Google Begins Effort to Help Preserve Languages Nearing Extinction

Google is starting the Endangered Languages Project as part of the company's charitable efforts to preserve languages in danger of extinction and as part of its overall mission to "organize the world's information."

Google is starting and seeding a project to fight the extinction and loss of more than 3,000 endangered languages around the globe to help preserve the history, cultures and knowledge of mankind.

The effort was announced today in a Google blog post by Clara Rivera Rodriguez and Jason Rissman, two managers of the company's Endangered Languages Project.

Google says the new site can be used by people to find and share the most up-to-date and comprehensive information about endangered languages so that they don't disappear because they haven€™t been passed down to younger generations.

"Documenting the 3,000-plus languages that are on the verge of extinction (about half of all languages in the world) is an important step in preserving cultural diversity, honoring the knowledge of our elders and empowering our youth," the blog post stated. "Technology can strengthen these efforts by helping people create high-quality recordings of their elders (often the last speakers of a language), connecting diaspora communities through social media and facilitating language learning."

One example of an endangered language, according to the post, is the Miami-Illinois language, which was once used heavily by Native American communities in what is now the U.S. Midwest. The language is considered today to be extinct by some people, with its latest fluent speakers dying in the 1960s, the post reported. It is being revived slowly, though, through the efforts of one man.

"Decades later, Daryl Baldwin, a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, began teaching himself the language from historical manuscripts and now works with the Miami University in Ohio to continue the work of revitalizing the language, publishing stories, audio files and other educational materials," the post stated. "Miami children are once again learning the language and€”even more inspiring€”teaching it to each other. Daryl€™s work is just one example of the efforts being made to preserve and strengthen languages that are on the brink of disappearing. "

In an interview, Rissman said Google unveiled the project as part of its philanthropic efforts to help organize the world's information and to make it more accessible to people everywhere.

"This is more than information€“this is language" with roots in cultural history and customs, he said. "We realize this is an urgent and global problem. We realize that some of our tools might make a difference," including storage space, collaboration, connectivity and YouTube video capabilities. "YouTube is built into the site as a way to preserve content and as a teaching tool."