January 29, 2023

CDIAL unveils dictionary for modern words in native languages

The Centre for Digitization of Indigenous Languages (CDIAL) has unveiled a dictionary that translates modern words into native languages.

CDIAL is a social impact company that leverages artificial intelligence to digitise local languages and localise digital access.

Speaking at the launch, the co-founder of CDIAL, Mr Soji Akinlabi said that most of the new words related to technology, science, business, healthcare, words like drone, robotics, climate change, sanitisers, sustainable development goals, and influencers among others are only available in English.

“Even though 80 million Nigerians cannot speak English fluently, how can we adequately pass information to everyone if we cannot fully express ourselves in our native languages? Our native dictionaries do not contain many new words that have come into existence due to social and technological changes.

For these reasons, he said that CDIAL created the dictionary in a bid to ensure digitization since most dictionaries in the native language are not up-to-date.

 “We observed that most dictionaries in our native language are not up-to-date, For instance, in the Yoruba language, although there is no single dictionary that contains all Yoruba words, several attempts have been made to produce a series of context-specific dictionaries in the language since the publication of the first dictionary by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther in 1843. Over the last two decades, individuals have attempted to compile new dictionaries. The most recent one is the Yoruba-English Dictionary and Phrasebook by Aquilina Mawadza and Clement Odoje.

“CDIAL created an extended dictionary to stay current on these language changes. Humans often require compelling, super-credible, and pressing reasons to accept new ideas.

Fortunately, Robotics, Artificial intelligence, Augmented/Virtual Reality and other ideas termed fictional a few decades ago are becoming realities, the advancements achieved and the documentation of it have enabled acceptance and participation.”

Akinlabi said that the CDIAL dictionary was sourced through collective intelligence.
“Through our language propagators, we made useful suggestions for each word. After that, we took their suggestions to seasoned professors of each language, who reviewed them and selected the best fit for the words,” he said.

He added said that although Nigeria has over 500 languages, the CDIAL dictionary is currently in four languages – Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, and Pidgin.

“Our goal is not to exclude these other languages but to expand this dictionary to 10,000 words by 2025 in 15 African languages. We are calling for volunteers who will like to lead the tribe in these other languages; you can contact us by sending an email, visiting our website, or on social media,” he said.

Also at the event, the founder of Akonilede Yoruba, Oluwadamilare Igbayiloye said the innovation will prevent languages from going into extinction.

The language school owner also said that there are students from different parts of the world who are learning the Yoruba language in her school.

“This dictionary will serve as a tool for us to support what we are teaching our students and our curriculum. As parents and as individuals, continue speaking and learning about your language, it’s a language that you know and speak that you can be proud of, transfer, protect, and preserve for other generations to know about their roots and their culture,” she said.