Disappearing Languages: Enduring Voices -  Documenting the planet's endangered languages


David Harrison, Greg Anderson, and Ganesh Murmu consult with Apatani speaker Vijay Punyo.

David Harrison, Greg Anderson, and Ganesh Murmu consult with Apatani speaker Vijay Punyo.

Photograph by Chris Rainier

Indigenous communities around the globe are using technology to help maintain and revitalize their threatened languages and cultures. Thousands of tribal communities, from East Africa to the outback of Australia to the forests of the Northwest Pacific Coast, are creating educational programs to record the stories and oral traditions of their elderly last speakers. Using cameras, film, and audio, community members are creating powerful archives of material, as well as books and dictionaries. Passing the knowledge along to the younger generation has become of paramount importance and urgency.

The Enduring Voices Project, where invited, will assist indigenous communities in their efforts to revitalize and maintain their threatened languages. By using appropriate written materials, video, still photography, audio recorders, and computers with customized language software, as well as Internet-accessible archiving where possible, the Enduring Voices Project is helping empower communities to preserve ancient traditions with modern technology.

Language Technology Kits have been given to a dozen communities, along with follow-up training and capacity building.

In 2010, we conducted our first Language Revitalization Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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The Enduring Voices Project represents a partnership between National Geographic Mission Programs and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

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