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How Technology Is Helping People Learn—and Even Save—the World's Languages
Written by Global Voices On 3 July 2014 @ 16:17 pm | 5 Comments
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This guest post was written by Allyson Eamer, a scholar in sociolinguistics at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. A version of this post was originally published  on the Ethnos Project blog.
One of the world's dying languages goes extinct every 10 to 14 days . In the fight to save them from disappearing, speakers, scholars and IT specialists are collaborating to explore how digital technology can be used to revitalize a language.
Languages become vulnerable to extinction over time as their speakers gradually shift to using a language with greater political and economic power. More often than not, the shift occurs because of colonial and expansionist agendas that see indigenous peoples, cultures, and land ceded to empire builders.
Remarkably, some academics are unperturbed by what could be called “linguistic Darwinism”, or survival of the fittest language. They might argue: Isn't it easier if we all speak the same language?
I am not going to elaborate on how each language encodes a unique worldview: how the vocabulary of a language reveals the values of the people who speak it, how empirical knowledge is contained within linguistic features, and how art, self-expression, history, culture, economics and identity are inextricably linked with language. Instead I am going to proceed under the assumption that, like me, you believe that the loss of a language is tragic and that the world’s indigenous peoples have had far too much taken away from them.
Technology can connect language teachers and content with learners across space and time. Technology can document endangered languages with voice recordings. It can produce and distribute curriculum and resources easily and quickly. It can facilitate independent learning through gaming, cloud-based downloads and apps. It can connect teachers and learners for one-way or tandem language learning.
Forward thinkers are harnessing the unprecedented power of technology to bring languages back from the brink of extinction, and in rare cases, to resurrect an extinct language.
Here is a brief overview of some of the ways that digital technology is being used in these efforts:
Central and South America
For more updates on technologies in use for indigenous language education, take a look at Allyson Eamer's curated content site .
Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org
URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/07/03/technology-helps-people-learn-save-languages/
URLs in this post:
 Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kenkyusha%E2%80%99s_New_Japanese-English_Dictionary_5th_Edition_with_page_open.jpg
 originally published: http://www.ethnosproject.org/technology-and-language-revitalization-a-conspectus/
 every 10 to 14 days: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/vanishing-languages/rymer-text
 Miniature DNF Dictionary : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Miniature_DNF_Dictionary_055_ubt.JPG
 downloadable dictionaries: http://giellatekno.uit.no/
 sharing tips: http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/
 smartphone and tablet apps: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-20392723
 self-study course: http://shop.multilingualbooks.com/collections/navajo/talk-now
 virtual world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmP17acPYCE
 iPhone app: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/save-endangered-languages-tribes-turn-tech
 Databases: http://sociology.morrisville.edu/readings/ANTH101/Wamalwa-Language-Preservation-Kenya-2013.pdf
 being recorded: http://www.storybases.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=55&id_pays=2&Itemid=56
 course in the whistle language: http://www.busuu.com/enc/silbo
 language documentation: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/student-profile-rafael-nonato-0722.html
 talking dictionary: http://talkingdictionary.swarthmore.edu/pipil/
 Recordings of personal narratives: http://dobes.mpi.nl/projects/ache/project/
 Digital storytelling software: http://www.chinasmack.com/2013/stories/phonemica-americans-mapping-and-preserving-chinese-dialects.html
 Lessons in the Tajik language: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWlSuuGMMbc
 have now been mapped: http://www.livemint.com/Leisure/Jnwhm6vGQfNtTfNgbL9j4O/Ganesh-Devy--Each-language-is-a-unique-world-view.html
 archived online: http://peopleslinguisticsurvey.org/
 online lessons: http://www.tusaalanga.ca/lesson/lessons
 Online storytelling: http://elalliance.org/projects/languages-of-the-middle-east/neo-aramaic/
 online videos: http://iltyemiltyem.com/sign/
 Digital storytelling: http://italklibrary.com
 curated content site: http://www.scoop.it/t/indigenous-language-education-and-technology
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