The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) regularly publishes an Atlas documenting and mapping more than 2,500 global languages that are classified as vulnerable, endangered, or extinct. UNESCO also estimates that of the 6,000 current languages spoken today, more than half will be extinct by the start of the next century, adding that
with the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity will lose not only a cultural wealth, but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.
These languages require urgent intervention. In many remote locations, only a handful of speakers remain. Many languages remain vulnerable due to the pressures of globalization. At the same time, there is also a growing movement emerging where members of these communities are increasingly recognizing the great value in maintaining their native language despite internal and external pressures. Through the use of participatory citizen media and web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and digital videos, these individuals are building communities around the common use of these under-represented languages.
Projects like Indigenous Tweets and Blogs have been mapping users of an active indigenous language, making it easier to find one another and encouraging the work that they are doing. But there are challenges – the digital divide impacts many of these communities and keyboards in minority languages are often unavailable. In some cases, there are also cultural barriers in the use of indigenous languages in a public setting. Despite these challenges, there are many examples of innovative approaches to preserving and promoting these languages through citizen media and web 2.0 tools. Young leaders and “bridge” figures (often referred to individuals that can bridge two different cultures) are building a movement around the use, preservation and promotion of these languages in an online context.
Join us in this online dialogue as a way to share some of these experiences and learn about the methods used by many of these pioneering individuals and projects that are using citizen media and web 2.0 tools to promote and preserve the use of their language online!
*Under-represented languages include all those that are used infrequently in the context of computing and new media. Many of these have small speaker populations and are endangered to one degree or another; others have strong speaking communities but face digital divide issues in trying to use their language online.
** Updated – October 21, 2011
The featured resource practitioners committed to help lead this dialogue so far include:
Eddie Avila of Rising Voices, Bolivia
Kevin Scannell of Indigenous Tweets
Martin Benjamin – Executive Director of Kamusi Project International, working on the preservation of African languages
Edmond Kachale – working on the preservation of the Chichewa language
John Paul Montano of www.barbaranolan.com working on the preservation of the Ojibwe language
Ian Custalow – working on the preservation of the Powhatan language
Mohomodou Houssouba of www.songhay.org working on the preservation of the Songhay language
Tēvita O. Ka'ili, PhD – Assistant Professor for Brigham Young University Hawai'i, working on the preservation of the Tongan language
Boukary Konaté – working on the preservation of the Bambara language
Karaitiana Taiuru – web consultant working on the preservation of the Maori language
Adrian Cain of the Manx Heritage Foundation, working on the preservation of the Manx Gaelic language
Ben Frey – working on the preservation of the Cherokee language
Oliver Stegen – working on the preservation of the Kilaangi language
Niamh Ní Bhroin is currently researching how people who use Sámi and Irish are participating in innovation processes in Web 2.0 media
Emani Fakaotimanava-Lui of Internet Niue working on the preservation of the Niuean language