This innovation is coming at the time everyone is talking about the extinction of some the African languages. Some are extincted already while others are in queue for extinction but an African talented woman has done the unthinkable in reviving this.
It seems like we have been talking about the endangered state of African languages since forever and one of the solutions that always come up to combat the sad reality is the digitizing of African languages and Omolabake Adenle is on it!
The efforts of Omolabake Adenle were brought to light, even more, when the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) recently announced the top 10 nominees who will be contending for the ‘2017 Innovation Prize for Africa’, in Accra on July 18. The foundation shortlisted innovators from nine African countries.
One each came from DRC, Egypt, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, SA, Uganda and Zimbabwe and two came from Nigeria. Omolabake Adenle was one of the Nigerians on the impressive list, her contribution; a voice recognition and speech synthesis software for African languages.
The African Innovation Foundation describes Adenle and her contribution thus;
“This is a software solution that can understand and digitize spoken African languages, and synthesize speech from African languages presented as digitized text.
Digitizing African languages in this way allows Africans to interact with hardware devices such as mobile phones, and digital services such as call-center applications by speaking their local language.
The software can be integrated into a wide range of devices and third-party software applications. While voice recognition and speech synthesis software have been developed for various Western and Asian languages, there has been very limited commercial application or academic research for African languages.
The difficulty lies in modelling tonality present in most African languages and limited data resources for language modelling. This innovation opens up opportunities for Africans with low literacy levels to also enjoy the benefits of the digital revolution.”
Omolabake Adenle’s innovative software solution was built under her startup, AJA.LA Studios. AJA.LA Studios is self-described as a startup that builds natural language & speech processing applications for under-resourced languages.
They also develop language-learning apps. One of such is their award-winning SpeakYoruba app which is the first in their series of African-language learning apps for children, available on Android and iOS, with a dedicated version for the iPad.
With the digitization of African languages, Africans will be able to interact with a wide range of devices and third-party software applications in their local languages. This has been one of the main hindrances in retaining our languages because most of the interactions carried out online could not be done with them.
Omolabake Adenle has joined a host of other Africans that are seeking out modern day solutions to the problems of endangered African languages and we could not be more excited.