Several restrictions still remain, however, to creating a connected Digital Single Market and allowing all citizens to benefit from a more integrated Europe. One of the last remaining obstacles is language barriers.
Though linguistic diversity is a cornerstone of the EU, with 24 official languages, multilingualism also creates barriers between nations. Language barriers prevent all European consumers from fully engaging in online activities and restricts access to digital assets, as for many Europeans information is frequently unavailable in their native language.
As a result of these language barriers, the EU online market is fragmented. 43% of Europeans never purchase online products and service in languages other than their own; access to public e-services is limited by national borders; and the richness of EU educational and cultural content is confined within linguistic communities. This is a particular issue for smaller EU languages with only a few millions speakers.
In 2012 the conference Language, Technologies and the Future of Europe brought together leading European and Baltic specialists and government representatives to gain an understanding and create a vision of the future role of national languages in Europe. At that time Prime Minister of Latvia Valdis Dombrovskis, now European Commission Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue in opening address of conference marked the important role of language technologies, which can overcome language barriers.
META-NET Network of Excellence conducted a large and comprehensive study on 30 European languages and the level of support they receive through Language Technologies. During conference Language, Technologies and the Future of Europe META-NET Language White Paper series “Europe's Languages in the Digital Age” was presented. This book discusses the most urgent risks and chances of the languages in question.
The solution for removing language barriers in the Digital Single Market is found in new language technologies.
Language technologies help enable seamless communication between individuals, businesses and public institutions across borders and languages. With these technologies, participants in the Digital Single Market are given instant access to digital assets in all EU languages, effectively cracking the language barrier in Europe.
Cutting-edge technologies can remove the language borders dividing the EU market. This will make it much easier for small and medium size companies to enter the Pan-European market, boost the growth of business, and create new jobs. This will also guarantee that consumers are not discriminated in their online activities based on the language they speak.
Thanks to EU advancements in language technologies like machine translation, the Digital Single Market can be made truly multilingual. More communication promotes more connections between citizens, public institutions, and NGOs of various nationalities, leading to increased interactions, engagement, and mutual understanding. The result is not only a truly connected multilingual Digital Single Market, but also a closer, more integrated multilingual Europe.
Removing language restrictions and unleashing the power of EU innovation requires concerted efforts of all stakeholders. At the Riga Summit, government representatives, business leaders, major technology companies, and researchers will meet to adopt a joint strategic agenda for the multilingual digital single market.
The strategy crafted during the Riga Summit on the Multilingual Digital Single Market will be instrumental for shaping the future Digital Agenda for Europe. To this end, the organizers of the event plan to present the strategy at the Plenary of the Digital Agenda Assembly in June. This will help the assembled delegates at the Digital Agenda Assembly forge a vision for Europe’s Digital Single Market that removes all restrictions for participation – including language barriers.