The Annual Meeting of Directors of the Cervantes Institute closes its sessions with the challenge of digitization |  Atalayar

The Annual Meeting of Directors of the Cervantes Institute closes its sessions with the challenge of digitization | Atalayar

The Annual Meeting of Directors of the Cervantes Institute ended on Wednesday with the presentation of the conclusions, in which a priority issue was highlighted: the challenge of digitization and adaptation to the new technological scenario. Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares highlighted in a recorded video the “need to optimize the potential of Spanish” by taking advantage of the technological revolution and artificial intelligence, the use of which “opens a whole horizon of possibilities”. We are, said José Manuel Albares, at a “moment of transcendental historical change” in which “the Spanish language can and must become an engine for employment, entrepreneurship, technology and economic growth”.

The Plenary Hall of the City Hall of Granada was the setting chosen to hold this last session, which ends three days of debates, inaugurated by Queen Letizia last Monday, during which the challenges, achievements, shortcomings and functioning of the institution were examined in depth.

The director, Luis García Montero, who these days has advanced the convenience of modernizing the organization and thinking of new projects to face the future, said that “our heart remains in Granada”, his hometown, and thanked the hospitality, which “is a round trip”.

García Montero left the spotlight to the general secretary, Carmen Noguero, at the end of the sessions, in which the mayor of the host city, Francisco Cuenca, expressed his gratitude for the meeting of the seventy directors of Cervantes.

Noguero predicted that digital transformation “will take us to a lot of thinking” and that this transition, materialized by an ambitious strategic digitization plan, can generate difficult times, with difficulties of adaptation and a heavy workload. That is why the issues discussed these days in Granada must be transmitted to the employees of the centers. Their participation must also be sought in order to create a new network of international connections between them, which makes the most of the “distinctive value” of Cervantes: to be a network present throughout the world.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation declared that “the digital reality has definitely taken hold among us”. “The enormous effort we have made to adapt to the virtual environment prepares us to take on new challenges” and “will provide us with a solid base to take advantage of all the opportunities of the virtual”. Among them, the new language economy, known as PERTE, whose centerpiece for the development of strategies for the promotion of Spanish will be the Global Observatory, based in La Rioja.

As for the operation of Cervantes, Albares said that “it has managed to become our best tool to promote the teaching, study and use of Spanish, thus contributing to the expansion of Hispanic cultures in the foreigner”. 2022 was the year of resuming face-to-face activity, returning to normality and reactivating exam work for obtaining Spanish diplomas, he said. And also “the year of expansion” with the consolidation of the centers in Dakar (Senegal), the opening of Los Angeles (United States) and the approval of Seoul (Republic of Korea). All of this reflects the government’s commitment to be present in important areas for the dissemination of Hispanic language and culture.

Artificial intelligence

This session at Granada City Hall closed the annual meeting, which included three working sessions on Wednesday. The last one was about artificial intelligence (AI) in Spanish, language processing and conversational systems against misinformation. It was directed by two full professors from the University of Granada: Juan Gómez and Zoraida Callejas.

Juan Gómez, from the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, explained to Cervantes staff the functioning and progress of AI, its programs and algorithms. AI systems work with computational techniques based on studies of neural networks revealed by Nobel Prize winner Ramón y Cajal, applied mathematically to computer language.

Human language application models are a particular type of neural network trained to work with texts, capable of “learning” and predicting a sequence of words from a single one, to generate longer and more complete. With an increasing use of Spanish (a few years ago almost all texts were in English), these models are used as a basis for other tasks such as text classification or machine translation with a corpus of texts parallels. They still have limitations, errors, and non-transparent behavior, but they can be very efficient and fast.

Zoraida Callejas, lecturer in the Department of Languages ​​and Computer Systems at the University of Granada, spoke about conversational computer systems, including well-known virtual assistants such as Siri or Alexa. Since there are more and more oral or written interactions and we will perform more and more tasks talking to machines, it is important that they are available in Spanish, with tools specifically created for our language.

She insisted that the different variants of Spanish should be included and that the synthetic voice that clones the human voice should capture this richness of speech, which “is not always on the agenda of large companies. technological”. It is also necessary to strive to eliminate bias, to respect privacy in order to “anonymize” voices and to include common sense, refining the content of the arguments offered when certain questions are asked.

Online courses and the presence of Spanish

After Tuesday’s sessions, which focused on the digitization plan, Wednesday’s sessions tackled issues relating to the marketing of online courses, a type of teaching that has grown in the wake of the pandemic and the confinement, even though face-to-face Spanish classes have made a comeback. The coexistence of the two teaching models generates debates on the most convenient price and cost structure in the different centers, the convenience or not of centralized management, the competition between the centers, the way of advertising for online courses, etc. These questions are important because course registrations, online and face-to-face, are one of Cervantes’ main sources of income, along with certification (Spanish diplomas).

During the session on institutional collaborations, the Director General of Spanish in the World (of the Ibero-American State Secretariat) admitted that it was necessary to fight to defend the presence of Spanish in international organizations: l spanish is disappearing as a working language in the secretariats of many organizations where the English-French duo is well established. For this reason, Guillermo Escribano has encouraged collaboration with “Friends of Spanish”, NGOs and other voluntary groups and associations.

Other speakers include the delegate in Spain of the Instituto Cero y Cuervo (Colombia), Martín Gómez, who expressed his gratitude for the projection made thanks to the cooperation with Cervantes, which dates back to October 2014, and the vice- rector of international relations of the University of Granada, Dorothy Anne Kelly, who called for greater cooperation and cultural symbiosis, especially in offering internships in Cervantes centers for his students.

After the closing session, singer Miguel Ríos presented Luis García Montero with a bequest for the Caja de las Letras de Cervantes at the Isabel la Católica Theater. The artist from Granada also gave the concert “Vuelvo a Granada” accompanied by the Black Betty Band, Antonio Arias and Anni B Sweet.

The meeting of directors of Cervantes was organized with the collaboration of the University of Granada, the City Council of Granada, the City Council of Fuente Vaqueros and Renfe (official train of the annual meeting).

Submitted by Jose Antonio Sierra, advise Hispanismo.