To coincide with the week that Croatia joined the European Union (EU), researchers at the CNGL centre at Dublin City University (DCU) have launched – in alliance with European research partners – a web-based machine translation tool to aid communication between English and Croatian. This is because Croatian has become the 24th official language of the EU.
On 1 July, Croatia became the European Union’s 28th member.
Croatia’s accession to the EU marked the second country that split from the former Yugoslavia to join the now-28 member bloc – Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. Croatia, which declared its independence in 1991, has a population of some 4.4m people.
The release of the English-Croatian translation tool marks the first milestone of the €1m EU-funded Abu-MaTran project, just six months after the launch of the academia-industry consortium in January.
EU-wide research project
Abu-MaTran is being led by DCU researchers at the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL) for global intelligent content. Other EU partners involved in the project include the Croatia Prompsit Language Engineering, Universitat d’Alacant, University of Zagreb and Athena Research and Innovation Center (Institute for Language and Speech Processing).
According to Dr Antonio Toral of CNGL, the Abu-MaTran system is believed to be the first translator for English-Croatian and vice-versa, based on free/open-source technologies.
The aim of the translation tool is to help reduce the time and costs associated with translation between English and Croatian, he said.
Toral believes the system will serve as a useful tool to aid translation between English and Croatian.
"This is a baseline system that demonstrates the performance that can be achieved by assembling current state-of-the art technologies and data," he said.
During the remaining three years of the project, Toral said the consortium partners will work to improve the system by incorporating "pioneering" research technologies, high-quality domain-adapted data, as well as extending the system to related languages.
EU Marie Curie project
Abu-MaTran is an EU Marie Curie project that seeks to enhance industry-academia co-operation as a key aspect to tackle one of Europe’s biggest challenges: multilinguality.
At the moment, the EU’s institutions spend about €1m a year on maintaining their policy of multi-lingualism. This includes translating and interpreting spoken communication in the EU’s 24 official working languages.
As part of this, the Abu-MaTran consortium intends to increase the adoption of machine translation by identifying cutting-edge research techniques and preparing them for commercial exploitation.
Simultaneously, Abu-MaTran aims to transfer back to academia the know-how of industry regarding management, processes and productisation in order to make research results more robust and marketable.
Old town pier in Dubrovnik, the capital city of Croatia. Image via Shutterstock