Welsh speakers worldwide are being asked to help safeguard the future of the Welsh language by recording their voices using Common Voice, an initiative run by the free software community Mozilla to improve digital services in the Welsh language.
The aim is to help technologies including phones, computers, and other electronic devices understand how people speak Welsh in order to make voice recognition open and accessible for speakers of the language.
If enough people commit to recording their voices, satellite navigation and systems for those with disabilities and visual impairments are some of the programs that will eventually be able to recognize and provide Welsh language services. The Welsh Government has a long-term strategy to achieve the target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
Common Voice was launched in 2017 and the data is used to train algorithms to power the voice interfaces of the future. Having started with only English, Welsh was added in 2018 after Mozilla consulted with Bangor University on the benefits of offering Welsh as one of the language choices.
In a film launched last month by the Welsh Government’s Minister for the Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan AM, Welsh speakers are asked to dedicate two minutes of their time every day to record their voices. The Minister has recorded her own voice for the project.
Eluned Morgan AM said: “With more and more of us using voice recognition software every day, we need to make sure the Welsh language has a place in its future. To make this possible, we need thousands of voices from all parts of Wales and further afield. So, to reach this goal, we are asking people to give two minutes of their time every day to help build the most comprehensive database of Welsh voices as possible. I want to encourage as many Welsh speakers to take part in this very important and exciting project!”
Common Voice can be downloaded as an app or accessed online and Welsh speakers can contribute from anywhere in the world, at any time, making the program accessible to everyone. People are asked to read five sentences in Welsh or to validate other peoples’ voices. All contributors need to do is record themselves reading five short sentences, or just listen to and validate other people’s recordings.
George Roter, director of Open Innovation Programs at Mozilla said: “Welsh is among the first languages that we have launched and our aim is to encourage inclusion, embracing culture, and enabling everyone to participate in technological advancements. Common Voice is built through global collaborations with the time and efforts of highly engaged volunteers, researchers, developers, and startups. By working in collaboration with our partners in Wales, we hope to democratize speech data and lower the barrier for global innovation.”
Delyth Prys, head of the Language Technologies Unit at Bangor University said: “After working closely with the creators of Common Voice, we ensured that Welsh would be one of the first languages featured on the app. We need thousands of people to record their voices to ensure that voice recognition can understand the Welsh language and we’ve already seen an improvement since more people have been taking part. We look forward to seeing more coming in over the next few months.”
To contribute, visit: https://voice.mozilla.org/cy or download the app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/project-common-voice-by-mozilla/id1240588326.