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Through Their Eyes: Indigenous Languages Online

To mark the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous languages, the IDN World Report 2019 features a special report on the online experience of European indigenous language communities.

The report, authored by Valentina de Vito, provides case studies of three European indigenous languages (Catalan, Saami and Griko/Greko), built up through interviews with members of the language communities.

Internet uptake across the world over the past 20 years has not resulted in online linguistic diversity. English is increasingly the online lingua franca, with 54% of web sites in English language. The report concludes that ‘speaking a dominant language is now essential for full civic participation and economic advancement. Such necessities have been prioritised over the efforts of preserving minority languages.’

At the same time, technology can be helpful in the revitalisation of indigenous languages, offering speakers opportunities to participate in online communities – meeting up, learning about and practising the language with other speakers.

The report encourages the incorporation of indigenous and endangered languages into the daily language repertoire, including online spaces. All responsible actors are encouraged to make technological tools available to users to support the use of indigenous languages online.

Awareness of IDNs among indigenous communities was found to be low. The report encourages awareness raising, and further efforts to improve universal acceptance. It is not a matter of creating new technologies, but ‘rather a matter of making what we have equally accessible for everyone.’

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