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Scanning cyberspace for languages

Secretariat: National Commission for UNESCO

“Scanning cyberspace for languages” was the theme of the First Language Observatory Workshop, FLOWS 2004, that was held in Nagaoka, Japan, from 20 to 21 February as part of activities commemorating International Mother Language Day. On this occasion a web-crawling robot that will collect data for a language cyber census was also launched.

The workshop, organised by Nagaoka University of Technology, Keio University, and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies with the sponsorship of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency (JST) and supported by UNESCO, the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, Department of Information Technology (India), Communications Research Laboratory (Thailand), University of Technology (Malaysia), and Miskolc University (Hungary) also marked the official launch of an online Language Observatory.

According to Yoshiki Mikami, Professor of Nagaoka University and project leader of the Language Observatory Project, “the goal of the Language Observatory is to visit all sites on the Internet at least once per year, identify the language(s) used and publish an annual Language Cyber Census Report”. In addition, Dr Mikami and his team will collect important technical information on issues such as character encoding schemes that are crucial to standardised digital representation of languages. He hopes that the project will serve to raise awareness of the language that are currently “falling through the net” and support efforts to overcome the language divide.

In addition to this challenge, workshop discussions examined factors that influence the evolving linguistic landscape of the Internet and developing techniques for measuring these changes. Researchers, policy makers, private sector representatives and experts in the fields of computational linguistics from over 10 countries attended FLOWS 2004.

On Saturday 21, International Mother Language Day, the web-crawling robot that will collect data for the language Cyber Census was jointly launched by Kozo Ishizaki, Vice-President of Nagaoka University of Technology, and Paul Hector of UNESCO’s Initiative B@bel. Paul Hector expressed optimism that data collected could provide valuable evidence to guide policy development in this field and over time assess their impact and welcomed the cooperative ties developed between the Language Observatory, UNESCO and other partners in seeking to address the crucial issues of promoting equitable access to information.

Links

* Language Observatory

* UNESCO and Multilingualism in Cyberspace

* Nagaoka University of Technology

* 21 February - Mother Language Day

Contact:
Paul Hector, UNESCO p.hector@unesco.org



LitNet: 8 March 2004

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