Speech Recognition of Tibetan Language into Application in Two Years
    2013-08-21 17:32:21     CRIENGLISH.com       Web Editor: Liu Kun

The photo shows an iconic building of Northwestern University for Nationalities in Lanzhou of northwestern China's Gansu province. [Photo:CRIENGLISH.com]

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern China's Gansu Province. From 1953 to 2013, Tibetans living in the Region have seen enormous changes in every aspect of their lives.

Liu Kun has been traveling in the region to take a look at how their life looks now. As she finds out, efforts are being made to make science and technology more accessible to Tibetans through the application of speech recognition of the Tibetan language.

Let's follow Liu Kun to check out how this is progressing.


For Chinese and English speakers, voice dialing is not a new topic. Thanks to the development of speech recognition technology, if you need to call someone, you can just pick up your phone, say the name of the person you wish to speak to and the rest will be automatically taken care of by your phone.

If you happen to be a fan of Apple products, you even get the phone to pick out your favorite cinema and restaurant simply by talking to an application called "SIRI" on your iPhone.

Scientists and scholars in Lanzhou of northwestern China's Gansu province have been working to increase the benefits of speech recognition technology by making it compatible with the Tibetan language.

Li Guanyu, professor at China Minorities Information Technology Center of Northwestern University for Nationalities in Lanzhou says that Tibetan language speech recognition can help illiterate Tibetans to approach modern communications technology more conveniently.

"In certain special Tibetan areas, some Tibetans are actually illiterate. If they use Tibetan language speech recognition in their daily life, they will be able to just say the name of the person they wish to dial in Tibetan and make calls on their cellphone."

Li also says the application of Tibetan language speech recognition will also benefit people who are not familiar with the Tibetan language.

"For example, if you are traveling in Tibet and you talk to a Tibetan in Chinese, the Tibetan will understand your words after your voice is processed and translated by speech recognition technology."

Li and his team have been working on Tibetan language speech recognition since 2009. Li explains the current state of their research.

"Our technology can now recognize 90% of the vocabulary of a single Tibetan speaker."

Li has a tight schedule for perfecting his research before it is actually put to use in two years.

"I will finish my doctoral research within two years. Within these two years, I hope to mature the speech recognition technology of Tibetan language to at least match the level of Chinese language speech recognition. As we know, normally speech recognition of the Chinese language can decode more than 90% of the said words."

But Li says the major problem that is now impeding the progress of the technology is a shortage of talent.

"We are lacking in scholars working on the project. Currently only two students and I are working on this and one of the two students is graduating this year. Compared with other domestic and international institutions on speech recognition, we are extremely short of hands."

Besides the Northwestern University for Nationalities, researchers from Qinghai province and Tibet Autonomous Region are also engaging in the development of Tibetan language speech recognition.

For China Now, this is Liu Kun.



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