NAACL 2018 (New Orleans, USA)

3 minute read


NAACL was the first conference in the area of computational linguistics that I was able to attend. It was very interesting, as many topics are very relatable. It is an interesting mix of students and professors working on linguistics and machine learning problems and combining those two. It was also the biggest conference in academia that I have attended thus far. It was interesting to see the different concepts of such a big conference- for example, most papers were presented as posters, even full research papers. This made interaction with authors much easier and allowed for individually discussion of the topics. Many topics were fascinating to me, as many authors tried to solved challenges provided by working on under-resourced languages. Especially in the area of machine learning this brings a lot of challenges, I was happy to be able to discuss. Further, I had interesting discussions on the topic of code-switching, when user speak one language and use words from a different language in it (e.g. Hindi speakers using English words), a topic I have been following with interest.

I presented our work on learning to generate Wikipedia summaries from Wikidata in underserved languages.

We presented our work as a poster, which sparked a lot of discussions around the topic and very interesting input from researchers of various fields.

As one of our colleagues was not able to attend due to visa problems (a write-up of that experience can be found here:, we eventually presented his poster as well. It was an interesting experience, as we discussed the topics at a few occasions but neither of us were involved with the actual work. However, interested people were very understanding and we eventually got to get the information across.

One of my personal highlights beside the many interesting discussions I had was the Widening NLP workshop (WiNLP). I had heard of it before its creation and was happy to get to attend in person. Its aim is to diversify the NLP community, and they actively do so by enabling students to attend conferences by giving out scholarships for accepted posters in their workshop. The workshop is not published, meaning it is an environment for mentoring and exchange. An emphasize is put on the mentoring, meaning students are assigned to people in the community that support them in their work and discuss with them in and after the workshop. The lunch was all about that as well - building groups to discuss on some of the interesting topics for people starting out in the field. Not only was there a diversity in people in the workshop, but also in the poster they presented. Given people are from backgrounds that are usually not as much represented in the NLP community, their topics also show a broader range of interests, particular to issues they deal with. A lot of the NLP tasks worked on understanding under-resourced languages. But there was also a project working on how to prevent children terrorist organization, an urgent matter in the presenter’s country.