Language Learning


How we used AI to translate sign language in real time.

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Using artificial intelligence to translate sign language in real time - see how we used Python to train a neural network with 86% accuracy in less than a day. Imagine a world where anyone can communicate using sign language over video. Inspired by this vision, some of our engineering team decided to bring this idea to HealthHack 2018. In less than 48 hours and using the power of artificial intelligence, their team was able to produce a working prototype which translated signs from the Auslan alphabet to English text in real time. People who are hearing impaired are left behind in video consultations.


Japan preparing to accept more caregivers from Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam

The Japan Times

Japan plans to accept more caregivers from three Southeast Asian countries that have free trade agreements with Tokyo to help address the national labor shortage, sources familiar with the matter said. By easing some restrictions on caregivers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, the government will allow more of those with strong proficiency in Japanese to work in Japan starting next April, the sources said Sunday. Under current terms, Japan accepts up to 300 caregivers from each country per year. The government aims to treat those with high language proficiency separately from those groups. The number who want to be caregivers in Japan has been increasing.


Japan eyes accepting more caregivers with good language skills from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam

The Japan Times

Japan is planning to accept a greater number of caregivers from three Southeast Asian countries having bilateral free trade agreements with Tokyo as part of efforts to address a labor shortage in the country, sources familiar with the matter said Sunday. By easing some restrictions on the number of caregivers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, the government will allow more caregivers with high Japanese language skills to work in Japan from next April, the sources said. Under the current terms with the three countries, Japan will accept up to 300 caregivers from each country a year. The government aims to treat such foreign workers with high language proficiency separately from the current quota of 300. The number of people in the three countries who want to work as caregivers in Japan has recently been increasing.


This Amazon Echo mod lets Alexa understand sign language

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It seems like voice interfaces are going to be a big part of the future of computing; popping up in phones, smart speakers, and even household appliances. But how useful is this technology for people who don't communicate using speech? Are we creating a system that locks out certain users? These were the questions that inspired software developer Abhishek Singh to create a mod that lets Amazon's Alexa assistant understand some simple sign language commands. In a video, Singh demonstrates how the system works.


Movies, Neural Networks Boost AI Language Skills - insideBIGDATA

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When we discuss about artificial intelligence (AI), how are machines learning? What kinds of projects feed into greater understanding? For our friends over at IBM, one surprising answer is movies. To build smarter AI systems, IBM researchers are using movie plots and neural networks to explore new ways of enhancing the language understanding capabilities of AI models. IBM will present key findings from two papers on these topics at the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) annual meeting this week in Melbourne, Australia.


How music lessons can improve language skills

MIT News

Many studies have shown that musical training can enhance language skills. However, it was unknown whether music lessons improve general cognitive ability, leading to better language proficiency, or if the effect of music is more specific to language processing. A new study from MIT has found that piano lessons have a very specific effect on kindergartners' ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between spoken words. However, the piano lessons did not appear to confer any benefit for overall cognitive ability, as measured by IQ, attention span, and working memory. "The children didn't differ in the more broad cognitive measures, but they did show some improvements in word discrimination, particularly for consonants.


Memrise raises $15.5M as its AI-based language-learning app passes 35M users

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Memrise, a UK startup whose eponymous language-learning app employs machine learning and localised content to adapt to users' needs as they progress through their lessons, has raised another $15.5 million in funding to expand its product. The funding comes after a period of strong growth: Memrise has now passed 35 million users globally across its 20 language courses, and it tipped into profitability in Q1 of this year. Ed Cooke, who co-founded the app with Ben Whately and Greg Detre, told TechCrunch that this places it as the second-most popular language app globally in terms of both users and revenues. This round, a Series B, was led by Octopus Ventures and Korelya Capital, along with participation from existing investors Avalon Ventures and Balderton Capital. Memrise is not disclosing its valuation -- it has raised a relatively modest $22 million to date -- but Cooke (who is also the CEO) said the plan will be to use the funding to expand its AI platform and add in more features for users.


How SingularityNET is Advancing Unsupervised Language Learning

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For many AI services, it is critical to be able to comprehend human language and even converse in it with human users. So far, advances in natural language processing (NLP) powered with "sub-symbolic" machine learning based on deep neural networks allows us to solve multiple tasks like machine translation, classification, and emotion recognition. However, using these approaches requires enormous amount of training. Additionally, there are increasing legal restrictions in particular applications due to recent regulations, making current solutions unviable. The ultimate goal for these industry initiatives is to allow humans and AI to interact fluently in a common language.


Diet group drafts bill that aims to promote Japanese language learning at home and abroad

The Japan Times

A cross-party group of lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a draft version of what would become Japan's first-ever law defining the government's responsibility to systematically promote Japanese language education both at home and abroad. The drafting of the bill comes as Japan experiences a continued increase in non-Japanese residents, including under categories such as technical intern trainees, students, and highly skilled professionals, but at the same time lacks a unified policy as to how to teach them Japanese. The group hopes to submit the bill to the fall session of the Diet for possible enactment, Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Hiroshi Hase, secretary-general of the group, told The Japan Times. Whether the bill will be passed through the Diet and how big of an impact it will create remains to be seen, with its effectiveness likely hinging on how much funding it receives from the government. The draft bill does not specify any numerical targets for fiscal spending nor set a deadline for the government to meet the ultimate goal advocated in the legislation.


Interactive Language Acquisition with One-shot Visual Concept Learning through a Conversational Game

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Building intelligent agents that can communicate with and learn from humans in natural language is of great value. Supervised language learning is limited by the ability of capturing mainly the statistics of training data, and is hardly adaptive to new scenarios or flexible for acquiring new knowledge without inefficient retraining or catastrophic forgetting. We highlight the perspective that conversational interaction serves as a natural interface both for language learning and for novel knowledge acquisition and propose a joint imitation and reinforcement approach for grounded language learning through an interactive conversational game. The agent trained with this approach is able to actively acquire information by asking questions about novel objects and use the just-learned knowledge in subsequent conversations in a one-shot fashion. Results compared with other methods verified the effectiveness of the proposed approach.