Education and research
When robots suddenly speak RomanshMORE INFORMATION
However, the fourth national language is endangered, spoken by just 0.5 per cent of people. Now the emerging research community in Graubünden wants to solve this and other social problems through data.
Allegra! This cheerful Rhaeto-Romanic greeting is familiar to all those who have been on holiday in Graubünden. Since 1938, Graubünden has been the only canton in Switzerland with three national languages, which is precisely why it is culturally diverse. But the Romansh language is struggling to hold its own and often falls into oblivion. Even after 80 years, it is barely possible to get information in Romansh at the national level.
How can we bring a diminishing language into the future?
One way is artificial intelligence. The Graubünden language organisation “Lia Rumantscha”, which campaigns nationally for the preservation of the language through various initiatives, and researchers at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons have jointly developed the first Rhaeto-Romanic translation software. We use automated translation software in everyday life to translate quickly and easily into any language. For the first time, it is now also possible to use such machine translation systems for Romansh texts. A huge challenge for the researchers is the small amount of data, for only 0.5 per cent of the population still speak Rhaeto-Romanic. As a result, the quality of the translations is not yet where it needs to be, but the project has great potential. After all, the easier it is to translate the language, the more people come into contact with Romansh. The Institute of the Dicziunari Rumantsch Grischun (IDRG) takes a meticulous approach to this. The publisher of the largest Romansh dictionary in Graubünden, they document the entire Romansh vocabulary. This is based on 500 years of language development and two million word slips, which are now also digitised.
Where data bring people together
If data can breathe new life into a fading language, where can data take us? “Data is the oil of the 21st century,” says British mathematician Clive Humby. There is something to that. A look at the courses offered by the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons reveals new areas of study such as Mobile Robotics, Data Visualisation and User Experience Design. The latter two are postgraduate Master’s programmes that can only be studied in Graubünden.
Young people are definitely making things happen. While young people at the College of Education Grisons are working on a wide variety of tasks in mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology in the First Lego League initiative, students under the special professorship are working on new techniques so that teachers can teach Romansh to pupils in a playful, digital and future-oriented way.
Similar to the Rhaeto-Romanic interest group, tech enthusiasts hope for a better and more interconnected coexistence by spreading their language and knowledge. Who knows, maybe we will soon be greeting each other in the old town of Chur with a nice Buna saira! and chatting in Romansh thanks to networking, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and centuries of shaped history and culture.