Computational linguistics
Thread poster: xxxyanadeni
xxxyanadeni  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:05
French to Russian
+ ...
Aug 11, 2011

Is there anybody who works as a computational linguist (CL) and/or who can tell me more about this profession?

Everything I've found now on this topic refers to university research that doesn't interest me much, because I have a practical approach rather than scientific.

What are the prerequisites for the profession? What are the tasks? What does a typical working day look like? What type of projects can require assistance of a CL? What kind of companies hire CL?

Thank you


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TargamaT  Identity Verified
Syria
Local time: 11:05
Member (2010)
English to Arabic
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Computational linguist in real life... Aug 11, 2011

I have 2 friends working in this field, but they have nothing to do with translation...

The first one is working hear in Lausanne with EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale) in application of linguistics on the elementary school's mathematical curriculum...

The second one is in Egypt, he is working on Arabic OCR development. He uses the CL (semantics) to define the most frequent cases of Arabic glyphs in the word and in the text generally...

However, I used important ideas from both to some of my translation work!
1. to define suitable words to be used in some context (age, scholar discipline, etc.)
2. to define the best choice of easy written words that one could read/understand very quickly...

Prerequisites for the profession:
In these 2 cases: Master in linguistics and special interest in statistical methods and computation...
Projects are going from analyzing texts, programming of word frequencies, comparing with real cases in scholar or professional world...

I hope this answer some of your questions...

Oussama

[Edited at 2011-08-11 06:29 GMT]


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 10:05
Multiplelanguages
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Yes, much experience in computational linguistics Aug 11, 2011

Yana, see my ProZ and LinkedIn profiles and you will see much there about a background in practical, hands-on, commercial Computational Linguistics.
I'm on vacation now with limited internet access so not much time to reply today.

Jeff


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:05
Spanish to English
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AFAIK Aug 11, 2011

It is mostly used in the context of research into non-classical logics and algebraic logic, logics for artificial intelligence , fuzzy logic, computational complexity, computational linguistics, ...

As a freelance translator I sometimes revise or translate texts about it but I must admit I haven't a clue what it's actually about, although I do perceive it as a highly specialized field that has little to do with translation of "normal" spoken or written human languages and more to do with logic, math, software development and (in the cases I've worked on) educational theory.

All my work in this area comes from university research groups, which I strongly suspect were passed on to me after wearing out a succession of translators/proofers who have thrown in the towel, preferring to stick to less complex language areas.

[Edited at 2011-08-11 07:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-08-11 07:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-08-11 07:58 GMT]


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IrimiConsulting  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 10:05
Member (2006)
English to Swedish
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I have a master's degree in CL Aug 11, 2011

I have a master's degree in computational linguistics, and my thesis was in the field of machine translation. Send me a PM if you want more information, since I don't visit these forums very often.

Is there anybody who works as a computational linguist (CL) and/or who can tell me more about this profession?
Not me anymore, but I used to. My CL duties consisted of updating and developing a system for language checking, i.e. that written texts were grammatically correct and that the correct phrases and terms were used.

Everything I've found now on this topic refers to university research that doesn't interest me much, because I have a practical approach rather than scientific.
There are not too many companies outside the universities that work exclusively with computer linguistics, and most of them are quite small and specialized in specific areas. Some examples are companies working with automatic dialogue (query/response) systems, CAT tool developers, terminology and dictionary developers and companies working with speech recognition and/or speech-to-text systems.

Since the companies are small they can be hard to find. As I already wrote they tend to be specialized, which means that the amount of available jobs largely depends on your own specializations.

What are the prerequisites for the profession?
I would personally recommend at least a year worth of courses in general linguistics and computer linguistics on top of other subjects (for example a foreign language), or an engineering degree with additional courses in speech technology or similar. Some fields, like speech recognition, rely to some extent on calculations and mathematics, while others don't.

What are the tasks? What does a typical working day look like?
The answers to these questions depends on too many factors -- there isn't one single answer.

What type of projects can require assistance of a CL?
One answer is "any project requiring a spellchecker", since spellcheckers is one kind of CL product. Many types of projects SHOULD involve a CL, but few do, partly since few CLs appreciate the importance of being able to point out cost and/or time savings using CL. I learned that quickly while working as a language quality manager in the commercial industry.

What kind of companies hire CL?
See above, and add some of the major players in the IT industry (Microsoft and IBM, for example), telecom (Ericsson, Samsung).

Send me a PM if you want more information -- I don't visit these forums very often.

[Edited at 2011-08-11 10:09 GMT]


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:05
French to English
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Problem of nomenclature? Aug 17, 2011

Yana Deni wrote:
Everything I've found now on this topic refers to university research that doesn't interest me much, because I have a practical approach rather than scientific.


The term "Computational Linguistics" tends to be an academic cover term. Specific jobs would probably refer to specific fields like "text data mining", "speech processing", "speech engineering", "information retrieval", "machine translation"...

I'd suggest trying to find some job advertisements in these specific areas and see what kind of qualifications are sought. Companies are usually a little bit flexible as to whether your training is primarily in theoretical linguistics or in computer programming, because they usually require a combination of both.

In academia, what is termed "Computational Linguistics" is often quite weak on the actual programming/computational front: they're more concerned about theoretical modelling and don't care too much, for example, if they end up writing a speech recognition engine in smalltalk, whereas a commercial company would be unlikely to market such a thing.

Conversely, "real life" applications are often quite weak on the linguistic front (if you look at real-life commercial systems for machine translation, spellcheckers, information retrieval system, and even speech recognition/synthesis to some extent, I would say they tend not actually to based on a very deep level of linguistic theory: computational/statistical methods tend to be a more significant element).


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xxxyanadeni  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:05
French to Russian
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TOPIC STARTER
... Aug 18, 2011

Thank you all. Your answers make it somehow more clear for me.

To your opinion, could a person with a language (non-IT) background find his or her vocation in this field?


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:05
French to English
+ ...
Not sure... Aug 18, 2011

Yana Deni wrote:

Thank you all. Your answers make it somehow more clear for me.

To your opinion, could a person with a language (non-IT) background find his or her vocation in this field?


If you don't have an IT background, then I think it depends a bit on what you mean by a "language" background. If you mean a typical literature-heavy course with little scientific study of language, I'm honestly not sure that computational linguistics will be for you.

If you're passionate about at least one major technical area of lingusitics (that means the actual technical nitty-gritty of phonetics, syntax, formal semantics etc rather than more "fluffy" areas such as Victorian grammar or language policy), then it could be.


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xxxyanadeni  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:05
French to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Aug 18, 2011

Well, "language" background" means a BA in Linguistics (that already dates maybe 10 years, so no fresh academic knowledge), a certain experience in translation and use of CAT-tools accompanied with a strong interest in MT and all sorts of translation automation. And I don't mention mastering the main Romance and Slavic languages (and maybe in a year Germanic too).

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