Using the Internet to Save Endangered Languages
English is the primary language of the Internet and online resources such as the Google search engine and its competitors Bing, Yahoo, Ask and others have helped to reinforce that position. The same can be said of the other leading languages in the world. Consider the usage statistics of the top ten languages on the Internet.
Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, helped to establish the Endangered Languages Project in partnership with the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity (that includes CBC Radio). Google will be turning over control of the project to the First Peoples' Cultural Council (based in British Columbia) and the Linguist List based at Eastern Michigan University.
The Endangered Languages Project is a website where information can be shared about some 3.054 languages (out of a total of some 7,000 languages) that are threatened by extinction. Technology will be used by interested groups and individuals to upload audio and video clips of endangered languages that will serve as resources alongside print sources including manuscripts and academic articles. Social media tools will also be used to bring together speakers of dying languages with those individuals wishing to learn those languages. The project is supported by the growing Catalogue of Endangered Languages, established by the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Eastern Michigan University's Institute for Language Information and Technology.
The First Peoples' Cultural Council has been using technology for 10 years to keep track of 34 indigenous languages and 61 dialects in British Columbia. The Council attracted the attention of Google with the development of an app encouraging aboriginal youth to converse in their indigenous language using iPhones, Facebook, and Google. The Council reported that 60% of aboriginal languages based in Canada are spoken in British Columbia. A 2008 United Nations report noted that only 3 out of 52 indigenous languages based in Canada are likely to survive over 100 years.
The collections at Toronto Public Library offer customers access to various sources on the subject of endangered languages. Related subjects accessible in the library catalogue include:
- Endangered languages.
- Indigenous peoples--Languages.
- Language and culture.
- Language attrition.
- Language maintenance.
- Language obsolescence.
- Linguistic change.
- Linguistic minorities.
The Academic OneFile database (produced by Gale Cengage Learning) offers Toronto Public Library patrons electronic access to full-text articles on endangered languages and related subjects.