The African Speech Technology Project: An Assessment


Roux, J.C. (1), Louw, P.H. (1) & Niesler, T.R. (2)

(1) Research Unit for Experimental Phonology and (2) Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa




This paper reflects on the recently completed African Speech Technology (AST) Project. The AST Project successfully developed eleven annotated telephone speech databases for five languages spoken in South Africa i.e. Xhosa, Southern Sotho, Zulu, English and Afrikaans. These databases were used to train and test speech recognition systems applied in a multilingual telephone-based prototype hotel booking system. An overview is given of the database design and contents. The acquisition of the data is discussed with regards to the telephony interface, as well as speaker recruitment and briefing. Particular reference is given to some of the practical implications of acquiring appropriate data in under-developed communities. Database management processes such as transcription, quality control and validation are explained. This is followed by information on the development of the prototype. Results of usability tests are discussed followed by an assessment of the Project as a whole.


Annotated Acoustic Databases, Speech Recognition, Dialogue Models, African Languages


Afrikaans, South African English, Xhosa, Sotho, Zulu

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