainly mono-lingual and mutually incompatible, thus limiting their wider use. In addition, they are often difficult to locate. The aim of this action line is to support efforts to construct a European infrastructure for multilingual language resources. The Commission will lend its support for the starting up of the activities of the European Language Resources Association (ELRA), whose aims are to: - Compile an inventory of the language resources available in the Community; - Introduce mechanisms to ensure that they are disseminated throughout the Community; - Promote the application of common standards to ensure their compatibility and enable quality certification. Furthermore, the Commission will, where necessary, make financial contributions to expenditure involved in the introduction of concerted European action among the bodies concerned, particularly addressing standards, dissemination of information and networking. - Action Line 2: Mobilizing and expanding the language industries: The aim of this action line is to spur the language industries into action by stimulating technology transfer and demand through a limited number of shared-cost demonstration projects which could act as a catalyst in certain key sectors. For example, the Commission will promote the use of networks by the translation and interpretation industries. These give access to advanced tools, including electronic dictionaries, improve logistics, allow integration with other functions, and generally improve the functioning of the translation market. A call for proposals will be published for the definition and implementation of European translation directory services and for pan-European tele-translation and tele-interpretation demonstrators. - Action Line 3: Promoting the use of advanced language tools in the European public sector: The European institutions, and the Commission in particular, through their daily translation activities are compiling important multilingual language resources in the various fields of Community activity. Transferring the experience acquired by the European institutions in the processing of multilingualism to the administrations in the Member States, and sharing the language resources which each produces, can help achieve economies of scale and reduce the cost of multilingual communication. The aim of this action line is to encourage cooperation between administrations in the Member States and the European institutions in order to reduce the cost of multilingual communication in the European public sector. Calls for tender will be issued for the development of tools and systems which help reduce translation time by making it easier to locate and re-use texts or sections of documents which have already been translated, as well as on access to terminological databanks. A special effort will be made to bring the language tools for the new official Community languages up to the level of the others.

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