November 08, 2017
Computers being taught te reo
A team from Far North radio station Te Hiku o Te Ika is teaching computers to understand te reo Maori.
Station manager Peter Lucas Jones presented an outline of the project to a Maori digital forum in Auckland today as part of the annual Net Hui.
He says the station has a large archive of spoken Maori it wants to digitise and transcribe.
But existing speech recognition systems and personal digital assistants like Siri don’t recognise minority languages.
With help from a grant from the Ka Hao Maori Digital Technology Development Fund it is trying to remedy that by getting speakers to read short blocks of text so the programs can learn the connection between sound and text.
He says it’s a way to keep the language relevant for future generations.
"If we were to observe the digital interactions our young people have and even our old people have every day, they could be using te reo Maori in some or all of those interactions and having the choice to do so would be a great opportunity for us to grow te reo Maori in the modern context we live in," Mr Jones says.
He says much of the work is a phonetics language with the speech patterns of native speakers differing markedly from second language learners.
There is now little inter-generational transmission of language but every generation is making increasing use of digital devices.
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