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Auteur: Sarah EBLING

Co-Auteur(s): Martin VOLK, University of Zurich, Suisse

Automatic Translation of German Train Announcements into Swiss German Sign Language

Abstract/Résumé: When using public means of transport, Deaf people nowadays still face substantial barriers. For example, at railway stations most of the information for passengers is conveyed via loudspeaker only and is not displayed in written form on the panels above each track. This makes it difficult for Deaf people to know when a train is delayed or cancelled. We are building an MT system that translates German train announcements into Swiss German Sign Language (Deutschschweizerische Gebärdensprache, DSGS). DSGS is distributed across five dialects. We focus on the Zurich dialect. Our system deals with messages conveyed at train stations, not in trains. The input are written announcements in electronic form. The main output is an avatar that signs the announcements in real-time. We use an existing avatar. It is displayed in a smartphone application. The corresponding German text is shown as a subtitle beneath the avatar. Our project is divided into three phases: 1.) Building a German/DSGS parallel corpus as data for our MT system 2.) Building the MT system 3.) Building the smartphone application Currently we are in Phase 1. We received German train announcements from the Swiss Federal Railways (Schweizerische Bundesbahnen, SBB). Following is a sample announcement: "Der RegioExpress nach Olten, Abfahrt um 6 Uhr 41, fällt aus." 'The RegioExpress to Olten, leaving at 6:41 a.m., is cancelled.' To obtain training, development, and test data for our MT system we are manually translating 3000 announcements of the kind shown in Example 1 into DSGS. The translation task consists of two steps: 1.) Translating the German announcements into DSGS glosses. Sign language glosses are semantic representations of signs that usually take the default form of the corresponding spoken language word. For example, in DSGS, the gloss GESCHWISTER, a German word, is used to represent the sign for 'siblings'. The gloss translations serve as screen-play for our Deaf project members to sign the announcements in front of a camera. 2.) Notating the announcements in the Hamburg Notation System for Sign Languages (HamNoSys) based on the video recordings. Ours is the first HamNoSys corpus for DSGS. HamNoSys will be used to drive the avatar. As part of the project we would like to answer the question of how similar DSGS is to other sign languages. In particular, we will investigate lexical and syntactic similarity between DSGS and German Sign Language. Departing from these observations we will analyze how the similarities/differences should manifest themselves in similar/different MT systems.