On this site, we’ve covered endangered languages before, and in doing so we discussed the challenges faced in trying to preserve these priceless forms of cultural heritage and expression. It is a daunting task. I am happy to announce that Google has decided to help out the cause by funding and launching the Endangered Languages Project.
The Endangered Languages Project will act as a hub for interested groups and people to collaborate on research with the aim at documenting & preserving over 3,000 languages that are under threat of being lost to time. Google writes that the site will host resources to help keep some of those alive, such as high-quality recordings of people speaking the languages, copies of historical manuscripts, e-learning options, and even niche-language social networking opportunities, in addition to research and other documentation. They also write about long-term goals,
“…for true experts in the field of language preservation to take the lead. As such, in a few months we’ll officially be handing over the reins to the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC) and The Institute for Language Information and Technology(The LINGUIST List) at Eastern Michigan University. FPCC will take on the role of Advisory Committee Chair, leading outreach and strategy for the project. The LINGUIST List will become the Technical Lead. Both organizations will work in coordination with the Advisory Committee.”
Again, I am happy to see this initiative deployed. But I will hold with bated breath if this will truly benefit collaboration between linguistic academics or this is just a bit of nice PR like last year, when Google added Cherokee to its list of languages supported in search, though that option doesn’t seem to exist anymore. You can learn more about the project by watching this promotional video: