The EU has stated that one of its goals is to enable a united, single digital European market. This means that selling and purchasing should be made possible and simple across all countries in the EU area. The job isn’t easy but the goal is achievable. In October 2012 there was a European Commission funded language technology workshop in Brussels. This article highlights one of the many inspiring presentations that were held in this LT-Innovate workshop.

In his presentation, Ruben Riestra, the director and partner in INMARK, demonstrated the current status of the single digital market within EU with an enlightening example: On one hand, most people in the EU countries can access and download digital content (including web pages, online documents, digital music, etc.) to their own computers in a matter of seconds. On the other hand, physical products, like apples, cannot be sold from one EU country to another without time-consuming transportation.

Based on these facts, one could argue that it is easier to start selling digital content than it is to sell apples in the EU. In reality, the situation is quite the opposite. If you want to buy Spanish apples, you’ll probably find them in your local grocery store. An apple is an apple everywhere, and local stockists sell these apples to local consumers. The existing system and processes for selling and buying apples in the EU countries have been tuned up to be as efficient as possible.

Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to digital markets in the EU. Digital markets are relatively new thing to all of us − at least if we compare them to the traditional marketplaces located in every town or city. For an effective European single digital market, there should be both common legislation, common currency and common language. Common currency and relatively uniform legislation already existing Europe, but the third condition, common language, isn’t realistic as such. All Europeans won’t ever share a common language.

Between most European countries there is a remarkable language barrier preventing effective communication to happen. Even the EU Commission itself has 23 official languages. Basically, all this means that without the knowledge of several foreign languages you cannot act in the European digital market. The only way to have a single digital market is to overcome the language barriers. Professional human translators will do their best but the project is so huge that also other translation solutions are desperately needed. This is the reason why translation and language technology solutions are needed in Europe.

 [This article was inspired by the original article in GTS Blog.]

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