Prof Khumalo, who is the former Director of Language Planning and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, will take the reins on 1 August, leading the Centre – the first of its kind in Africa – to achieve the constitutional imperative to recognise all the South African languages as key resources in innovation and science.
In 2016, Prof Khumalo completed an intensive Advanced Leadership Programme for Higher Education, which made him acutely aware of the vast challenges higher education is confronted with in generating knowledge that is innovative and responsive to our ever-evolving human needs.
During the early stages of his career, Prof Khumalo was introduced to working with language data. “Trained by many luminaries in corpus linguistics, including none other than the late Professor John Sinclair at the Tuscany Word Centre in Italy, I was one of the first editors to compile and publish the first corpus-aided monolingual dictionary of isiNdebele,” he said.
Prof Khumalo has been involved in various Human Language Technology (HLT) projects, including the development of the isiZulu National Corpus, an isiZulu Oral Corpus and the English-isiZulu Parallel Corpus. These corpora are carefully designed to enable among others HLT development. His involvement in various exciting projects such as the development of disciplinary terminology for isiZulu, which culminated in the publication of glossaries such as the illustrated glossary of architecture terms and the glossary of law terms, has contributed in raising awareness of the profile and role of African languages in the academy.
“SADiLaR became an attractive and inevitable destination for me because of what it is doing, what it seeks to do in terms of developing language resources, and its national character and reach,” Prof Khumalo stated.
Prof Khumalo has been involved with SADiLaR as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) since its inception in 2017. Given the close association with SADiLaR, Prof Khumalo has insight into all of the projects that have been rolled out internally as well as projects driven by the various nodes.
“The Centre has a young and dynamic team and I hope that my experience and skills set will be a useful addition to an already amazing array of skills,” Prof Khumalo noted on working with the SADiLaR team.
At the core of it all, Prof Khumalo wants the Centre to churn out research, (technology) solutions, and (digital) resources that are impactful and have transformational effect in the communities where these languages are predominantly spoken and/or taught. He also aims embrace the quality research and productivity culture, and the links that the Centre has hitherto done, achieved and established in such a short period of its existence.
“Language is at the centre of our human existence. It carries and conveys the identity of humanity. It records our human achievements and spurs on our innovation and development. It is notable that our Constitution recognises 11 official languages. It is a constitutional imperative to develop all of them in order to achieve ‘parity of esteem’ between them,” he said Prof Khumalo.
Since the inception, SADiLaR has made strong connections with similar research infrastructures internationally such as the European Common Language Resources and Technology Infrastructure (CLARIN), the European Language Resources Association (ELRA) and the Linguistic Data Consortium (LDC) of the USA. The Centre has been guided by experienced leaders in the field of Human Language Technology (HLT), Linguistics and Digital Humanities.