British Council colleague Ágota Bíró has attended a conference in Budapest this week: META FORUM 2011 – Solutions for Multilingual Europe (June 27-28 Budapest) and reports back for the Language Rich Europe blog.
„Multilingualism is now a norm, not an exception.”- Joseph Mariani (CNRS/LIMSI, France) said in his presentation about „The Future European Multilingual Information Society” in a conference organized by Meta-Net, A Network of Excellence forging Multilingual Technology Alliance.
The conference brought together representatives of top-notch European research centres; small and large technology corporations; translation services and other users of language technology; language communities; and policy makers responsible for supporting research and innovation.
The meeting was organized by META-NET, a Network of Excellence consisting of 47 research centres in 31 countries and funded by the European Commission. META-NET is forging the “Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance” uniting technology researchers, providers and users for a large European research and innovation effort. Representatives of more than 280 organisations from 40 countries have already joined the alliance.
In his opening speech, Zoran Stančič, Deputy Director-General for Information Society and Media in the European Commission, formulates clear expectations: “In the European Union we have lifted to a large extent the physical borders between countries, still there are many borders remaining, including linguistic ones. Access to information in all languages is a necessary condition to enhance the circulation of products and services, and to boost the advent of a seamless digital single market. I strongly believe that Europe can further develop its leadership in language technologies and deliver solutions that will benefit the European society and economy at large. The only way we can achieve this, however, is to combine efforts and build a strong partnership with all stakeholders concerned. The place of language technologies in the future European research and innovation landscape will depend heavily on the ability of the field to speak with one voice.”
The participants of META-FORUM debated the guiding visions and initial plans for the envisaged technology push. In three vision groups and in a public web dialogue, experts from more than 100 companies and research organisations have already assembled bold visions for future research and visions about powerful language technology applications that will change our work and everyday life. The visions were presented and discussed at the Budapest conference. The shared vision will serve as the starting point for a strategic research agenda, whose first outline will also be discussed at META-FORUM. As Hans Uszkoreit, the META-NET coordinator, explained, “With the right vision, actors and agenda, we can secure the future of Europe’s languages and the competitiveness of a European industry sector in a key area of technological growth. The public costs for such an effort might not be higher than those for 100 kilometres of highway in a new member state.”