From Russia with love… Brief stories from the World Cup

first_imgHis 31st birthday Sunday falls smack bang in the middle of a complex overseas work assignment for his country, but the little town of Bronnitsy is doing its best to make Lionel Messi feel at home.Argentina’s World Cup base camp, 50 kilometres from Moscow, has organised a party — ‘Bronnitsy celebrates Lionel Messi’, a sign near Argentina’s home from home announces proudly.A celebratory concert starting on the lakeside beach opposite will mark Messi’s birthday, with a birthday cake presentation later, says the flyer.Tips from the topDidier Drogba – influential figure in Romelu Lukaku’s career © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / Christian PetersenRomelu Lukaku is lighting up the World Cup finals with four goals for Belgium and Didier Drogba for one could not be happier.The retired Chelsea legend is an influential presence in the life of the Manchester United striker.Their story began though before their paths crossed at Stamford Bridge.“I spoke to him when he was very young,” Drogba told the BBC. “I was on the telephone to Vincent Kompany and he said to me ‘Listen, I’m with this kid and he really wants to speak to you’.A couple of years later, he signed for Chelsea. At Chelsea I was on the massage table and he came up to me. ‘You’re my hero.When you were playing for Marseille, I looked up to you so much. I could tell you what shoes you were wearing for no matter what game and at what time you scored. I remember all that, he told me, because I was nine years old at the time… and I was 34!“He’s someone that wants to learn and I’m really happy to give him advice, and I think he’s taking advice from everyone.He’s also learning from Thierry Henry and I think when you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best.”Russian revivalRussia forward Fedor Smolov enjoying the World Cup hosts’ change of fortune © AFP / Manan VATSYAYANARussians are falling over themselves praising their national team after their two big opening match wins. But just a few weeks ago, almost no one was willing to give the 2018 World Cup hosts a chance.Riding a historic seven-match winless streak, Russian players were getting grilled in the press.“I stopped reading the sports articles after we drew with Turkey 1-1 on June 5,” said forward Fedor Smolov. “I just accepted the fact that we were the worst people in Russia.”China thumbs-upBelgium’s China-based Axel Witsel © AFPBelgium coach Roberto Martinez has issued a vote of confidence in the Chinese Super League after starting two players from the competition in the side that handed a 5-2 thrashing to Tunisia in Moscow.At one time, a lucrative Chinese move would have been considered the end of a player’s international career but Martinez said that is no longer the case.“It was a worry, whether their level would suffer by going to China,” he said after starting midfielders Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian) and Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang).“But as you saw, the players have developed a stronger mentality (in China) because they become big players in big projects. I don’t think there’s anything negative about anyone going to Chinese football.”Hands-off UzohoHands off our goalkeeper Francis Uzoho Nigeria tell clubs © AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURINigerian officials have reportedly issued a hands-off to clubs sniffing around their young keeper Francis Uzoho after an impressive display to keep a clean sheet in the Super Eagles’ 2-0 win over Iceland.At just 19, Uzoho is one of the youngest players at the tournament and Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper reports an English Premier League side have sent scouts to monitor him.But Nigeria have told them to back off, wanting Uzoho, who is signed to Spain’s Deportivo La Coruna, to focus on his World Cup campaign.“We need total concentration to succeed in this competition,” a source close to the team told the newspaper.0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Birthday cake for Lionel Messi © AFP / JUAN MABROMATAMOSCOW, Russian Federation, Jun 24 – AFP Sport takes a look at some of the stories you may have missed at the World Cup:Messi’s 31stlast_img read more

Making the tools to connect isiXhosa and isiZulu to the digital age

These technologies comprise computational methods, computer programmes and electronic devices that are specialised for analysing, producing or modifying texts and speech. Engaging with a language like English is made easier thanks to the many tools to support you, such as spellcheckers in browsers and autocomplete for text messages. This is mainly because English has a relatively simple and well investigated grammar, more data that software can learn from, and substantial funding to develop tools. The situation is somewhat to very different for most language in the world.This is beginning to change. Profit driven multinationals such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, for instance, have invested in the development of HLTs also for African languages.Researchers and scientists, myself included are also investigating and creating these technologies. It has a direct relevance for society: languages, and the identities and cultures intertwined with them, are a national resource for any country. In a country like South Africa, learning different languages can foster cohesion and inclusion. Just learning a language, however, is not enough if there’s no infrastructure to support it. For instance, what’s the point of searching the Web in, say, isiXhosa when the search engine algorithms can’t process the words properly anyway and so won’t return the results you’re looking for? Where are the spellcheckers to assist you in writing emails, school essays, or news articles? That’s why we have been laying both theoretical foundations and creating proof-of-concept tools for several South African languages. This includes spellcheckers for isiZulu and isiXhosa and the generation of text in mainly these languages from structured input. Why it’s great to learn a second language Citation: Making the tools to connect isiXhosa and isiZulu to the digital age (2018, March 13) retrieved 18 July 2019 from Using rules of the language to develop toolsTool development for the Nguni group of languages – and isiZulu and isiXhosa in particular – wasn’t simply a case of copy-and-pasting tools from English. I had to develop novel algorithms that can handle the quite different grammar. I have also collaborated with linguists to figure out the details of each language.For instance, even just automatically generating the plural noun in isiZulu from a noun in the singular required a new approach that combined syntax – how it is written – with semantics (the meaning) of the nouns by using its characteristic noun class system. In English, merely syntax-based rules can do the job.Rule-based approaches are also preferred for morphological analysers, which split each word into its constituent parts, and for natural language generation. Natural language generation involves taking structured data, information or knowledge, such as the numbers in the columns in a spreadsheet, and creating readable text from them. A simple way of realising that is to use templates where the software slots in the values given by the data or the logical theory. This is not possible for isiZulu, because the sentence constituents are context-dependent.A grammar engine is needed to generate even the most basic sentences correctly. We have worked out the core aspects of the workflow in the engine. This is being extended with more details of the verbs. Using lots of text to develop toolsThe rules-based approach is resource intensive. This, in combination with global hype around “Big Data”, has brought data-driven approaches to the fore.The hope is that better quality tools may now be developed with less effort and that it will be easier to reuse those tools for related languages. This can work, provided one has a lot of good quality text, referred to as a corpus. Such corpora are being developed, and the recently established South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) aims to pool computational resources. We investigated the effects of a corpus on the quality of an isiZulu spellchecker, which showed that learning the statistics-driven language model on old texts like the bible does not transfer well to modern day texts such as news items from the Isolezwe newspaper, nor vice versa. The spellchecker has about 90% accuracy in single-word error detection and it seems to contribute to the intellectualisation of isiZulu. Its algorithms use trigrams and probabilities of their occurrence in the corpus to compute the probability that a word is spelled correctly, rather than a dictionary based approach that is impractical for agglutinating languages. The algorithms were reused for isiXhosa simply by feeding it a small isiXhosa corpus: it achieved about 80% accuracy already even without optimisations. Data-driven approaches are also pursued in tools for finding information online, i.e., to develop search engines alike a ‘Google for isiZulu’. Algorithms for data-driven machine translation, on the other hand, can easily be misled by out-of-domain training data from which it has to learn the patterns.Relevance for South AfricaThis sort of natural language generation could be incredibly useful in South Africa. The country has 11 official languages, with English as the language of business. That has resulted in the other 10 being sidelined, and in particular those that were already under resourced.This trend runs counter to citizens’ rights and the state’s obligations as outlined in the Constitution. These obligations go beyond just promoting language. Take, for instance, the right to have access to the public health system. One study showed that only 6% of patient-doctor consultations was held in the patient’s home language. The other 94% essentially didn’t receive the quality care they deserved because of language barriers.The sort of research I’m working on with my team can help. It could contribute to, among others, realising technologies such as automatically generating patient discharge notes in one’s own language, text-based weather forecasts, and online language learning exercises. Explore further Software tools can take multiple languages to entirely new spaces. Credit: Zubada/Shutterstock Provided by The Conversation This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. We live in a world where around 7000 languages are spoken, and one where information and communication technologies are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. This puts increasing demands on more, and more advanced, Human Language Technologies (HLTs). This document is subject to copyright. 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