Africa’s first language Centre launched to promote indigenous languages
At last! Hard work and dedication finally paid off.
The Government-established South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) has grown out of its down feathers and is now ready to take flight as this Centre was officially launched on 7 August 2019.
SADiLaR is a platform that creates and manages digital resources and software supporting research and development in language technologies and related studies in all the 11 official languages. It is no secret that African Languages, within the South African context, are under-resourced with regard to sufficient digitisation tools to function effectively in the modern, digital world.
As we celebrate the women of South Africa during the month of August, the North-West University’s (NWU’s) Faculty of Engineering has once again launched its very own initiative to take these celebrations to the next level.
Some 150 girls from various high schools across South Africa were given the opportunity to explore the different exciting fields of engineering during the faculty’s fourth annual Femmegineering Celebration. According to Prof Leenta Grobler, a senior lecturer and project manager, men dominating the engineering scene is still an evident and alarming fact.
“Despite an improvement in recent years, there remains a serious shortage of women pursuing careers in engineering. Traditionally, this field of study remained largely unexplored by women. The NWU aims to change this - one semester at a time.”
The Workshop: Language resources for the classroom was presented across the country at four different institutions: University of Pretoria (2 July 2019), North-West University (4 July 2019), University of the Free State (5 July 2019) and Stellenbosch University (8 July 2019). This workshop forms part of the ICELDA node’s collaboration with SADiLaR. Scholars with great stature in this field from different universities, including the University of Pretoria, North-West University and the University of the Free State, as well as KU Leuven and the University of Antwerp in Belgium presented the workshop.
The month of July saw a huge turnout at SADiLaR’s celebration of three South African languages, held at the University of Limpopo. This forms part of the local support of UNESCO's 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.
Some 330 people attended the celebrations of Sesotho sa Leboa, Tshivenḓa and Xitsonga on 31 July. SADiLaR has initiated celebrations for each of the 11 official languages of South Africa by hosting collaborative events such as workshops and colloquiums at various universities in South Africa to share ideas and take action in creating awareness of our languages and in working on the development of our languages and language resources.
Being undogmatic in the way you approach your data: Impressions of the CATMA workshop held at the University of Stellenbosch
The Stellenbosch University Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, in collaboration with Hamburg University and the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources hosted a workshop on CATMA (Computer Assisted Text Markup and Analysis) from 20 – 21 June 2019. The presenters of the workshop were Professor Jan Christoph Meister (Chris), Dr. Jan Horstmann, and Marie Flüh (M.Ed.) from the University of Hamburg. The workshop started with a brief introduction by Professor Meister, followed by the workshop participants introducing their current or future projects/research. The research introduced ranged from translation studies and lexicography to the detection of animals in Afrikaans literature.
As language educators, we need to understand how our learners/students are changing and the ways technology can be used to aid their teaching and learning strategies. The movement towards multimodal language learning, from contact teaching to autonomous as well as blended and fully online modes, requires different skill sets such as e-moderation and new ways of designing and developing language learning tasks in the digital age.
With this workshop, we will engage with participants in an interactive manner to empower them to eventually contribute to the larger language user community (teachers, learners, lecturers and students, general public/newspapers).
Exciting research to be shared at the Femmegineering celebration!
The days of men dominating the Engineering scene is still an evident and alarming fact. Despite an improvement in recent years, there remains a serious shortage of women pursuing careers in Engineering. The North-West University aims to change this - one semester at a time…
The NWU’s Faculty of Engineering will once again host this year’s annual Femmegineering celebration on Saturday, 3 August 2019 where the attending grade 10, 11 and 12 girls can look forward to speakers who specialises in various interesting, and somewhat, complicated fields.
Celebrating Setswana as an official language of South Africa
As part of its participation in the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Language Project, the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) has dedicated the month of May to the celebration of Setswana as an official language of South Africa. The main celebration event was held at the North-West University’s Mafikeng Campus on 6 May 2019. SADiLaR joined hands with the South African National Lexicography Units (SANLU) to create a platform for language specialists, academics, researchers, students and the public to be part of an initiative to celebrate language, culture and heritage.
The celebration of Afrikaans in multiple universes
The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) dedicated the month of April to the celebration of Afrikaans as an official language of South Africa. The theme of The multiple universes of Afrikaans was used as the thread that sewed all of the month’s events – that included a webinar, theatre workshop, and main celebration – together. This theme created a platform of growth, development, collaboration and inspiration.
In this first Afrikaans webinar from SADiLaR Benito Trollip, SADiLaR's Afrikaans researcher, and Wemar Strydom, literature lecturer from the NWU's Subject Group Afrikaans, join forces. The text that serves as the basis for the discussion is Charl-Pierre Naudé's debut novel, Die ongelooflike onskuld van Dirkie Verwey (2018). The webinar's focus is on unlocking possibilities of the novel: digitally through available methods and software, but also thematic and structural.
The workshop on multiple universes in Afrikaans one-on-one theatre, (Die ewewêrelde in Afrikaanse een-tot-eenteater) led by SADiLaR’s Afrikaans researcher Benito Trollip, offered many practical examples of how multiple worlds can be created. The workshop forms part of the month long celebration of Afrikaans as part of SADiLaR’s 2019 language celebrations.
Sesotho celebration – in honour of language, culture and heritage
Sesotho came to life during the language celebration event that was held at the University of the Free State (UFS) on 14 March 2019. The event was organised by the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) in collaboration with the South African National Lexicography Unit (SANLU).
Celebration of isiZulu as an official language of South Africa
The isiZulu celebration was held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg Campus) on 1 March 2019. There were 86 attendees, including students and lecturers from the University, members from the Department of Arts and Culture, from eThekwini Municipality and from the South African National Lexicography Units (SANLU).
The South African Centre for Digital Languages Resources (SADiLaR) celebrated isiZulu as an official language of South Africa during the whole of February. As part of the celebrations, our isiZulu researcher, Ms Rooweither Mabuya, joined a non-profit organisation, Legacy Creators, to conduct school visits in KwaZulu-Natal. The purpose of the visits was to create awareness of various fields of study at different universities.
The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) has become a home for isiZulu researcher, Ms Rooweither Mabuya. Rooweither’s passion for language and linguistics was ignited during her studies at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. During her first year, she decided to select English Studies as her undergraduate major, not knowing that one day she would major in linguistics in her honours and master’s studies as well.
Announcement: SADiLaR's project manager elected to serve The Carpentries
The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) is proud to announce that our project manager, Mr Juan Steyn, was elected as one of the Executive Council members of The Carpentries project for 2019.
The Carpentries project plays a fundamental role in providing worldwide training with the mission of teaching foundational computational and data science skills to researchers. The communities involved include Software, Data and Library Carpentries.
Text-to-speech technology offers youngster a suitable voice
In May this year, Carte Blanche aired a programme on text-to-speech (TTS) technology and voice banking which featured an insert on Alexander Avenant, a learner at New Hope School in Pretoria. Alexander, at that stage, used the CSIR's Qfrency adult male Afrikaans TTS voice with augmentative and alternative communication software, because that was all that was available at that stage. In the interview with Carte Blanche, Alexander mentions that he does not like the fact that the voice sounds like an "Oom", and not like himself – a boy.
Over the course of September and October, SADiLaR’s technical manager, Dr Roald Eiselen, visited with various European centres that form part of the Common Language Resource Infrastructure (CLARIN). The aim of the visits was to establish connections that will lead to future cooperation and collaboration with entities performing activities similar to those of SADiLaR. The visits provided useful insights on the various technologies and resources available from CLARIN, and it is clear that the implementation and reuse of technical infrastructures from these institutions will significantly reduce the cost and time required to further our objectives.
Language forms the heart and soul of communication, traditions, social integration, and education. Language also plays a vital role in representing various cultures and traditions, as well as capturing the history of a community. There are more than 6000 languages spoken in the world but, at this very moment, many of these languages are disappearing – partly due to the lack of a digital footprint, language resources, and a lack of data captured for the development of these languages.
The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources is excited to announce that a call for proposals has been launched and submissions opened on 31 January 2018. This is an opportunity to participate in the development infrastructure and play a significant role in the development of language resources and technologies for the South African languages.
The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) has been established to foster digital research and development growth in the official languages of South Africa SADiLaR forms part of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) new South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR), for the large scale development of research capacity in South Africa.
SADiLaR launches a new website and data repository
SADiLaR is excited to announce the launch of our website, which sets the foundation for us in our expanding role as African leader in the digital humanities (DH) and natural language processing (NLP) domains.
Integrating the RMA into SADiLaR with new technologies
Over the past five years the Language Resource Management Agency (RMA) has been the central repository for the distribution and management of language resources, data and software tools, for the official languages of South Africa. The RMA has provided an excellent foundation for SADiLaR to build on.
Nodes @ SADiLaR: CSIR Meraka Institute (HLT Research Group)
The CSIR Meraka Institute focuses on shaping South Africa’s digital future and is known for the research, development and innovation in the information and communication technology sector. Within the Institute, the Human Language Technology (HLT) Research Group focuses on solving communication challenges that South Africa face as a result of the lack of language resources and data.
Nodes @ SADiLaR: University of South Africa (UNISA): Department of African Languages
The Department of African Languages at UNISA is committed to the promotion, development and use of the South African languages. The Department conducts research that contributes to the advancement of knowledge of African languages, promotes scholarship in African languages and serves as a partner by reaching out to the community through its expertise in African languages.