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EU moves to establish gibberish as lingua franca

Brussels docs to teach translation software

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The European Commission is seeking to make us all speak in Brusselsese by donating millions of its documents to translation software developers.

The commission described the donation of its "collection of about one million sentences and their high quality translations in 22 of the 23 official EU languages" as a step further in its "efforts to foster multilingualism as a key part of European unity in diversity".

At first glance, the offer would appear to be a boon to anyone developing a translation engine. The EU has 23 official languages, and its translation services span 253 possible language pair combinations, producing about 1.5 million translated pages a year. This should provide plenty of high quality material for engines to get their teeth into.

On the other hand, we are talking about Brussels here, where everything reads like gibberish and gobbledegook, even when it's written in your native tongue to begin with.

For starters, just try getting your tongue round the intro to the EU's Language Translation program's copyright notice, which warns us: "Where prior permission must be obtained for the reproduction or use of textual and multimedia information (sound, images, software, etc.), such permission shall cancel the above-mentioned general permission and shall clearly indicate any restrictions on use."

OK, we admit it, that's clear enough, if you're a lawyer. But it's still good practice for slogging your way through the Lisbon Treaty. Just check out this section on data protection: "The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall lay down the rules relating to the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, and by the Member States when carrying out activities which fall within the scope of Union law, and the rules relating to the free movement of such data. Compliance with these rules shall be subject to the control of independent authorities."

Shockingly, the only language excluded from the program is Irish, leaving the 90,000 residents of Ireland's Gaeltacht out in the cold, linguistically speaking. ®

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