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Participatory Translations of Oshiwambo: Towards Sustainable Culture Preservation with Language Technology

In this paper, we describe a participatory, collaborative, and cost-effective process for creating translations in Oshiwambo, the most widely African language spoken in Namibia. We aim to (1) build a resource for language technology development, (2) bridge generational gaps in cultural and language knowledge, and at the same time (3) provide socio-economic opportunities through language preservation. The created data spans diverse topics of cultural importance, and comprises over 5,000 sentences written in the Oshindonga dialect and translated to English, the largest parallel corpus for Oshiwambo to-date. We show that it is very effective for machine translation, especially when combined with transfer learning.