A mobile application that allows users to type in indigenous languages was recently launched by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council in British Columbia, Canada.
The application, which is called FirstVoices Keyboard, is a project that aims to revitalise endangered languages by integrating them into technology and promoting their use on social media.
Characters unique to these languages are absent on regular mobile software, preventing people from using such languages in emails, text messages and social media.
However, this app aims to make these languages more accessible by introducing more than 100 indigenous language keyboards, including every Aboriginal (First Nations) language of Canada and New Zealand. Some indigenous languages in Australia and the US are also included.
The project invited people to tweet in their languages by using the new app.
— Johnnie Jae (@johnniejae) May 30, 2016
— Nick Claxton (@nickclax) May 18, 2016
A 2013 report by the Linguistic Society of America suggests out of 6,703 languages spoken in the world in 1996, roughly 5,000 languages remain, many of which are at risk of disappearing within half a century.
Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages says every two weeks, the last fluent speaker of a language dies, along with “hundreds of generations of traditional knowledge encoded in these ancestral tongues.”
FirstVoices app is not the first initiative to preserve endangered languages.
In 2012, Google launched a database website that catalogued almost 3,500 languages. The Endangered Languages Project provides up to date information on these languages and allows users to actively participate by submitting text, audio and video files.