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#99: computers & economy (was: Poincy replies to Allen) Allen comments

From: Jeff ALLEN <jeff@elda.fr>

>From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>
>	So you think that the Ayitian language should fit the evolutionary
>trend of computer chips. I think the other way aroud rather. After
>centuries for a language to take the shape that it takes right now, it
>would be irrational to stump its evolution so to adapt it to computer
>rather than the computer to adapt itself to it. Unless, I don't grasp
>what you really want to say. If so when really, the Ayitian people will
>be able to express its culture vividly in its own language like every
>other nation does. Can the computer allows it to do so. 

Yes, it can.  As I stated during both of my presentatations at the Etudes
Creoles conference last week in Aix-en-Provence, one of the major setbacks
for the written Haitian Kreyol language at present is that there may be an
orthographic standard, but the written language (that is, the lexicon) has
no standard.  Now, I am not blaming anyone for this, and it is easy to
point fingers.  I am just making a statement based on objective facts of
thousands and thousands of sentences evaluated by texts written by 15
different teams of Haitians.  The variability of written forms is such that
2/3% (yes, two-thirds) of all of the lexical items (words) in a 1.3 million
word Haitian Kreyol database (collected from 15 different sources) are
represented by 2 or more variant spellings.  All of the statistics are
clearly outlined in my papers. Why?  Well no one is investing in decent
literacy programs, and there is real backing from the government.  Haitians
in Haiti are learning to read and write in whatever way possible.  

And as I said last week at the conference, lots of us can talk about
language, and about what needs to be done, but convincing the Minister of
Education, and the Minister of Culture, and others to invest in such
programs is not an easy task.   They don't necessarily want to hear "words"
about what needs to be done to turn an oral language of the masses into a
written language.  They want to see products and services that are going to
raise their country on the economy scale .  Roads are products.  Irrigation
systems are products.   Crops are products.  Mobile/cell phone networks are
services.  Internet access is a service, etc......

To such ministers, learning to write A, B, C in Haitian Creole probably
doesn't seem like a viable economic avenue to take.  They will simply say
"Just have the people learn to read and write in French" (yes, I do know
that it is not the native language of the majority of the people).  The
question here is how can one turn "language" into a product that is going
to attract the attention of the ministers to really do something about it.
Well, it is necessary to develop products and services.

When I have given full bilingual English/Haitian Creole dialogue
demonstrations of the bidirectional speech translation systems that we
developed at Carnegie Mellon University in 1996-98, people were always
amazed.  You see, no one can call Haitian Creole "broken French", because
it is "impossible" to translate from "broken French" into English using a
computer system.   Those demonstrations automatically raised the level of
awareness of decision-makers in major international corporations about what
a language is.  To them, from their worldview of global marketing, Haitian
Creole can be considered a full-fledged language because there are computer
systems that can do something with it.  Sure, I know that no language is a
language because it is in a computer, but most people think from the
perspective that a language must really be a language if the computer can
do something with it.

Howvever, we have a problem:   When a (written) language is in such a state
of transition as I have discussed in past messages and in all my studies on
language "statistics", it is very difficult, and virtually impossible, to
develop a functional spell-checker for it. How can one convince Microsoft
to invest money in developing Kreyol versions of  Word, Excel, Outlook,
Access etc. when the no one can decide on what is the acceptable spelling
of the menu items and words within the program?  These are "real" questions
that people ask.  Thus, lexical standardization is a significant issue.  I
deal with this on a daily basis in working with terminology databases for
all of the European languages and with companies such as IBM, Intel,
Microsoft, Sony, Ford, Renault, Matra, Nortel, General Motors, Siemens,
Philips, etc.    

The way to get government support, backing and funding is to develop
prototypes of language products, give demos of them that work and are
functional, and show that much more can be done in a limited, and
reasonable time frame.  Such technologies will lead to the expansion of the
Haitian Creole language on the Internet, thus promoting Haiti, Haitian
culture, Haitian government, Haitian economy, Haitian import and export,

Take into consideration the following statement:

The European Commission has claimed that languages which do not take a full
part in the electronic media are doomed to stagnate, if not atrophy: 

? many of the minority languages are experiencing difficulties, often under
the influence of changing patterns of communication.  Penetration of the
new technologies could substantially accelerate this process, threatening
to diminish the linguistic and cultural diversity of European society.

? The rapid rise in use of information and communication technologies will
naturally favour languages which can be successfully processed. Languages
supported by key software products offering powerful facilities for
manipulating text also provide almost unlimited access to information
services in those languages? The long-term viability of languages not
specifically supported is therefore put at risk.

	EC proposal for a Council Decision, Multilingual Information Society, 1995

I mentioned last week at the Etudes Creoles conference that all languages
from now on will be significantly altered by new technologies.  It is one
of "the" primary means by which languages will thrive and survive on the
global market.   Those that have internet sites will promote themselves.
Those that do not may get left behind.   

And can we say that Haitian Creole as a language of the masses will not die
off?  Well, all of those people who strive to get their kids educated in
French in the country will do so for the economic well-being of their
children.   And those kids will grow up thinking that French is what they
need to pass on to their children.  And in a few generations, with that
kind of attitude, Haitian Creole could run the risk of being much less
spoken than it is today.  Language survival is based on motivation and
attitude, and motivation and attitude are significantly influenced by
living conditions and the economy.

I therefore see no problem in promoting the Haitian Creole language at an
international level, promoting internet sites that market it at a global
level, making ministers in Haiti aware of the potential of this language at
all levels, and convincing managers in major software and technology
corporations/companies that Haitian Creole is just like any other language
and that it also can be invested in.

>From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>
>Another point is
>Ayiti is not at that computer age yet. When will the majority of the
>people will make use of the machine to which the language they speak
>adapt itself. Check the logic again.

But you need to look beyond a simple bilingual translation software system.
 I am not talking about a single system developed at a single university.
I am talking about major influences on the global economy for the coming
century.  I am talking about Internet sites, Internet language-specific
search engines, voice dictation software, spell checkers, information
retrieval, multi-media and multi-modal applications, computer-aided design
and graphics, workflow applications, authoring systems and desktop
publishing, computer assisted language learning (CALL), MIDI systems and
music software, scanners and optical character recognition (OCR), etc.....
You cannot say that these different types of systems and applications do
not affect you, other Haitians, the president and the ministers in Haiti,
import and export companies, tourism in Haiti, Haitian telecoms,
newspapers, radio, TV, etc.....  All of this WILL happen through a computer
during the coming century.  The typewriter is obsolete.  It is a rapidly
dying machine.  It is therefore necessary that Haitians will the access to
the technologies and those in colleges and universities in other countries
work together and with other non-Haitians in a networking and partnership
way to promote the the Haitian Creole language, Haiti, etc.   

Jeff Allen wrote:
>	"My use of Kreyol texts is not to judge the intellectual or factual
>level of the content, but rather to gather all available texts and
>through computational means to determine some correlation between
>education, reading, writing and the resulting texts that are available."
>From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>
>	That's a mechanical/statistical approach to study a language and it is
>designed just for the labs. Do you realize what you are saying? Complete
>exclusion of studying the way the people use the language themselves.
>This can't be just a statistical variable. 

I deal with the global marketing of languages on a daily basis.  I estimate
the market segmentation of language technologies for every major language.
I gather information on every player in all of the different sectors
mentioned further above.  Yes, these are all statistics, otherwise known as
facts.  My research on Haitian Creole has been based on facts and
statistics because there are too many people out there that base their
evaluations on intuitions, on subjective feelings, etc.   I see
presentations all the time where people say that X is more than Y, but
don't show any real figures for it.   How can you prove it?   Show me the
figures.  Basic intitution just doesn't cut it when you are dealing with
top-level decision-makers.  The Haitian minister of education will laugh at
such subjective, intuitive comments, but if you present hard cold facts
about language to him, along with a functional system, and significant
promise for a real product that can be objectively evaluated on benchmark
tests and ongoing tests, then the facts and statistics can lead to
financial investment and full-support.

Statistics are what managers, ministers, presidents, and others want to see
because numbers speak out loud very clearly.  People make decisions every
single day based on numbers and statistics presented in spreadsheets,
databases, pie charts, etc, and these decisions are those that affect the
economy and the lives of nearly every single person on this entire planet.

What I have been trying to do for Haitian Creole over the past few years is
show that it has great potential for the world market.  All that is needed
now are a number of talented native Haitians with a real desire to do
something for their language, for their country, and who can take my work
and do something with it.

>From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>
>We are dealing with people
>that has a means to expose their mentality, the way they think the way
>they do or do what they do which all are subjective. 

But those subjective issues are not what the decision-makers are going to
make promises and decisions on.  I deal with such decision-makers everyday.
 They want objective facts.

>From: Jean Poincy <caineve@idt.net>
>The kind of studies that you conduct in that case is
>to show the non/importance of education in the people's socio-economic
>development and don't touch at all the issue. 

I think that I have made myself clear that my "statistical studies" on
lexical frequency in Haitian Creole are in fact crucial to the marketing
potential of the language, of the country, and of its economy for the future.

All of the points I have raised above indicate that the computer creates
products, services, jobs, and increases the growth of the economy.  It may
not reach every single Haitian.  But then, does every French kid in France
have a computer (no, only 9% of households have computers in France).  But
what is important is opening the opportunity to as many as possible, and
ensuring that the Haitian Creole language will have a long life expectancy.



Jeff ALLEN - Technical Manager/Directeur Technique
European Language Resources Association (ELRA)  &
European Language resources - Distribution Agency (ELDA) 
(Agence Europe'enne de Distribution des Ressources Linguistiques)
55, rue Brillat-Savarin
75013   Paris   FRANCE
Tel: (+33) - Fax: (+33)