Best language service
“Under the motto ‘never waste a good crisis’, conference interpreter Sabine Bourgeois (Idem Dito Language Solutions), working jointly with a software developer, developed a video-based RSI platform that enables simultaneous interpretation during online, on-site and hybrid multilingual meetings and events.
Called cAPPisco, this online interpreting platform has been made by conference interpreters for use by conference interpreters.
Sabine Bourgeois: “cAPPisco offers interpreters an interpreter-friendly application, while at the same time providing a very user-friendly listening app for listeners/participants. It allows interpreters to see, hear and speak to each other – whether in the lounge or in the interpreters’ booths – without any disturbance to the participants, while enabling listeners to open the listening app on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC.”
How can young people be motivated to learn a language they do not use often?
The Swap-Swap website enables this by facilitating language exchanges between youngsters from French-speaking and Dutch-speaking families in Belgium during the holidays.
Young people are often unable to fluently use a second or third language, due to paucity of time for practice during language learning lessons. The best way to rapidly improve your language skills is to occasionally spend time with peers who speak the other language. The friendships that young people strike up during the exchange continue to motivate them to improve their skills in the other language even later on. But how can one find a suitable family to exchange with? Enter Swap-Swap!
This is how it works: after jointly registering on the Swap-Swap platform with their parents, children and young people can look for a suitable ‘Swap’ from the other language group. The platform enables them to make contact, fix an initial appointment and, if the relationship clicks, they can prepare the exchange together. Thus it is possible for you to choose who you will exchange with! The website also offers a lot of practical information on how to approach such an exchange. Swap-Swap has been developed with parents, teenagers and their teachers. This makes it a safe and accessible platform. Swap-Swap is open to children and youngsters aged between 8 and 18.
Swap-Swap is modelled on La Ligue des Familles (League of Families).. Earlier, this league used to establish contact between families and provide them with information on how to arrange a successful exchange.
With its online platform however, Swap-Swap offers an innovative and unique approach with significant advantages:
- Motivates young people: The children and youngsters themselves participate in choosing their Swap. They also enjoy and use many of the online tools to establish contacts with other young people.
- Transparent approach: The families can themselves choose the parties with whom they wish to organise the exchange.
- Safe environment: Swap-Swap is designed with a central focus on ensuring the online safety of the children and young people, among other things by making parental control an essential component.
More than 520 children and young people registered on the platform to find an exchange partner since the launch of the platform in February 2017. Although we are unaware of how many of them have had actual exchanges, we do regularly hear wonderful stories via our feedback forms. We also learn of families registered under Swap-Swap who forward the contact details of neighbours, family or friends to families who are still looking for exchange partners. Although it would be difficult to quantify the impact of this, it does not prevent us from conducting our own investigations. During the academic year 2020-21, we joined hands with a master’s student at the UA to conduct in-depth interviews aimed at studying the advantages and disadvantages of language exchanges between families. This provided useful insights that will allow us to better prepare families for a language exchange in future. As a direct result of this, we will for example, be collaborating with students from the teacher training programme at the Karel de Grote-Hogeschool to develop language games. Children and young people will be able to use these games to strengthen their communication strategies during the exchange.
In 2016, Eric Bauwelinck, ceo of Mastervoice, wrote a book – in tempore non suspecto – about the transformation from onsite to online interpreting: “Voices From Above – A Journey from Onsite to Online Interpreting”. During the Corona pandemic, conference interpreters experienced a transition from onsite to online interpretation – at lightning speed.
“After a crisis management phase for a couple of months, we soon pioneered ways to adapt our language solutions for online interpreting. We managed to move quickly, using among other things, five powerful online interpreting platforms in partnership and in-house for niche customers,” says Eric Bauwelinck.
“This also made us a major employer of conference interpreters during the corona period and in 2020 and 2021, we received 2 awards from Industry Wired and The Enterprise Magazine, placing us amongst the top 10 most trusted language providers.”
“We initially created a software platform for multilingual children’s stories. We currently use that for multilingual manuals. And to provide multilingual visitor information, training and work instructions.” Jorim Rademaker of Manual.to explains.
“We believe that all such communication should be multilingual and that combining written language with moving images offers the best of both worlds. We are convinced of the continued existence of written language even in an online world with video and VR.”
Manual.to has since worked for Microsoft, Volvo Cars, the British and Flemish governments, the Belgian railways, etc. “We were also part of the Taalboost (Language Boost) initiative, along with Timmerwerkt and Dominiek Savio, among others. We sponsor initiatives such as OffshoreWind4Kids, trustinscience.org and others that offer a combination of language and education.”
The Writing Assistants for Dutch, and Dutch for non-Dutch speakers and multilingual speakers are free online applications for supporting users at their own levels during the writing process. The working of the Writing Assistants is surprisingly simple:
‐ Simple: just copy the text into the webpage, and pass it through the checks.
‐ Amazing: the Writing Assistant points out possible mistakes and problematic text passages, and also provides suggestions to enrich the text. The Dutch Writing Assistant focuses on a number of stylistic features (repetition, use of the passive form, etc.) and provides many tips, for example on the use of Belgian-Dutch words.
The Writing Assistant for Dutch, and Dutch for non-Dutch speakers and multilingual speakers largely focuses on detecting classical mistakes that non-Dutch speakers and multilingual speakers make (for example, use of articles, demonstrative and adjectival pronouns, etc.) and offers a wide variety of options for enriching texts (related words, adjectives, etc).
The suggestions and alternatives provided are derived from VRT Taalnet, Taaladvies.net, and the booklet Hoe Vlaams mag uw Nederlands zijn? (How Flemish should your Dutch be), as well as extensive corpus material.
Best language project
The Write Space is an interactive learning environment for teachers in higher education, and offers personalised feedback in Dutch and in English on students’ assignments and other writing products.
Language proficiency of students in higher education is a matter of concern. Radboud University (Nijmegen) aims to train students to engage in powerful communication with a conscious focus on language competence. Good writing skills are essential for success as well as progress in studies, but there is still much need for improvement.
Teachers have an important role to play in the language development of students. Teachers are often disinclined to comment on the linguistic aspects of students’ texts, in addition to providing feedback on their content. Teachers sometimes also find it inconvenient and time-consuming to assess the (Dutch and English) linguistic aspects of writing products. As experts in their own field, they do not see themselves as language teachers. They often do not regard this aspect as part of their job. The Write Space was developed to better equip teachers to provide effective feedback on the linguistic quality of academic texts.
This e-learning offers teachers tools to provide feedback on the language, style and structure of academic texts. Teachers can thereby make an important contribution to the development of students’ academic writing skills.
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MATCHeN helps aid workers communicate better with non-native speakers. “More language, more support” is the slogan.
In concrete terms, MATCHeN offers three language solutions: a knowledge platform, an app and an e-learning module:
- a freely accessible knowledge platform with multilingual information on health topics
- a free multilingual app for communication with non-native speakers about toilet training and taking medication
- a free interactive e-learning module to communicate about sexual health with non-native speakers.
Prof. dr. Ellen Van Praet (University of Ghent): “MATCHeN is a collaboration between Ghent University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and HOGENT with financial support from VLAIO (Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship). In collaboration with 24 partners, we currently reach hundreds of healthcare actors across different sectors.”
MATCHeN targets large as well as small healthcare organisations. Ellen Van Praet: “We focus on the one hand, on large umbrella government organisations, umbrella organisations, public institutions and large private and public undertakings (e.g. hospitals) committed to providing accessible care and public assistance to newcomers. They are crucial as anchor points for the dissemination of project results to smaller social-profit organisations: non-profit organisations, local initiatives, community health centres and interest groups. On the other hand, we also address this large group that comprises small healthcare organisations.”
Technology partners are also involved in the project: Televic, The Learning Hub, Xuntar, Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities.
“We are also closely involved with related projects aimed at promoting accessible care, such as the newly launched COMON.”
For detailed information about MATCHen, and the team of 12 collaborators, as well as a trailer of the project, please visit www.matchen.org
The COVID-19 pandemic in Belgium quickly made it clear that not every citizen has equal access to government communication and advice on combating COVID-19.
The ICC project (Inclusive Crisis Communication) is an interdisciplinary research project that studies the information flow to hard-to-reach groups as well as target groups with specific needs. These include non-native speakers, vulnerable groups with a low socio-economic status/low level of literacy, or blind or visually impaired persons, and persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The project develops validated guidelines for more inclusive and accessible COVID-19 crisis communication with a view to resolving these communication issues. These guidelines take into account the (multi-)linguistic and socio-cultural diversity and the literacy level of the Belgian population. In this manner, the project thereby aims to contribute to resolving information inequality in Belgium and to ensure the greater accessibility and effectiveness of governmental communication that is tailored to the needs of vulnerable and hard-to-reach target groups.
The guidelines focus on the specific linguistic/multimodal form of governmental communication and the channels through which it can be disseminated.
Apart from developing guidelines for inclusive COVID-19 crisis communication, the project also focuses on creating COVID-19 communication products that are tailored to the specific requirements of the target groups. One example of the communication products already developed in connection with the ICC project consists of accessible videos about the vaccination campaign. The videos can be found on the website www.info-coronavirus.be.
The project’s multilingual website provides more information about the project as well as the consortium partners, apart from all the research results, and also publishes the guidelines for further dissemination and use.
A major PR campaign for language-related professions? Good idea, but you’ll soon feel the need for major resources for it.
Noa De Sutter argues that we should not wait for that. Tiny drops make an ocean, which is why Noa visits secondary school classes, and speaks passionately about her work as a conference interpreter, proofreader and translator. She talks about her educational background, how she ended up in the language sector, what an average working day looks like, etc. A story aimed specifically at 17- and 18-year-olds who are thinking about their studies and are asking themselves how they can ultimately use them to earn a good living.
The kind of PR work that even the best PR agency does not provide. And even the best plan cannot be rolled out on a massive scale. But that may probably not be necessary – in case Noa’s narrative becomes contagious😉
Would you like to know more about Noa? Visit her website.
The Database of the Southern Dutch Dialects (DZND or DSDD) combines dictionaries on the Flemish, Brabanti and Limburgian dialects, and shows your search results on a map.
The DZND was realised in 2020 by a consortium of dialectologists, geographers and computer specialists from Ghent University and the Institute for the Dutch Language (INT) in Leiden. Prof. dr. Jacques Van Keymeulen of the Department of Linguistics Dutch, UGent was responsible for supervising the entire project.
More than 500,000 keywords had already been linked to concepts by the end of November 2021. These relate to around 180,000 Brabantic, 180,000 Limburgian and 140,000 Flemish dialect words.
The DZND is hosted by the Instituut voor de Nederlandse Taal (Dutch Language Institute).
You may search the database at: https://dsdd.ivdnt.org/DSDD/search
Best language publication
The Flanders Dialect Atlas concerns everything that makes the dialects in Flanders so interesting. No other work/book has ever offered so much knowledge about dialects in Flanders; it maps out the entire range of knowledge on the subject. With hundreds of interesting facts and surprising lists, all presented in an original design, with language maps and pleasant illustrations.
- Why are there so many dialects in Flanders?
- Why does a farmer not just call a pig a pig?
- How far does the influence of the Antwerp dialect extend?
- Are there really fifty dialect words for ‘drizzle’?
- Are the dialects getting lost?
- Why are there so many dialect words for ladybirds and so few for horses?
The Flanders Dialect Atlas was written by Johan De Caluwe, Veronique De Tier, Anne-Sophie Ghyselen and Roxane Vandenberghe.
‘Practising Dutch: Taalpuzzels met 1000 basiswoorden’ is a puzzle book for non-native speakers who are learning Dutch as a second or foreign language.
This book will enable them to practise the language through crosswords, word searches and other puzzles.
The book deals with 1000 frequently used words, and is intended for young and old, beginners and advanced learners of Dutch. Everything is divided into 50 thematic puzzles. A separate alphabetical glossary is included to repeat or even translate the words dealt with. The solutions are provided at the back of the book.
The book was written by Peter Schoenaerts.
The Wablieft newspaper featured the puzzle book and published a number of puzzles in its summer edition.
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Best event in the language sector
Since 2016, the Belgium NLP Meetups bring together people interested in NLP – Natural Language Processing or language technology. The meetups help shape the Belgian NLP community and promote collaboration.
Initiator Yves Peirsman of nlp.town: “On our informal evenings, three speakers give a presentation on their work in the language technology field, which is followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. The content of the presentations is very varied: academics talk about their research, entrepreneurs talk about their NLP company, while developers focus on the technical implementation of NLP software. We consciously maintain an informal atmosphere on such evenings, and also encourage interaction between participants.”
At the Belgium NLP Meetups, people get to know each other in order to work together. The meetups also build bridges between academia and the industry. The formula is catching on: since their inception, the meetups have been growing steadily, and around 80 persons attended each of the last few evenings.
A few highlights of recent years? Yves Peirsman: “The international meetup after the EMNLP conference in 2018, at which we welcomed the creators of spaCy among others, completely filled a Brussels auditorium, as well as the NLP Hackathon that we jointly organised with the Flemish Government.”
The meetups had to be suspended during the Corona pandemic and only one meetup could be held (in November 2021 in Leuven), but they will be back soon.
What is the state of Dutch in the world of translation? And what does the future look like? That was the subject of the study day organised by the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters (BKVT) on 29 November 2019 in Antwerp.
Radio producer Jan Hautekiet opened with a short lecture ‘About hands-on and can do’. Folkert de Vriend, policy officer at the Taalunie (Union for the Dutch language), then outlined the state of affairs. ‘Native language proficiency deserves more attention in translation training’. Researcher Eline Zenner (KU Leuven) explained the influence of English on Dutch. ‘English terms are simply cool for many young people’.
Hilde Van Loon, head of the Dutch language department of DG Translation at the European Commission, looked at the situation from a European perspective: what does the EU expect from translators? Does Europe have a preference for country-neutral Dutch, Belgian Dutch or Netherlands Dutch? ‘No, the translation must above all be fit for purpose’.
Fedde van Santen is co-director of the Vertalersvakschool (academy for literary translation, Amsterdam/Antwerp) and lecturer in applied translation theory at the ITV University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. He came to talk about the difficulties encountered by freelance translators with NL translations. ‘Native language proficiency deserves more attention’.
After the network lunch, Gys-Walt van Egdom, lecturer at Utrecht University, talked about teaching translation and Miet Ooms (Webred) went into more detail about differences between Belgian and Dutch.
A panel discussion with all guest speakers chaired by Sébastien Devogele rounded off the seminar.