Automated systems that interact with human users via spoken and written communication will greatly enhance their usability and our productivity. These systems will act as on- and off-ramps to the information superhighway, allowing friendly access to services. The convenience provided by these systems is essential to other tasks, such as for handicapped users or for effectively accessing very large and unstructured databases such as the World Wide Web. Some other applications are conversion of phone mail to text, transcription of radio or TV programs or of telephone conversations, information retrieval, automatic translation from one language to another and computer assisted learning of new languages.
Unfortunately, in many respects, current technology is inadequate for the tasks at hand. For instance, automatic recognition of natural conversational speech has a 30% error rate. Mechanical translation of technical manuals results in confusing and ungrammatical instructions. Even parsing of sentences of newspaper articles, while it has improved a lot, leads to faulty analysis of over 50% of the sentences attempted.
There is need to make progress is this important field. The number of available personnel trained in the field is small and solutions to long-standing research problems must be found. At this time, relatively few universities educate students capable of performing the required tasks.
We are organizing a six-week workshop on Language Engineering at Johns Hopkins University from June 27th to August 19th, 2011, in which mixed teams of leading professionals and students will fully cooperate to advance the state of the art. The professionals are university professors and industrial and governmental researchers presently working in widely dispersed locations. Eight undergraduates will be selected through a nationwide search from the current junior class based on outstanding academic promise. Graduate students familiar with the field will be selected in accordance with their demonstrated performance.
The Opening Day Program begins on July 11th on the JHU Homewood Campus. The program is open to the public. A detailed agenda for WS11 Opening Day will soon be available. Speakers on Opening Day will include government sponsors and personnel, team leaders, and technical and administrative personnel. The program usually lasts until 12:00 noon.