According to UNESCO, at least 43% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken around the world are facing extinction, and that’s only including the languages they actually have data on. Many of these languages are in remote regions of the world but there are also several that, despite being spoken in very industrialized countries, are still on the verge of disappearing forever. Language is one of the hallmarks of human achievement, the singular tool that allows us to communicate not only to each other but to communicate across time. Without it, we simply wouldn’t ever advance, which is why in a hyper-advanced, technologically-rich culture where we have “Retina displays” and driverless cars, it’s reproachful of us to simply let these languages pass into the night without so much as blink.
Fortunately, one technology company – one that incidentally also happens to make driverless cars – recognized the urgency of this dilemma and has created a project that aims to preserve those languages that are on the verge of extinction. Google’s Endangered Languages Project provides speakers of endangered languages as well as researchers, linguists, historians, and anyone else striving to save such languages with a universally accessible online hub for storing and sharing their language-saving work. Users of the Endangered Languages Project site will be able to upload and access video, audio, documents, personal histories, and anything else that is pertinent to the preservation of an endangered language.
Google isn’t trying to spearhead this project so much as its simply supporting a space through which the experts will be able to collaborate. The Endangered Project has the backing of the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, which includes several organizations working towards preserving endangered languages, and will be managed by the First People’s Cultural Council and The Institute for Language Information and Technology.
Many of Google’s dignitaries have often espoused a world where information is freely available and that has sometimes earned the company some deserved heat. However, in an age when so many companies wield so much influence and wealth capable of redirecting what seems like languages’ inevitable slide into extinction, hats off to Google for taking the initiative on this one. This is one of those efforts that truly will make the world a richer place.[Via Google’s Official Blog.]