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Techie Tormod

A couple of Norman Maclean’s impromptu recordings provide the material for trying out the latest developments in Gaelic Automatic Speech Recognition.

NormanMiracles

When Norman kindly offered to record some stories for Island Voices in 2015, he was perhaps already beginning to feel his age. As a result, while he delivered them all with his trademark panache, he opted in the main to read them aloud from pre-prepared scripts. This was a blessing in disguise for Island Voices, as it meant that ready-made transcripts already existed which could be easily transferred to the Clilstore platform, enabling word-by-word clickable translations – all available on our Norman Maclean page.

However, the man was irrepressible, and once he was into his stride he just kept going, meaning a couple more stories were added to the collection off the top of his head. Lively recordings resulted, but without written transcripts – until now. Island Voices has recently been working closely with the Automatic Speech Recognition project in Edinburgh, and a good number of our Gaelic films now offer optional subtitling. These were created by feeding already existing transcripts into the text aligner tool the ASR team developed as part of their work, so that individual subtitles would appear at the right time on the videos. These were texts that had been created by someone sitting down with the recording and manually typing out every word they heard – time-consuming work!

What’s new with the recordings featured here is that it is the ASR tool on which the Edinburgh team are working that has actually itself created the first draft of the transcripts used to produce the subtitles in these films. The results were by no means perfect, and there was still a need for a human ear and hand to tidy them up before they could be used, but it’s a developmental process. And progress is clearly being made, to the extent that the Clilstore gap in our “Sgeulachdan Thormoid” collection has now been compensated for by enabling optional onscreen subtitles on the two extra recordings he made for us – “Mìorbhailteann ann am Barraigh“, and “Bodach nan Serviettes“.

And again, as with earlier versions, once the Gaelic subtitles are in the YouTube system, automatic translation into scores of other languages via Google Translate then becomes instantly available. Norman, among his many other talents, was an enthusiastic linguist – and no slouch with a computer. True, he expressed his reservations about the development of “text talk”, but we can surely allow ourselves to think that this latest technical innovation, with the human voice at its centre (his own!), would have met with his approval.

One for the Barraich:

And the other for the Hearaich:

Categories: CALL, Community, Research, Video
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  1. 02/06/2021 at 9:01 am

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