When you see something on social media in a language you don’t read, it’s really handy to have a quick and good-enough “click to translate” option. But despite the fact that 2000 of the world’s languages are African, machine translation and other language tech tools don’t yet exist for most of them.

In this episode, your host Gretchen McCulloch interviews Jade Abbott and Bonaventure Dossou of Masakhane, a grassroots organisation whose mission is to strengthen and spur Natural Language Processing research in African languages, for Africans, by Africans. We talk about how they started working on language tech, Bona’s machine translator in Fon, and alternative models of participatory research and collective co-authorship.


This month’s bonus episode is about the linguistics of Pokémon names! Which sounds cuter, a Pikachu or a Charmander? Which sounds like it would be more likely to win in a fight, a Squirtle or a Blastoise? Even if you're not familiar with these pocket monsters, or if you're encountering new Pokémon you haven't heard of before, you might still have a vague sense of which names sound big or small, cuddly or powerful. This has lead to the creation of the delightful and entirely real linguistic subfield of Pokémonastics. https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm

Join us on Patreon to learn more, and get access to 51 other bonus episodes! You’ll also get access to our Discord server, where you can chat about your favourite Pokémon names with other language nerds! https://www.patreon.com/lingthusiasm

Here are the links mentioned in this episode: https://lingthusiasm.com/post/654293595359182848/lingthusiasm-episode-57-making-machines-learn-fon

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