Among EU languages, Maltese is this yearâ€™s joker. Every time the European Commission announces a web site â€“ such as this handy new Eurobook one-stop shop localized to 19 EU languages â€“ they always add a rider that the Maltese version is coming soon. Yet with 400,000 speakers, Maltese is lucky to be an official language. Welsh has around 582,000, Irish about 800,000 speakers and Catalanâ€¦ over 8 million.
Official or not, Welsh is making doubly sure it doesnâ€™t miss out on the fruits of modern technology â€“ especially Cyfieithu peirianyddol, or machine translation. The Welsh Language Board, which oversees such policies, has recently launched an IT consultation, calling on interested parties to comment on a strategy document called Information Technology and the Welsh Language . If you need an overview of the MT options, read Harold Somerâ€™s interesting report from last July on Machine Translation and Welsh: The Way Forward, which recommends a three pronged technical approach over two years to develop a useful automatic translation capability for the language.
A call for tenders to implement this recommendation has already been circulated to selected candidates, and the selection will be made after June 1 this year. Speech technologies are also part of the overall package. If this project takes off, it will be useful to keep careful track of costs, so that other languages with smaller speaker bases could benefit from good practice in this process. Maltese, for example.