The University of Manchester
School of Informatics
Computer Assistance for Non-English Speakers

The doctor is using AAC-like symbols on his computer
to communicate with this Somali patient


CANES is an umbrella name for a group of projects arising from community-identified priority problems and working with members of the community to provide support based on language technology in a healthcare environment for ...

P L O N E s

Patients with Limited or No English

In many parts of the UK there are recent or long-term immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and other people whose poor command of English means that they encounter severe communication difficulties and barriers when accessing healthcare services.



  • ESRC project: AAC symbols for use by  PLONEs

  • Communication problems in healthcare

  • Machine Translation, include spoken language translation

  • speech recognition and synthesis for minority languages

  • 'Faking it': using existing text-to-speech programs to provide stop-gap solutions

  • ECSTATIC - English-Chinese speech translation allowing treatment of intonation contours

The problem:

  • 4 language and cultural needs of patients not met

  • 4 expressive and receptive communication difficulties

  • 4 Patients unable to describe their symptoms

  •     or understand the diagnosis and treatment

  • 4 results in frustration, anxiety, and dependency on others


The solution:

4computer-based language technology, including ...

 8AAC symbols

 8intelligent keyboards

 8speech synthesis (recordings or digitized speech)

 8speech understanding and recognition

 8machine translation, inlcuding spoken language translaiton


Work in progress/recently completed:

ESRC-funded research on linguistic and cultural appropriateness of AAC symbols.

Pilot systems are currently being developed for Somali- and Chinese-speaking patients with respiratory problems (asthma).

'Faking it' experiments with Greek, Pitjantjatjara (Australian Aboriginal language) and Somali

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