Thursday, October 25, 2007

KITES symposium on multilingual communication and content management

Kites is a new Finnish organization that coordinates collaboration between companies, universities, educational institutions and public organizations related to multilingual communication and content management. Today took place the first day of a Kites symposium, organized in Kouvola. In the first presentation, Markku Saari and
Arto Leinonen, CEO of Kielikone Ltd., provided an overall view on the mission and objectives of the organization.

Juhani Lönnroth
, the director-general of the directorate-general for translation of EU commission, gave a presentation on the EU strategy for multilingualism. He started by describing the historical path from national languages into multilingualism. Lönnroth brought up challenges for the language industry which is one the fastest growing business areas in the world and which provides work for a large number of people. He emphasized the central role of language in political and business processes.

Currently in EU there are 23 official languages and thus 506 language pairs. In the EU markets, messages and products need to be localized, the use of global tilingualism in the EU. He emphasized that the basis is one's own mother tongue. If one is not able to express oneself well in one language, it is not possible to communicate efficiently in any other language. In order to facilitate root level communication among EU citizens, the EU Commission wants that all Europeans would master at least two other languages than their mother tongue. The third dimension consists of the communication between citizens and public organizations. Finally, the EU-level public organizations have to find ways for multilingual communication within themselves. Towards the end of the presentation, Lönnroth was describing areas in which Kites and EU may have collaboration including:
  • life-long learning programme 2007-2013 (ERASMUS, GRUNDTVIG, COMENIUS, LEONARDO DA VINCI, ERASMUS MUNDUS)

  • databases and translation memories (IATE, EURAMIS, etc.)

  • systems for content management

  • internet-based communication (WCMS)

  • localization of messages

  • research activities

    • machine translation (CAT, AI)

    • digitized libraries, documentation systems

Ma Keqing, Chinese ambassador to Finland, described the relationship between China and Finland in several areas, reminding that these countries have had diplomatic relations for 57 years. Several examples of active business relations were given. The value of the trade is 8 billion dollars, Finnish investments in China reach 5 billion euros, Nokia's market share in China is 35%, and Finnair is the third largest international airline operating in China.

Cultural and educational exchange between China and Finland is becoming more and more active. A Chinese-Finnish general dictionary is under preparation and a Chinese-Finnish bilingual school begins its operation in Helsinki next August. Ma Keqing mentioned that Finland is known rather well among Chinese even though mostly the Chinese only know Nokia's products, Santa Clause and sauna as Finnish phenomena. She described the rapid development of Chinese society during the past decades, emphasizing the increasing openness of the society. She described Chinese cultural aspects including the holistic thinking. She discussed the phenomenon of globalization that provide opportunities for both China and Finland for mutual benefits.

Käthe Sarparanta communication manager for Olkiluoto nuclear power station project, was describing this very large industrial construction project, the budget of which is approximately 3 billion euros. The network involved in the project consists of over 1700 companies and people working for the project are of over 30 nationalities. Sarparanta payed attention to the different cultures within the project that creates various challenges. The current 2350 workers need services in their own languages. For instance, in Rauma there is a French school. The number of documents is currently reaching one million. In the end, the documentation will take about 2.5 kilometers of shelves. To manage the translation task, a terminology is being gathered, currently with 8000 terms. Sarparanta concluded by describing the effects of the large project on the local communities.

Juhani Reiman, CEO of Lingsoft Ltd., was emphasizing the importance of language in the modern society, comparing the potential of language technology with the industries grown based on electricity. His main topic was to describe the commercialization of speech technologies. Reiman pointed out that in Finland there is much more room for services the use of which is based on spoken dialogue with machine. He gave a live demonstration of the Lingsoft speech portal using a mobile phone. The speech synthesis was based on the technology developed by Bitlips Ltd. ( Reiman emphasized the idea that speech dialogue systems will be important in the future.

Esko Vario, program manager from Microsoft Finland, was describing Microsoft's activities related to multilingualism. He emphasized the importance of understanding the user, including understanding their culture and values. Relevant information can be obtained using ethnographic studies to support development of understandable and usable products. Localization tools include Trados and Microsoft's own tools. Vario told that terms are collected to a database called TermStudio, currently with 15,000 concepts, 20,000 English terms, and almost 100 languages.

My own presentation discussed how research and development on multilingual communication and content management is and can be affected be research on statistical machine learning and pattern recognition.

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