Linguistics alumna on her experience with speech tech

Posted on September 25, 2019 by

Iqra Zahid graduated from The University of Manchester in summer 2019 with a degree in Linguistics. She has since completed a project for a speech technology company based in Belgium, Acapela. Below is Iqra’s own account of this experience.


Acapela is a company that specialises in text-to-speech technology. I worked at Acapela as a linguist on a consultancy basis. This means working on your own time schedule and reporting back to the team in Mons. Maintaining this line of communication was key for this role.

For this job, I spent a week in Belgium training with a team of linguists and a computer scientist to attain the skills needed for this role. I worked on two UK English projects, a general UK English project and one on Manchester English. As a native Mancunian, who had studied in Manchester, I had the expertise in the northern accent.

My work in this project was mainly related to transcriptions. I transcribed the names of towns, in a standard southern British accent, as well as in Mancunian accent. I will admit that transcribing town names that I’d never heard of was quite the task. Many a times I wasn’t too sure how to pronounce them myself, so I had to use my native intuitions (although these don’t stretch to Welsh town names). Additionally, the company did not use the IPA [International Phonetic Alphabet], which is the transcription system I had used throughout my degree. They had their own transcription system that I had to learn. I also worked with waveforms and acoustic segmentation.

Thanks to my Linguistics background, I was familiar with the type of software I had to use. However, working from home and having to maintain communication was still challenging. Despite that, the job was enjoyable. Any questions I had were answered immediately, and I hugely enjoyed the experience of working in a multi-disciplinary team. I am very grateful for this opportunity.

Posted in: alumni, phonetics