Making use of AI now a ‘central challenge’ for Welsh and other minority languages, researchers say
Making use of artificial intelligence is a central challenge facing minority languages such as Welsh if they are going to continue to thrive, researchers have said.
Experts from across Europe in fields ranging from AI and digital technology to linguistics and sociology are to meet to discuss how the current and forthcoming revolution in language technologies will impact language use at an event being organised by Cynog Prys at Bangor University on 9 September.
The use of AI is set to change every aspect of our daily life in the next five to ten years, and could in fact revolutionise the use of minority languages, helping them to survive in the digital age, he said.
“In many ways, the Welsh language is in a strong position, especially when compared to other minority languages,” Cynog Prys said.
“Welsh language technologies enable us to use the Welsh language in the digital sphere, but the challenge remains while the digital offer becomes increasingly sophisticated.
“The fact that the private sector is not included under the current Welsh legislation means that a significant percentage of the digital world, used daily by Welsh speakers, continues to be available in English only.
“Finding technological solutions to this problem is the central challenge for Welsh language technologists and policy-makers alike.”
Key among the speakers at Technology and language rights: a look to the future is Miriam Gerken, author of a report commissioned by the Council of Europe’s Secretariat of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on how AI will affect the Council’s commitment to support minority languages.
“Language Technologies and AI could provide a real impetus to protect and promote regional and minority languages,” Miriam said.
“Enabling people to use minority languages digitally, whether in an official capacity, as a consumer or to connect with others, will help lesser used languages to remain current and vital parts of the country’s cultural identity. AI can contribute by ensuring that language technologies such as machine translation, chatbots, speech synthesis and even automatic subtitling, needed to make online videos conform to accessibility standards, are available in people’s chosen language.
“All of these language technologies rely on training data that is processed through natural language processing (NLP). The goal of NLP is to develop programmes that can read, process, analyse and ultimately understand natural languages in all their complexity.
“NLP technologies offer countless new possibilities for using regional or minority languages in the digital world, which is why they need to be a part of language protection today.”
Technology and language rights: a look to the future Roadshow and Language Rights working group’ is organised by Language in the Human-Machine Era, a pan-European network of experts. The activities form part of COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) which is funded by the European Union.
The free-to-attend event also includes a roadshow including talks from leading language technologists including Hillary Juma, Community Manager of Common Voice, an international project to create a publicly available voice dataset, powered by the voices of volunteer contributors around the world. The dataset can be used to build voice applications to train machine learning models.
The Roadshow also has demonstrations of some of the latest technologies. These include LinguaSkin, which enables web applications to be offered in multiple languages, the Welsh language voice assistant, Macsen, and applications currently used by Bangor University’s Canolfan Bedwyr and under development at the University’s Language Technologies Unit.
A free ticket to the event can be booked here.
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