According to UNESCO, as many as half of the world’s 7000 languages are said to be disappearing by the end of this century, but a new platform from Google Earth might offer these languages a new life.
The United Nations declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness about the world’s 2680 endangered Indigenous languages and their important contribution to global diversity about different cultures.
In many parts of the world these languages are set to disappear. Some vanish in a flash, with the death of the only surviving speaker of a particular language. Others can phase out gradually over time as they’re overcome by a country’s primary language in school, the workplace and of course TV. It is said that a new technology can help preserve these languages such as Google Earth’s new platform: Celebrating Indigenous Languages.
The new project allows Google Earth users to listen up to 50 native languages which are included in the Unesco Red Book of Endangered Languages. You can head to the webpage and click on one of the locations in the world map to listen to native speakers offering traditional greetings, sing songs or say common words and phrases in their respective language.
“It’s a human right to be able to speak your own language,” says Tania Haerekiterā Tapueluelu Wolfgramm who is a Māori and Tongan person working as an educator and activist in Aotearoa – the Māori name for New Zealand and other Pacific countries. “You don’t have a culture without the language.”
Tania is one of the several Indigenous language speakers, advocates and educators who helped create the tour. Another contributor is Wikuki Kingi who is a Māori Master Carver, he recorded traditional chants in Te Reo Māori, an Eastern Polynesian language indigenous to New Zealand. He says, “Speaking Te Reo Māori connects him to his relatives, to the land, rivers, and the ocean, and it can take him to another time and place.”
In order to expand the programme, Google is looking for more contributors to share their native languages. If you would like to get involved, you can post your interest here. In the meantime, you can support organisations like Global Reach Initiative & Development Pacific, which uses technology to connect far-flung Indigenous communities to their traditional communities or the Cree Literacy Network, which publishes books in Cree, a First Nations language and English to keep the language alive.