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Transparent Language has always supported the preservation of endangered and less commonly taught languages. Just because some languages aren’t commercially lucrative doesn’t mean they aren’t important for other reasons; language offers a window on culture and heritage, and you can’t put a price on that. The biggest danger is in delaying work like the digital documentation of native speakers, to the point that too few native speakers remain to provide it. Without audio records of a language’s pronunciation and use, preserving it accurately becomes much harder.
We’ve worked with partners like Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia to preserve Ojibwe (a Native American language spoken by the Chippewa), giving the people passionate about Ojibwe the tools and resources needed to take action. The resulting learning materials are available free in Transparent Language Online for Libraries, so if you’d like to explore Ojibwe, all you need now is a library card.
Our latest efforts toward endangered language preservation have been in partnership with BASAbali, an organization dedicated to the threatened language of Balinese. BASAbali has just launched the first multimedia materials for the teaching of Balinese. The project went live on February 11, 2013, and is distributed free of charge to nonprofit organizations and community groups. Individuals interested in learning Balinese can access these materials for a small fee ($25 or by donation). You can see a sample of the finished software below:
“Threatened with decline from nationalism, globalization, and technology, the Balinese are in a unique position to revitalize their language for themselves and as a gift to the rest of the world,” says Alissa Stern, Executive Director at BASAbali. “Transparent Language’s generous donation of their software, their technical expertise, and their support of Balinese is helping this to happen.”
With a reported 60 – 80% of the world’s estimated 6,000 languages classified as endangered*, there is still much work to be done, and many more opportunities to lend support. We will continue to put our hearts and minds into the work of protecting endangered languages, and if you know of or are part of an organization interested in partnering with us for this cause, we want to hear from you.
* According to linguist Michael E. Krauss, a language is considered to be endangered when children will probably not be speaking it in 100 years.