This work introduces Zambezi Voice, an open-source multilingual speech resource for Zambian languages. It contains two collections of datasets: unlabelled audio recordings of radio news and talk shows programs (160 hours) and labelled data (over 80 hours) consisting of read speech recorded from text sourced from publicly available literature books. The dataset is created for speech recognition but can be extended to multilingual speech processing research for both supervised and unsupervised learning approaches. To our knowledge, this is the first multilingual speech dataset created for Zambian languages. We exploit pretraining and cross-lingual transfer learning by finetuning the Wav2Vec2.0 large-scale multilingual pre-trained model to build end-to-end (E2E) speech recognition models for our baseline models. The dataset is released publicly under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and can be accessed via https://github.com/unza-speech-lab/zambezi-voice .
* Accepted at INTERSPEECH 2023. This pre-print version differs slightly
from the version accepted to INTERSPEECH 2023: Figure 1 is not included in
African languages have far less in-language content available digitally, making it challenging for question answering systems to satisfy the information needs of users. Cross-lingual open-retrieval question answering (XOR QA) systems -- those that retrieve answer content from other languages while serving people in their native language -- offer a means of filling this gap. To this end, we create AfriQA, the first cross-lingual QA dataset with a focus on African languages. AfriQA includes 12,000+ XOR QA examples across 10 African languages. While previous datasets have focused primarily on languages where cross-lingual QA augments coverage from the target language, AfriQA focuses on languages where cross-lingual answer content is the only high-coverage source of answer content. Because of this, we argue that African languages are one of the most important and realistic use cases for XOR QA. Our experiments demonstrate the poor performance of automatic translation and multilingual retrieval methods. Overall, AfriQA proves challenging for state-of-the-art QA models. We hope that the dataset enables the development of more equitable QA technology.