Digital technology won’t save endangered languages.

There seems to be high and somehow naive expectations about digital technologies and the internet’s ability to rescue languages. Every now and then, an article on a blog or in a newspaper claims that a new website, a new tool or a new application will save this or this language.

In fact, a lot of great stuff is taking place: apps, databases, communication in social media, networks or ambitious people – cultural workers, teachers – sharing their work…

These initiatives are contributions that provide support and resources to those who want to learn a language. Databases are built; new possibilities for communication are created. All for this increases visibility, and therefore can to some extent promote and strengthen endangered languages.

But… it won’t save them! We can’t save languages by collecting samples, by categorizing and archiving them. An application, software or any technology is a means toward an end – for instance, revitalization. As a means, it is not enough. Language revitalization is a long-term process. The key to language survival is in the speakers.

Can digital technologies provide tools to support and encourage revitalization processes? Yes, they can!

But what are the best tools? Are they bad ways to do it? What risks are at stake (for instance: excluding)? These are some of the questions we should focus on.


2 responses to “Digital technology won’t save endangered languages.

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