Can Twitter Save a Dying Language?

One website is on a mission to preserve and proliferate indigenous languages online.

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  1. Kevin Scannell, a computer science professor at St. Louis University has created, a website that tracks speakers of indigenous or minority languages on Twitter. The site is generated by a computer program that trawls the Twittersphere to recognise languages.
  2. Scannell has been blogging about his project here. On using Twitter as a tool for rebuilding often fragmented language communities, he writes:
  3. More and more language groups are turning to the web as a tool for language revitalization, and as a result there are now thousands of people blogging and using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter in their native language.   These sites have allowed sometimes-scattered communities to connect and use their languages online in a natural way.
  4. Social media have also been important in engaging young people, who are the most important demographic in language revitalization efforts.  Together we're breaking down the idea that only global languages like English and French have a place online!
  5. Below is a screenshot of the website's page for those who speak the Chichewa language in central Africa. The site lists the trending topics in each language and includes an input box for users to share the Twitter handles of other people who are tweeting in their native tongue. 
  6. Edmond pa Kanjedza: Indigenous Tweets: The fun side of Tweeting in ...
  7. The site now tracks 71 languages and has plans to add more.
  8. Blogos | News and views on languages and technology
  9. Many people are using Twitter to disseminate links pointing to audio files that feature people speaking their native tongue.
  10. Below is a tweet linking to audio of the Ainu language, which is spoken in Japan. Learn how to say "The weather is good" in Ainu:
  11. YouTube has also become an archive of sorts for people who wish to preserve recordings of lesser-heard languages.
  12. Since everybody talks about the weather, here's how to talk about the weather in Manx Gaelic:
  13. We're not sure whether this video is about the weather or not, but YouTube user Glossika has uploaded a video of a woman speaking the tribal language of the Atayal tribe in Taiwan.
  14. Atayal women speaking Atayal
  15. This video features some simple phrases spoken in the Dakotah language of the Sioux Native American tribe.
  16. Do you know of other people or organisations working to preserve dying languages via online social networks? Send us a tweet at @AJStream or let us know on Facebook.