Måste du snart tala engelska med kylskåpet?

Ola Karlsson


Within a few years, language technology products will be seen in many domains of society: advanced machine translation, query systems and search engines on the Internet, e-learning, terminology databases, electronic lexica, voice operated personal organisers, and much more. These applications will be the foundation of a new digitised infrastructure, in Sweden as in other countries. However, the vast majority of products on the market are in English, which could implicate a future threat to the democratic right of using your own language in the use of technical infrastructure.

A government commission has now been formed in order to investigate how the use of Swedish can be fortified within Swedish society – in technical manuals, in computer programmes, on the Internet, and so on. In order to produce more Swedish language technology (LT) applications, there is now a need for government financing. The Swedish language council ( Svenska språknämnden ) will suggest to the commission different measures to take, of which a few can be pointed out here:

Government financing is needed in particular for the construction of large, product compatible pools of language resources: corpora, mono- and multilingual dictionaries, grammars, pronunciation dictionaries etc.
A Swedish LT-centre should be established. The centre would, for example, be responsible for the maintenance of large resource pools, run a testing centre for LT-products, and participate in the construction of a public digital infrastructure.
The Swedish State must actively try to solve the problems of intellectual property rights for language resources and digital contents.
Within the EU, there is a vision of the future in which LT-products like machine translation systems will forty the linguistic multiplicity in Europe, and thereby preserve the smaller languages. However, the realization of this vision calls for strong and speedy political initiatives, both in the EU and in each member state.

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