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English and Digital Linguistics
LeDiT

LeDiT - Learning with Digital Testimonies

The aim of the project LeDiT (Learning with Digital Testimonies) is to make the German-language testimony of Holocaust survivor Abba Naor accessible to a wide international audience online. To this end, we are currently creating English subtitles and a matching dialogue system for the interactive video testimony produced within the framework of the LeDiZ project (Lernen mit Digitalen Zeugnissen) at LMU Munich. Users can already interact online with Abba Naor’s avatar and ask him questions about his life and opinion using spontaneous German speech. With the support of Google Dialogflow, the users’ questions are matched with the most suitable answer videos, and Abba Naor’s avatar then answers the questions accordingly in the digital interface.

In the first step of the LeDiT project, we selected the most relevant and important questions among the wealth of German material. These questions and their transcribed corresponding answers are currently being translated into English by a professional translator according to predefined criteria concerning e.g. the translation of metaphors or non-canonical language, so as to ensure the highest possible quality standards. In the next step, the films will be subtitled with the translated English texts, so that users can interact online with the English version of Abba Naor’s testimony in a browser or on a mobile.

 

Abba Naor’s testimony with English subtitles

In the initial stages of the project, we had the pleasure of showing Abba Naor several demo films with English subtitles and observing his positive reactions to the project’s results. During our meeting in July 2021, Abba Naor enquired if “Das Leben ist eine feine Sache” could also be translated as “Life is a gift” instead of our original suggestion, “Life is great”. We were very happy to adopt this translation suggested by the author himself, and we subsequently had the privilege of recording Abba Naor uttering one of his most central messages to humankind in English
 
On the basis of the translated data, and following the approach provided by LeDiZ, students at TU Chemnitz will generate variants of the English questions and collect data from native-speaker and non-native-speaker informants in the winter semester 2021/22. The resulting data will enable us to train the English-language dialogue system in order to achieve the best possible matching of questions and answer videos.

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer

Technical coordinator: Antonia Friebel

Translator: Julie Winter received a doctorate in German from Northwestern University in 1993. She is Visiting Assistant Professor for German at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, and Associate Editor of the translation magazine No Man’s Land. She has published numerous translations, including memoirs, essays, short stories and poems.