When a language is lost, so is a culture, along with its speakers’ stories, their beliefs, their courtship rituals, their spirituality and their history. All that is unique about a particular group of people disappears when their language is lost. With half the world’s languages expected to disappear by the turn of the century, Google is putting its technology at the service of those whose languages are in danger of extinction.
The video (below) that explains the project has this to say about why the work is so important:
Language loss is often related to oppression and injustice. For these communities, preservation of their language is about the restoration of their cultural identities, their values and their heritage.
So Google is collaborating with the newly formed Alliance for Linguistic Diversity to create a digital library for speakers of endangered languages and those who care about them. “Endangered languages” is a space for people “to record, access, and share samples of and research on endangered languages, as well as to share advice and best practices for those working to document or strengthen languages under threat.”
When I click on the red dot closest to my home town, the language name appears. I learn there are 11 variants and dialects of Shuswap. I can listen to a traditional greeting song, learn pronunciation and find a beginning course in Colville-Okanagan Salish.
Next: Video Shows Why This Matters
Photo 1 from Endangered Languages Web site; Photo 2 from promotional video
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