In a startling revelation, more than 7,000 spoken languages from around the world are expected to go extinct by the end of the century. Fortunately, researchers from Swarthmore College have found a way to preserve these languages.
They have created what they call "talking dictionaries". To do so, they visited several places around the world, recording languages not otherwise documented, like Matukar Panau, Tuvan, Sora, Remo and Chamacoco. They took more than 24,000 audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing specific words and sentences and photographs of objects their cultures revered and represented.
Just how rare are these languages?
Well, Matukar Panau is an Oceanic language from Papua New Guinea. This language is spoken only in two small villages in New Guinea. Documentation of the language has been ongoing for the past three years and so far 3,045 word entries, 3,035 audio files and 67 images have been recorded.
Another example is Chamacoco - a language of Paraguay's remote northern deserts. The language is spoken by 1,200 people but highly endangered. The Chamacoco people have adopted modern technologies like mobile phones and text messaging. Researchers have recorded 912 entries and 912 audio files in this dictionary.
Remo is a highly endangered and poorly documented language in India. Researchers started documenting this language only recently. They have, so far, 4,008 word entries and 1,157 audio files.
Sora is another language from India, a tribal one. The researchers have so far documented 453 words and 453 audio files.
Finally, Tuvan is an indigenous tongue spoken by nomadic peoples in Siberia and Mongolia. Researchers have documented 7,459 word entries, 2,972 audio files and 49 images.
"Endangered language communities are adopting digital technology to aid their survival and to make their voices heard around the world," said David Harrison from the Swarthmore College, adding, "This is a positive effect of globalization."