WIKITONGUES SEEKS TO SAVE WORLD’S DYING LANGUAGES

Experts say there are about 6,500 languages spoken throughout the world. But the United Nations estimates that about half of these languages are in danger of disappearing.

The U.N. cultural agency, or UNESCO, lists languages it considers endangered on its Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

UNESCO collects information on the languages and then increases efforts meant to prevent them from dying out.

One non-profit organization seeking to save world languages is a New York-based group called Wikitongues.

Officials from Wikitongues say the organization has a simple goal: to provide the tools and support that people need to save their languages.

 

Daniel Bogre Udell is the co-founder of Wikitongues. He told VOA that when a language disappears, many other things can go away as well. For example, parts of a community’s culture, knowledge and identity can also be lost.

Because of this, Udell believes the process of bringing languages back must be done by community members themselves, “from the ground up,” he said.

“There is no way an outside organization can save someone’s language for them.”

Earlier this year, Vogel’s work received a boost when Wikitongues was launched in 2016 as an open internet collection of world languages. The self-described “community” is operated by volunteers from around the world.

The self-described “community” is operated by volunteers from around the world. The collection is in the form of language videos that people add to the Wikitongues website.

Wikitongues says that, even with the internet’s wide reach, less than 1 percent of all languages are actively represented online. The organization seeks to serve as an internet resource to connect users who wish to keep a language alive.

There are currently more than 400 languages and dialects represented on Wikitongues’ YouTube channel. Some, like English, Farsi and Mandarin, are spoken by hundreds of millions of people. Others are more uncommon. Bora, for example, is spoken by only a few thousand people in the Amazon regions of Peru and Colombia.

 

“We have people from India who record dozens of languages, which is beyond their own,” he said.

“We have another volunteer from Scotland who is one of the last speakers of a variety of Scottish dialects,” Udell added. “He’s in the process of reclaiming them, revitalizing, and building a dictionary for them.”