Promoting student awareness in language and speech
To all national education authorities
This document is directed primarily at national education authorities.
A secondary audience consists of schools and higher education institutions.
The goal of this document is to present
suggestions for raising the awareness and the participation of students
in the areas of language and speech. It is argued that actions in
this direction are urgently necessary.
These recommendations have been prepared jointly by two SOCRATES/ERASMUS
Thematic Network Projects sponsored by the European Commission:
The expectation is that national education
authorities will have an interest in adapting the plan to national and
regional needs and will implement a number of suggested actions, in co-operation
with the schools and higher education institutions left under their responsibility.
They have been been endorsed by:
Speech Communication Sciences
Advanced Computing in the Humanities
ELSNET, the European Network of Excellence in Language and Speech
ISCA, the International Speech Communication Association
EACL, the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics
Why is a promotion plan necessary?
The new information-based economy puts high demands on the European multilingual
and multicultural society. The markets of the new economy are currently
dominated by services available in only a few languages, which on the one
hand excludes groups in society, and on the other hand threatens the rich
linguistic diversity of our society.
If Europe wishes to preserve its linguistic and cultural heritage and
aims at encouraging all citizens to participate in the information society,
there is a strong need for human language technologies that can
provide natural access to information based services in the user's own
language and can handle and preserve digitized forms of our cultural heritage
including literary works, documentation, archives etc.
Europe is already becoming a major player in the field of human language
technologies. Research groups and companies are making significant
advances in the development of language and speech processing tools such
as machine translation, speech access to telephone services, dictation,
cross-linguistic information retrieval on the Internet, and similar natural
language-based access. Still, the pace of these efforts does not
match the increase of the needs.
Unfortunately, the dramatic increase of industrial ambitions in language
and speech has not yet been accompanied by a corresponding increase in
educational programmes in language and speech. Consequently, the
language industries acutely need more and higher qualified personnel in
all European countries. Research and development projects in language
and speech also suffer from a lack of highly qualified researchers.
It is expected that future workers in areas of language and multilinguality
will increasingly need competencies related to the use of language-related
information technology (Souillot, 2000).
Improvements in study programmes in relevant scientific fields, especially
computational linguistics and speech communication sciences, are presently
needed. Human language technologies require an interdisciplinary
competence which does not yet have a established place among traditional
academic disciplines. Lowering the boundaries between traditional
disciplines would therefore be a desirable goal.
At the same time, however, steps must be taken to attract sufficient
numbers of good students to these programmes. In our experience,
large majority of students and prospective students are not sufficiently
aware of the opportunities for studying human language technologies.
Moreover, the use of information technology is not well integrated in
language studies at secondary school level, such that it remains unknown
to the majority of future students. Therefore, most potential students
are unaware of the study opportunities as well as the job opportunities
in this new field.
Raising awareness to encourage participation of students is a formidable
task that cannot be left to the individual educational institution alone.
We therefore call on national educational authorities to further develop,
finance and implement plans of action in cooperation with the secondary
and higher education institutions under their responsibility. Below
we suggest a number of action lines that can be followed up.
Summary of information needs
Targets of awareness raising actions
Prospective studentsand their teachers
should be provided with good and easily graspable information aimed at
increasing their awareness and students' motivation for studying language
and speech technology subjects.
It is suggested that awareness raising actions address the following questions
what language and speech technology means;
what current and potential applications are;
what the scientific challenges in the field are;
what kinds of job opportunities there are in the field;
what kind of competence is required for jobs in the field;
which institutions in Europe offer this competence;
what studying the field in practice entails.
Overview of possible media, forms and scenarios
We suggest that the following (among others) be considered as possible
media for use in awareness raising actions:
Itn setting up concrete actions, it would be useful to consider co-operation
with several partners, for instance:
Student representatives: provide a link with the plan's main audience
Teachers: provide classroom perspective and direct contact with students
Companies: give insight into job markets
Researchers: provide information on state of the art technology and future
Higher education institutions: provide information about educational programmes
Communication experts: advise on communication strategies
Mass media: television channels, radio stations, newspapers and magazines
Multipliers: university networks, learned societies and professional associations
reach a wide audience through their membership.
Examples of actions and scenarios
The following examples may provide inspiration for types of actions to
be carried out at various levels. Together they form an example scenario
of a composite action.
National or regional websites are established at information centres.
These may be under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education or delegated
to a national professional organization or networking organization (such
as CLIF in Flanders). The websites
provide information about regional and national study opportunities, international
programmes, employers, job offers, internships etc. The presentation
on the websites must be well tailored to the primary audiences (secondary
and higher education students) and invite their active participation and
response. They must contain concrete contact information in order
to allow students to enrol in programmes, attend events, etc.
Radio and television programmes are broadcast. It is
suggested that radio and television programmes, including newscasting,
documentaries, science programmes, talk shows and childrens' programmes
include thematic orientations on language and speech technology by means
of special shows, news stories, announcements, discussions etc. In
addition to reaching the primary audience, these programmes will also raise
awareness among the general public. Apart from universities and research
institutions, companies will have an interest in profiling themselves via
National or regional teacher conferences include focused information.
Such events are excellent occasions for introductory presentations by experts
about computational linguistics and language and speech technology.
These presentations inform teachers about the new field, study opportunities
etc. Armed with new knowledge, teachers can percolate the information
to their pupils. This type of action would benefit from the participation
of researchers and representatives from companies.
Video tapes or CD-ROMs are sent out to all schools.
A complementary action may consist of sending out video taped or CD-ROM
documentaries directly to schools for classroom presentation. In
this way, a large audience of pupils can be reached in a most direct way.
Classroom viewings can be followed up by classroom discussions and the
provision of further information by the teacher and may provide references
to relevant websites, information centres, organizations and other events.
Student shadowing and open days. Secondary school pupils
attend university classes for a day to get the 'university experience'
in natural language and speech courses, accompanied by demonstrations and
job orientation fairs.
Direct collaboration between secondary and third level education.
Several elements of speech and language technology are already applied
at secondary level. CAL (computer assisted learning) in foreign language,
grammar, mathematics and statistics, computer studies, etc. embody applications
of computational linguistics, albeit at a low level. Collaboration
between secondary level education, third level education, software developers
and educational publishers must be directed at improving these products.
Putting it into action
The undersigned organizations hope to improve the language and speech competence
in Europe, with the help of national education authorities and their partners.
It is our expectation that national authorities will take up the responsibility
to put the plan into action. This needs to be done by setting up
co-operations with many partners in society, by adapting the suggested
actions to various national or regional contexts (language, educational
system, etc.) and will finance and carry out actions which directly target
the intended audiences. The strengthening of a true European multicultural
and multilingual society will be a very satisfying reward for all parties
contributing to these goals.
Appendix 1: Where to find information
Jewels website: http://www.hltcentral.org/jewels/
provides databases, recommendations etc.
TNP on Advanced Computing in the Humanities: http://www.uib.no/acohum
provides project information, surveys and reports.
TNP on Speech Communication Sciences: http://tn-speech.essex.ac.uk/tn-speech/
provides project information and reports.
ELSNET, the European Network of Excellence in Human Language Technologies:
aims at bringing together key players in academia and industry.
CLIF: http://clif.uia.ac.be/ is a research network for Computational
Linguistics in Flanders.
Appendix 2: Our network partners
ACO*HUM network, partners 1996-2000
<List of all ACO*HUM partners>
SCS network, partners 1996-2000
<List of all SCS partners>
Appendix 3: References
Souillot, Jacques (2000). Développement des métiers
liés aux outils de la langue. Les cahiers du numérique
(LCN)1 (3), 97-110. Paris: Hermes Science Europe.