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New technologies and lesser-used languages, European perspectives and challenges. Dr. Davyth Hicks, EUROLANG – ELEN.

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Presentation on theme: "New technologies and lesser-used languages, European perspectives and challenges. Dr. Davyth Hicks, EUROLANG – ELEN."— Presentation transcript:

1 New technologies and lesser-used languages, European perspectives and challenges. Dr. Davyth Hicks, EUROLANG – ELEN

2 Eurolang, European Language Equality Network (ELEN) Achievements so far Increasing importance of the net and technology Case study: Welsh Research findings Developments in Europe European perspectives Challenges Problems Solutions? Recommendations

3 Eurolang, originally EBLULs news service, advocates for LULs at the EU and international level. It was established as a NGO in 2010 with a mandate from most of the former EBLUL member state committees. One of its roles is as Secretariat for the European Parliaments Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages. In July 2011 a new civil society organisation the European Language Equality Network (ELEN) was launched comprising former EBLUL members, Eurolang, and individual language NGOs from across Europe. It works to represent LUL speakers and to secure linguistic rights. Eurolang and ELEN are both registered NGOs. They have consultative status with the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the UN and UNESCO. They sit on the European Commission NGO Platform for Multilingualism, the NGO Platform for Culture, the NGO Platform for the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, and the UN ECOSOC.


5 Using the definition of the ECRML there are approximately 60 minority languages in Europe. Approximately 55 million people, 10%, in the European Union speak a minority language. Regional or minority languages are spoken in all European countries, except for Iceland. In continental Europe it is estimated that there are over 330 different nationalities with over 100 million (nearly 14%) living as a national minority. (Eurac). (LULs = lesser used languages)

6 LULs and technology Crystal noted (2000), the progress of a language is linked to the use of technology by its speakers. LULs and IT achievements to date. Digital TV, children s TV, social media, language learning resources, speech recognition. Twitter, Facebook, Google translate S4C, Radio Bro Kerne, Eurotalk. Glocalisation….

7 Increasing importance of net and IT Youth (the future of language) switch off TV and mobile and use net. In 2011, more young people say they would prefer to give up watching television than doing without their mobiles phones or the internet. Only 23% of 16- to 24-year-olds say they would struggle without TV. 28% said they would miss their mobile phone. 26% the internet.

8 Case Study: Wales

9 Welsh-medium schools are flourishing. In 1990 it became compulsory for children in English-medium state schools to learn Welsh up to the age of 14. The 2001 census recorded that 40.8% of all school children between the ages of 5 and 15 can speak Welsh. In 2012 we are waiting for the new census results, but that 40% are now 15 – 25 so demand (despite post-school drop-off) is high especially with new technologies and social media.

10 Recent research published these findings for Welsh. The increase in the percentage of young people able to speak Welsh has coincided with some profound technological transformations. As a developed and relatively affluent country, Wales has been able to adopt these new technologies as they have emerged. Many of these young speakers are growing up having never known a world without the Internet and mobile phones. For them new media is no more new than television, radio or cinema, it is part of their everyday experience, embedded in their everyday lives. Despite growing recognition that young people and technology are critical for the future of the Welsh language, there is very little data on the subject. This lack of evidence causes problems in terms of monitoring trends, identifying demand, planning interventions and creating policies.

11 Recent unpublished study explored the use of social networking sites – such as Facebook – by young Welsh speakers aged between 13 and 18 in Welsh-medium schools. 200 pupils from four schools, it provides some initial insight into the perception and use of the Welsh language in these popular applications. The use of social networks was pervasive, with only six of the 200 pupils reporting that they didnt use any social networks at all. Facebook was used by 87% of the pupils, YouTube by 76% and MSN by 70%.

12 Results Importance of a communitys critical mass for LUL usage and how social media use reflects actual use in community. More use was made of Welsh in the north-west, reflecting the importance of having a critical mass of speakers in the community to support minority language use. In the south-east, practically no use was made of Welsh as a social language by the young people in the study. Overall 44% of them said they would either mainly use Welsh or would use Welsh and English equally on Facebook.

13 Our Facebook is a Welsh section of the Internet, where our friends speak Welsh. The psychology of having a Welsh language part of the internet is important given that they perceive the internet to be a mainly English language domain. One question to be addressed is how the Welsh language section of Facebook can be grown so that young people consider other parts of the internet – or even the internet itself - to be a space where Welsh can naturally be used. This perception of Facebook as a Welsh space has evolved naturally and organically through use rather than by any intervention, from the bottom-up instead of top-down, and this may be an important element of its success and sense of ownership by young Welsh speakers.

14 Creation of a cyber Fro Gymraeg Welsh heartland where the heartland could stay together even if people travel. Suggests importance of developments coming up from the community compared to top down from the government. One of the female participants noted that if her Facebook interface was in Welsh she would be more likely to use Welsh while writing her status updates, Because I see everything in Welsh around me.

15 Current developments elsewhere: An Drouizhig, converting software to Breton. Coderdojo, making programming easy in Welsh and Irish in schools More language courses available, see Eurotalk. Oahpa, Sami language courses.

16 European perspectives New Erasmus for All programme has languages as one of it 6 priorities. Other programmes also to be approached (eg Regional with the Basque Government?). Contacts in the Commission affirm that project proposals that both promote LULs and use new technologies would easily meet their criteria for funding. Its a growth area for the EU as it cannot intervene on m-state language policy, but can act in areas in its competence eg, adult education/ pre-school and language learning. Parliament very supportive….

17 Challenges The digital divide Warning: we must keep up with dominant languages. Metanet warn over digital extinction. Already behind…. Lack of research because peoples behaviour changing quickly. Problems with Facebook/ Twitter / move to online services… Were in the middle of a revolution…

18 Challenges - Digital DivideGeographical divide but also by…. Age Wealth Language status

19 Digital extinction? According to the Meta Net language technology network: Most European languages are unlikely to survive in the digital age Assessed support through language technology for 30 of the approximately 80 European languages, Experts conclude that digital support for 21 of the 30 languages investigated is non-existent or weak at best. 21 of the 30 languages (70%) were placed in the lowest category, support is weak or non-existent. Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese(State languages) receive this lowest score in all four areas. Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Greek, Hungarian and Polish exhibit fragmentary support.

20 Problems: Facebook, Twitter, Google… Move to online services, software as a service. Gmail instead of Mozilla Thunderbird, Google Docs instead of LibreOffice, etc., and social media While LULs are just beginning to catch up with tools like LibreOffice, Mozilla etc., people are shifting more and more to tools like GoogleDocs which are mostly outside the communities control to develop and/or translate. Google,"Right now, we're unable to support more languages. This trend puts control of the online "linguistic landscape" firmly back in the hands of big corporations, and reinforces dominant languages.

21 Problems: Siri, predictive texting, speech recognition The speed of technology. E.g. Siri. LULs are only just getting the opportunity for a foot in the door with predictive texting (through Open Source projects like Adaptxt). Predictive texting, given the right framework and a wordlist, is doable. Speech recognition is a LOT harder and more expensive and will be out of the reach of most languages. The big challenge for LULs, and a job for Eurolang and ELEN, would be to achieve a situation where we place legal obligations on producers of mass communication devices to provide equal support to all EU LULs. So we need solutions and we need to plan for them as a matter of urgency…

22 Solutions Develop open source approach among indigenous language groups who are just starting out on software translation. The community itself can maintain control and ownership of their work, instead of having to rely on the goodwill of a big, for-profit corporation. Wrestle control of the interface to the LUL communities. Go for the middle hanging fruit, a decent range of tools coupled with decent support and promotion. Language industry clusters that crosscut into all sectors. Moreover, we need to plan ahead, and look at the latest trends as people look to have more via their smart phone. The bigger picture of language and technology.

23 Recommendations All government language planning agencies establish a section developing IT for their LUL immediately. Imperative that IT development becomes a policy priority for all language planning depts, otherwise were not going to be able to build on the success of immersion education. Imperative that we work to increase the amount of content online, prioritise digitization projects, plus online TV, radio etc. Launch a network to develop, to share best practice, and to promote usage of new technology for LULs. Include smaller state languages as well. Basque is your language, you own it, what would you like to see?

24 Meur ras / Eskerrik asko Eurolang on Facebook Eurolang on Twitter ELEN on Facebook Network/ Intergroup on Facebook Minorities-National-Communities-and Languages/ Intergroup site

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