17 Indigenous and Endangered Languages you can learn with Transparent Language Posted by Transparent Language on Sep 26, 2016 in Language Learning, Language News, Product Announcements
We care about every language, not just those with commercial value. That’s why we donate our technology to endangered language advocates and organizations looking to leverage technology to preserve their language.
Beyond preservation, though, we strive for promotion. We don’t just want to save languages from dying—we want to bring them to life for a wider audience. That includes you! For those interested in learning (or just dabbling in) an endangered language, we currently have 17 indigenous or endangered languages available in Transparent Language Online.
Spoken by 3 million people on the Indonesian island of Bali, Balinese is not yet endangered. But our partner organization BASABali believes that we should not wait until there are only a few speakers left to start protecting a language.
Balinese bears no resemblance to Indonesian. It is a syllabic language, with each consonant bearing an inherent vowel sound. Vowel sounds can be changed by adding a diacritic. Though the Balinese script still exists today, most Balinese speakers use the Latin alphabet, which is what you’ll find in Transparent Language Online.
Behdini Kurdish is spoken by about 2 million Kurds in the northern parts of Iraq. This Kurdish dialect has received less attention than more widely-spoken languages like Sorani, making it difficult to find textbooks or even a reliable dictionary.
We’ve partnered with Cherie Rempel of the Kurdish Language and Culture Institute to create a transliterated Bedhini Kurdish course so that people around the world can explore this language.
Ojibwe, Central Ojibwe, Northwestern Ojibwe, and Oji-Cree
Ojibwe, an Algonquian language spoken in the northwestern United States and Canada, is made up of a series of dialects. There is no standard writing system that unites the different dialects, which is believed to be a major factor in the lack of political unity amongst Ojibwe-speaking tribes. Together, the dialects of Ojibwe account for the second most spoken First Nations language in Canada.
Central Ojibwe is an Algonquian language spoken by an estimated 8,000 people in Manitoba and Ontario, Canada. Cree is spoken by roughly 117,000 people across Canada, including the Northwest Territories, where it has official status. Northwestern Ojibwe is spoken in Ontario and Manitoba. There are only an estimated 20,000 speakers, of whom only 50-75% are literate. Oji-Cree is spoken by only 10,000 or so people in Ontario. Fortunately, Oji-Cree is only of only six aboriginal languages with an increase in usage in Canada in the early 2000s.
Thanks to partnerships with Manitoba First Nations Educational Resource Centre (MFNERC) and Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia, you can explore all four dialects in Transparent Language Online.
Dakota and Sisseton Dakota
Another MFNERC language, Dakota is (as you may have guessed) spoken by the Dakota people of the Sioux tribe. Spoken throughout the northwestern U.S. and southern Canada, Dakota is only believed to have about 25,000 speakers in a tribe population totaling more than 100,000.
Like many Native American languages, Dakota is polysynthentic, meaning that words are composed of many morphemes (word parts) combined to form one single word. This can create some long, sentence-like words, as you’ll see in Transparent Language Online.
Sisseton Dakota is a mutually intelligible dialect spoken along the borders of Minnesota and the Dakotas. This course was created thanks to Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Dakotah Language Institute.
Denesuline is spoken by roughly 12,000 Chipewyan people in northwestern Canada. The language shares official status in the Northwest Territories with Cree. Though written in the Latin script, Denesuline has a hefty alphabet, with 39 consonants, 6 vowels, and 9 diphthongs.
We have MFNERC to thank for this language course as well.
Kituba is considered the lingua franca of Central Africa, where it has official status in Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Kikongo-based creole has roughly 5 million speakers. This course was created in partnership with Langscape, a project at the Maryland Language Science Center that aims to make language data available to the public.
The Coushatta Tribe is taking matters in to their own hands to save their language, Koasati. Spoken in Louisiana and Texas, Koasati has fewer than a few hundred speakers, less than 10 of whom are primary-school age children. In addition to our partnership, the tribe is also working with McNeese State University in Louisiana and the College of William and Mary in Virginia to preserve the language.
Though it is the most widespread Athabascan language in Alaska, Koyukon only has a few hundred native speakers, most of whom are adults who also speak English. Fortunately, thanks to the documentation of a French Canadian missionary and a Koyukon native, the Koyukon Athabaskan Dictionary is one of the most reliable and comprehensive indigenous dictionaries ever made.
Creating a Holikachuk course posed significant obstacles because the last fluent Elder passed away in 2012. “Working from archival recordings, and Elders that have a working knowledge of the language, the content creation team drafted, proofed and recorded 10 units of material,” said Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program. The new Holikachuk online course consists of five units, along with seven conversational videos and fascinating cultural and grammar notes.
Gwich’in, spoken by about 250 people in Alaska and 300 people in Canada, is the ancestral language for about 3000 people in total. The finished Gwich’in course includes 10 units, each with five lessons of content, reviews and unit assessments, as well as nine conversational videos in Gwich’in with English subtitles, and 22 culture and grammar notes.
Denaakk’e, also called Koyukon Athabascan language, comes from the land surrounding the middle Yukon River, the Koyukuk River and the Lower Tanana Rivers in the central region of Alaska. Its traditional territory covers 78,000 square miles, approximately the size of the entire state of Minnesota. It, too, has a population of about 3000 with less than 300 active learners of all ages. This course includes 10 units, each with five lessons of content, reviews and unit assessments, as well as 10 conversational videos in Denaakk’e with English subtitles, and 25 culture and grammar notes.
Benhti Kenaga’ is one of many Athabascan languages and dialects from the area surrounding the Tanana River in Alaska, but the only one still in existence. The finished course includes 10 units, each with five lessons of content, reviews and unit assessments, as well as 15 conversational videos with subtitles in English, and 13 culture and grammar notes. The Benhti Kenaga’ Pocket Dictionary, published in 2009 and available through the Alaska Native Language Center, is a recommended supplemental resource for anyone taking the course.