Preparing an Endangered Language for the Digital Age: The Case of Judeo-Spanish

We develop machine translation and speech synthesis systems to complement the efforts of revitalizing Judeo-Spanish, the exiled language of Sephardic Jews, which survived for centuries, but now faces the threat of extinction in the digital age. Building on resources created by the Sephardic community of Turkey and elsewhere, we create corpora and tools that would help preserve this language for future generations. For machine translation, we first develop a Spanish to Judeo-Spanish rule-based machine translation system, in order to generate large volumes of synthetic parallel data in the relevant language pairs: Turkish, English and Spanish. Then, we train baseline neural machine translation engines using this synthetic data and authentic parallel data created from translations by the Sephardic community. For text-to-speech synthesis, we present a 3.5 hour single speaker speech corpus for building a neural speech synthesis engine. Resources, model weights and online inference engines are shared publicly.

This is a new paper by Yasmin Moslem, one of the OpenNMT contributors, training neural machine translation models on the low resource language Judeo-Spanish. The authors developed a rules based translation system to generate translation data then trained their neural models with OpenNMT-py on the generated data along with authentic translation data.

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