Digital Tools ‘to Save Languages’

Until recently, I had been thinking that internet spoils –or even destroys- the minor languages. As a Turkish native speaker, I was furious that every social media tool was in English or in other major languages. Last year, Facebook was translated into Turkish and a couple of months ago, Twitter added Turkish alternative, which were very good news because before all the translations, new phrases emerged in Turkey- half English and half Turkish! Since we have a certain conscious about languages, it is very annoying to see the degeneration of a language. When Facebook was translated into Turkish, it also began to make spell check and to underline the words that you misspelled. This was a huge favor to the new generation because they read everything on internet and some people are not conscious enough protecting and saving languages. They just ignore all the grammar or punctuation rules, they even misspell their own mother tongue! Anyway, I read an article on BBC by Jonathan Amos who proves digital tools are helping to save minor languages. Now let’s see the points that I find most interesting. You can also read the whole article by clicking the link at the bottom:  

– Of the 7,000 or so languages spoken on Earth today, about half are expected to be extinct by the century’s end.

– Globalisation is usually blamed, but some elements of the “modern world”, especially digital technology, are pushing back against the tide.

– North American tribes use social media to re-engage their young, for example.

– Tuvan, an indigenous tongue spoken by nomadic peoples in Siberia and Mongolia, even has an iPhone app to teach the pronunciation of words to new students.

– “Small languages are using social media, YouTube, text messaging and various technologies to expand their voice and expand their presence.”

– “But a positive effect of globalisation is that you can have a language that is spoken by only five or 50 people in one remote location, and now through digital technology that language can achieve a global voice and a global audience.”

– “Digital dictionaries contain more than 32,000 word entries in eight endangered languages. All the audio recordings have been made by native speakers.”

– “What we do with technology is try to connect people,” Prof Noori said. “All of it is to keep the language.”

– “The new digital tools do offer a way back from the brink for a lot of languages that seemed doomed just a few years ago.”

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Müge,

    Next October I will be delivering a lecture entitled “Anglais-Français, même combat!” i.e. “English-French is the same struggle!”. This is about the story of the English language which is composed of over 60% French or Latin words. As you certainly know after William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, invaded England and defeated the Saxon King Harold, he imposed French as a language at king’s court and in the clergy. But of course as a linguist I do undersatnd your worries. In French we use lots of Arabic words, for instance as a result of colonization. But the ols language Occitan is made Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Kurdish, Turkish, Celtic and Latin and Italian words, because in the early Middle Ages people did not simply fight, but also they traded, fell in love, got married and had children. Language is a living organism. It’s okay as speakers do not mix up all languages, but you can’t keep words from being mispronounced or used in a different meaning through centuries. This is a passionate debate. I’m really interested in it. We have yhe same agruments over French and English as the ones you have in Turkey, but some are more politically right-wing and conservative than truly about linguistics!

    Have a nice weekend!


    • Posted by Basia Bogdanowicz on April 14, 2012 at 07:38

      I have seen the creeping in of any lanuage degenerating with the use of text messaging on cel phones,ie: porfa = por favor or x = por o para in spanish. Go anywhere and one hears people now saying porfa for please. At first I resisted these abbrev. but now I see that I am also speaking just like everybody else. Digital technology is also killing the Art of Photography. Everybody is a photographer with their digital cameras and cell phones but can wwe compare a digital print to an archival print? NO WAY,JOSE! the digital print will disappear in 5 years where as the archival printed will last for 100 years. who can fight progress?


  2. Müge,
    You always pick up great articles and have very interesting comments about them! Thanks for this: you remind us that translation why translation is so interesting 🙂



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