The META Language white papers series, published in autumn 2012 indicated that as many as 21 European languages (most of which are official EU languages) are facing "digital extinction" – meaning that relevant and up-to-date online content and online services are not available in those languages (or that the level of service in such "endangered" languages is significantly lower than English or other major languages). However, language technologies such as machine translation (MT) offer opportunities to overcome language barriers in the online domain. The problem is that for the smaller languages (especially for the 21 languages referred to above), the availability of MT solutions is limited, due to limited availability of language resources. This is because language resources are the indispensable "raw material" for producing high-quality MT systems. While EU-funded actions have been undertaken (see META: box below) to create a single access point to a European pool of language resources, this pool is not yet sufficiently populated by high-quality language resources for all EU languages. The possibilities for using EU research/innovation/infrastructure funds to support individual EU languages are limited, as such EU-funded projects typically focus on developing technology, infrastructures and solutions of generic and cross-border European value.
On the other hand, Member States and their regions are best placed to foster language resources for their respective languages. They also have an interest in promoting the status of their languages vis-à-vis other European languages. Very often, the under-resourced languages are also languages spoken in less developed regions.
A well-functioning and systematic use of ESIF to support language resources would contribute to the objectives of the DAE by removing language barriers from the online domain, helping to create a digital single market across the numerous linguistic borders. More concretely, it would support the pan-European multilingual digital services foreseen in the Connecting Europe Facility, by ensuring coverage of all European languages, including the smallest ones, by complementing the "Automated translation" building block foreseen in the CEF proposal. It would also complement more ground-breaking work on improving machine translation quality, foreseen in the draft work programme 2014-15 for Challenge 4.3 of the H2020.
This area of activity can be an important element of a digital strategy. It might, however, not be eligible for funding through ESIF.