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Linguists Who Teach Machines to Read, Speak, and Listen


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The virtual assistant that turns on the television or plays music in response to a voice command results from the work of more than engineers and computer scientists. The same goes for that automatic voice that attends your every  call to the bank or pharmacy. Those tools, and many others based on the interaction between user and machine through human oral or written language, also work thanks to another, increasingly relevant discipline in this buoyant technology sector: computational linguistics.

In this field, specialists in artificial intelligence, big data, and other branches of engineering work closely with philologists and translators. They provide specific skills that allow complex and difficult to reproduce aspects of language in programming code to be handled and transmitted to machines, such as understanding an emotion or context. For example they identify the difference between a compliment and an offense, between a joke and a reproach. More and more companies and institutions realize that the need to incorporate these professionals into their teams. "They are vitally important," says Luis Alfonso Ureña, president of the Spanish Society for Natural Language Processing.

The sector is growing: a 2018 study from Spain's Secretary of State for Digital Advancement said that computational linguistics can open up new job placement opportunities for recent graduates.

From Explica
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