Losing a language means losing a part of an identity. Currently, only 6% of the world’s population are indigenous people, and they speak 4,000 of the 6,700 languages used in the world. According to UNESCO’s Atlas of Languages in Danger, 40% of these languages are at risk of disappearing. This poses a serious threat to indigenous communities, as these languages not only serve as a means of communication but also hold valuable knowledge and experiences of culture and values passed down for generations. With the rapid pace of digitalization and technology, it’s crucial to preserve these languages from being lost forever.
Numerous organizations are dedicated to preserving indigenous languages by devising action plans to promote their use on modern technology platforms. This includes allowing people to communicate in their native languages on cyberspace platforms and social media applications like Facebook.
However, there are several challenges to integrating these languages into these platforms:
- The disappearance of languages is heavily influenced by urbanization, as people lose connection to their native tongue when they move to urban areas and start using more common languages.
- One of the reasons for this loss is the lack of funding to preserve the language. Many communities don’t have the necessary resources to convert their language to digital scripts, monologues and audiobooks.
- Another challenge is the limited digital resources available, such as fonts and keyboards, to represent these languages on digital platforms.
- Furthermore, only a handful of languages have standardized grammar, writing rules and spelling.
- Lack of awareness and user engagement in indigenous communities about the use of digital resources, which can hamper the digitalization of these languages.
Partnerships To Promote Indigenous Languages Through Cyberspace Digitalization
In 2022, a partnership established between Meta and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated to preserve Indigenous languages through digitalization is a significant step towards achieving this goal. With the inclusion of the Inuktitut language in Facebook’s language settings, native speakers can now use their language with ease on a global platform.
This development has been received with great satisfaction by the Inuit community, who view it as a crucial move towards revitalizing their language. The Inuktitut language, which has more complex and longer words compared to English, is an integral part of the Inuit culture. By promoting its daily use, this feature on Facebook is a powerful tool for preserving and promoting the Inuit cultural heritage.
With over 25,000 people from Inuit homelands and other communities across Nunavut, Canada, this feature on Facebook has the potential to benefit a vast number of individuals. It is a remarkable achievement in the effort to preserve Indigenous languages in cyberspace and a testament to the power of technology in promoting cultural diversity.
To promote linguistic diversity and inclusivity, Motorola launched the Language Revitalization Initiative in 2021. This initiative aims to provide access to various indigenous languages, such as Kaingang from Brazil, Nheengatu from the Amazon and Cherokee from the United States, via smartphones. With smartphones offering up to 80 languages, including these native languages, users can easily access and communicate in their preferred language.
This is a significant development for indigenous communities, enabling them to connect with cyberspace and use social media platforms in their native language. By doing so, they can share their culture and traditions with others and preserve their language for future generations. The Language Revitalization Initiative is a commendable step toward promoting linguistic diversity and inclusivity, and it is heartening to see corporations take an active interest in preserving and promoting indigenous languages.
UNESCO is facilitating partnerships between tech companies and native language speakers to preserve endangered languages for future generations. This initiative is based on UNESCO’s commitment to providing equal rights and access to information to all individuals. By empowering native speakers to use their own language in cyberspace, UNESCO is working towards preserving linguistic diversity.
– Gurjot Kaur