There are many endangered languages in our collective linguistic radar. Some of them have been covered here before and some haven’t. In 2007, Joshua Hinson of Chickasaw heritage, identified that his language was one the brink of extinction. Rather than blaming technology as contributing source to language loss, Hinson embraced the opportunity to use technology to help save his language.
Hinson used the internet to build an online presence for his tribe. This has been done before, as recently as in 2012 when Google embraced the Endangered Languages Project. Hinson almost a poured a decade into the Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program, and by now knows enough Chickasaw to hold conversations as well as to read and write. As I understand it, at 32 years old, he is youngest member of the language to speak fluently, the next youngest member is 62.
He’s taken took a two-pronged approach, pairing novice speakers with older speakers who were fluent in the Chickasaw language, and using technology to reach a wider audience, creeating the Android and iOS apps as well as Chickasaw.TV. Besides teaching the alphabet, essential words and phrases, and methods for constructing a sentence, theses sources also contains recordings of native speakers to model pronunciation and cadence.
Tribal leaders supported his motives, which was launched in 2009, but Hinson had no idea if it would translate into more people learning the language. But it was a hit, even his son among other young people began showing more interest in learning to speak Chickasaw, they sparked their parents’ interest too! This is not the first example of using the internet and technology to save dying languages. The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages—a nonprofit that connects linguists with Indigenous language speakers and activists in order to save endangered languages—has created multimedia toolkits to allow people to use video, audio, and other technologies to preserve their languag