New Tools for Old Languages
Last week, a friend sent me information about an upcoming gathering in Mexico for activists working with digital media to promote indigenous languages and culture online (información en español aquí). The invitation explains that over 300 indigenous languages are spoken in Mexico but, like in so many other parts of the world, many of them are in danger of extinction. Many indigenous activists are taking up the call to document, maintain, and promote the use of their languages, and they are creatively using technology and the internet to do so. This event hopes to bring together many of these activists so that they might share ideas and tools to mutually support one another in the important task of promoting their languages and cultures.
What is Digital Language Activism?
Digital activism generally refers to the use of online and electronic communication technologies (such as blogs, podcasts, videos, social media like Facebook and Twitter, etc.) to promote citizen movements, causes, or campaigns. The internet is changing the way that people are able to communicate, offering a free platform for individuals to connect with others all over the world to advocate for the causes they believe in, fundraise, organize, and build community. Language activism refers to energetic action and initiative to support a language and the community of speakers. It is associated most closely with those working to revitalize and promote endangered languages. So “Digital Language Activism” refers to the use of online and electronic communication technologies to promote language. I have written in recent months about several such initiatives, including the Endangered Languages Project, the African Storybook Project, and Global Voices.
The Rising Voices Initiative
The event in Mexico is co-hosted by Global Voices through their Rising Voices initiative. Rising Voices “seeks to empower under-represented communities to make their voices heard online by 1) providing financial support to outreach projects, 2) developing a series of participatory media tutorials, and 3) cultivating a network of passionate citizen media activists to help encourage and support the replication of outreach trainings”. Rising Voices has supported a number of incredible projects to promote endangered languages all over the world. They also regularly blog about great language initiatives and tools. For example, I am enjoying this review of indigenous language-learning apps which includes tools for learning Quechua and several Canadian First Nations languages. There is so much to learn and I am thankful for digital language activists who are collaborating to bring the voices of their communities to the world, and who are opening doors for people like me who hope to learn from them.