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National Language Technologies Portal provides key software to develop technology in Welsh

Key software components described as the ‘building blocks’ needed to develop computer technology in Welsh are being released free of charge to companies and individuals, having been developed by Bangor University.  

Among the first eight programs or resources to be published under the National Language Technologies Portal will be a Welsh to English machine translation program, a synthetic Welsh voice, and a Welsh corpus or database of words collected from social media. These are the sort of ‘building blocks’ needed by software engineers to create Welsh apps, games and websites, and they will be available without charge to code or create programs.

The project was sponsored by a grant of £49,779 from the Welsh Government’s Welsh-language Technology and Digital Media Fund 2014-15, in order to promote the creation of new Welsh software and digital services.

Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales said: 

“Technology is an important part of our daily lives and it is important that the latest technology is easily accessible to support Welsh as a living language.  These resources, which have been developed with a grant from our Welsh-language Technology and Digital Media Fund, are now readily available for developers.  I look forward to seeing them used creatively.”

Dewi Bryn Jones, lead software developer at the Language Technologies Unit, Canolfan Bedwyr, and responsible for the project, added:

“We had a number of resources developed for our own internal use, and were eager for more developers to be able to use them. Making them available in one central location will be a great step forward.” Dewi also explained, “As well as being a valuable resource to professional developers interested in developing all aspects of computing through the medium of Welsh, they will also be available to young people in coding clubs, and volunteers and hackers who enjoy using Welsh on their computers.”  

In order to launch the Language Technologies Portal, a conference entitled “Through Technological Means” will be held at Bangor University on Friday the 6th of March, 2015, to be followed on the Saturday by the Hacio’r Iaith (Language Hacking event- where  professional and amateur developers discuss and work to increase the availability and use of Welsh on digital media) event. As well as showcasing some of the new resources, invited speakers of international renown will present their vision for languages such as Welsh who find it difficult to be adequately represented in the digital sphere. Amongst them is Jeff Beatty, of the Mozilla Foundation, Provo, Utah; Kepa Sarasola from the University of the Basque Country, and John Judge, from DCU, Dublin, who all work with less resourced languages such as Welsh.

Professor John G Hughes, Bangor University’s Vice-Chancellor, who will be opening the conference, said:

“I greatly welcome this opportunity for Welsh to show leadership in the digital domain. Many languages find themselves in a similar position to Welsh, and we can learn a lot from each other as we try to secure a worthy presence for our languages in the digital world. I look forward to seeing these resources live on the Language Technologies Portal.”

The resources will be available from 5 March on the Porth Termau Iaith Cenedlaethol website.

Publication date: 18 February 2015