New technology continues to do great things for endangered languages.
Four years ago I interviewed David K. Harrison of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages who spoke about how his institute uses the internet to help preserve languages by doing things like building online dictionaries. He was convinced that being able to see and hear their language on the web would show children, who might otherwise discard their native languages, that their language is just as viable and just as valuable as other languages.
Since that time, the use of technology to preserve and support endangered languages has taken off, with online language projects, dictionaries, educational programs and videos. Now mobile apps are becoming the instrument of choice.
The Canadian paper Leader-Post recently reported on a new language app for learning words in Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Nakoda and Lakota that came out in June. The app was developed by the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council in Saskatchewan, Canada. According to the article, “It took three years and several fluent language speakers to complete the language project.”
This is only one of the latest mobile apps to support endangered languages. Two years earlier First Voices, a digital project to support endangered languages based in British Columbia, made its own contribution by launching an app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that “allows indigenous-language speakers to text, e-mail, and chat on Facebook and Google Talk in their own languages.” Users can select from keyboards that support every indigenous language in North America and Australia. Since then the project has added multiple education and dictionary apps based on data uploaded by supporters.
Endangered aboriginal languages in North America and Australia are not the only targets of these efforts. There are also tools for endangered Indian languages. More apps for more languages from more places are undoubtedly on the way as the internet continues to develop interest in and knowledge of endangered languages