The performance of automatic speech recognition (ASR) systems has advanced substantially in recent years, particularly for languages for which a large amount of transcribed speech is available. Unfortunately, for low-resource languages, such as minority languages, regional languages or dialects, ASR performance generally remains much lower. In this study, we investigate whether data augmentation techniques could help improve low-resource ASR performance, focusing on four typologically diverse minority languages or language variants (West Germanic: Gronings, West-Frisian; Malayo-Polynesian: Besemah, Nasal). For all four languages, we examine the use of self-training, where an ASR system trained with the available human-transcribed data is used to generate transcriptions, which are then combined with the original data to train a new ASR system. For Gronings, for which there was a pre-existing text-to-speech (TTS) system available, we also examined the use of TTS to generate ASR training data from text-only sources. We find that using a self-training approach consistently yields improved performance (a relative WER reduction up to 20.5% compared to using an ASR system trained on 24 minutes of manually transcribed speech). The performance gain from TTS augmentation for Gronings was even stronger (up to 25.5% relative reduction in WER compared to a system based on 24 minutes of manually transcribed speech). In sum, our results show the benefit of using self-training or (if possible) TTS-generated data as an efficient solution to overcome the limitations of data availability for resource-scarce languages in order to improve ASR performance.
Many archival recordings of speech from endangered languages remain unannotated and inaccessible to community members and language learning programs. One bottleneck is the time-intensive nature of annotation. An even narrower bottleneck occurs for recordings with access constraints, such as language that must be vetted or filtered by authorised community members before annotation can begin. We propose a privacy-preserving workflow to widen both bottlenecks for recordings where speech in the endangered language is intermixed with a more widely-used language such as English for meta-linguistic commentary and questions (e.g.What is the word for ‘tree’?). We integrate voice activity detection (VAD), spoken language identification (SLI), and automatic speech recognition (ASR) to transcribe the metalinguistic content, which an authorised person can quickly scan to triage recordings that can be annotated by people with lower levels of access. We report work-in-progress processing 136 hours archival audio containing a mix of English and Muruwari. Our collaborative work with the Muruwari custodian of the archival materials show that this workflow reduces metalanguage transcription time by 20% even given only minimal amounts of annotated training data, 10 utterances per language for SLI and for ASR at most 39 minutes, and possibly as little as 39 seconds.
Deep acoustic models represent linguistic information based on massive amounts of data. Unfortunately, for regional languages and dialects such resources are mostly not available. However, deep acoustic models might have learned linguistic information that transfers to low-resource languages. In this study, we evaluate whether this is the case through the task of distinguishing low-resource (Dutch) regional varieties. By extracting embeddings from the hidden layers of various wav2vec 2.0 models (including new models which are pre-trained and/or fine-tuned on Dutch) and using dynamic time warping, we compute pairwise pronunciation differences averaged over 10 words for over 100 individual dialects from four (regional) languages. We then cluster the resulting difference matrix in four groups and compare these to a gold standard, and a partitioning on the basis of comparing phonetic transcriptions. Our results show that acoustic models outperform the (traditional) transcription-based approach without requiring phonetic transcriptions, with the best performance achieved by the multilingual XLSR-53 model fine-tuned on Dutch. On the basis of only six seconds of speech, the resulting clustering closely matches the gold standard.