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Endangered Language Project Questions and Answers

Q: What is this project about?

A: The Endangered Languages Project is an online resource to record, access, and share samples of and research about endangered languages, as well as to provide advice and best practices for those working to document or strengthen Indigenous languages. It is a network for language communities across the globe. To learn more about the Endangered Languages Project please visit: www.endangeredlanguages.com

Q: Who can participate?

A: Organizations and communities involved in language revitalization can participate by joining the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity.

Q: Why are Indigenous languages important?

A: Indigenous languages contain valuable information about the unique culture of a people: their values, wisdom, knowledge, world view and overall way of being. Indigenous languages are important for Indigenous peoples, as they contribute to a sense of identity and a healthy life; they inform people about their ancestors’ sacred traditional rules and teachings. Indigenous languages are also important for all people, as they help maintain cultural diversity and offer teachings about everything from alternate values to medicines, resources and other practical information rooted in the lands of the Indigenous communities that speak them.

Q: Isn’t it better if we all speak English? Is this a good use of time and resources?

A: The world needs the combined wisdom of all cultures in order to truly thrive. Just as an ecosystem is healthy with a more diverse array of species, the human race is also healthier if diversity is maintained and supported. Also, consider that the human brain is capable of speaking multiple languages. If we were meant to only speak one language, then why do over 7,000 languages exist?

Q: What is the status of Indigenous languages in Canada? In B.C.?

A: In B.C., First Peoples’ Cultural Council has mapped the languages in partnership with communities. B.C. has 34 Indigenous languages and 61 dialects. Of those, 26 are severely endangered and 8 are nearly extinct. There are approximately 60 Indigenous languages in Canada.

Q: If we notice something on the website about the language that is not correct, how can it be corrected? And why is there incorrect information to begin with?

A:
Initially, the information on the ELP website was provided by two universities. The universities agreed to share their research at an early stage precisely because the best way to improve it is through including the expertise of community members and scholars around the world. Now that the site is live, users can submit information to improve and enhance the database, including updating or correcting information via each language’s description page. Submissions will go directly to the researchers, who will include it in their catalogue. This open, collaborative research process will improve understanding about the world's threatened languages and will allow this information to remain updated over time.

Q Why did Google get Involved in language revitalization?

A: Google was approached by language experts and asked if it could help with the technology aspect of language revitalization and create awareness of the importance of language revitalization.  Google understands the value of Indigenous languages and knowledge and wants to assist groups around the world to come together to save their languages.

Q: Who is the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC)?

A: First Peoples’ Cultural Council is a First Nations-run Crown Corporation with a mandate to support the revitalization of Aboriginal language, arts and culture in British Columbia. FPCC performs research, develops and offers programs and services, and provides training, advice, and resources to communities. We also monitor the status of First Nations languages in B.C. and develop policy recommendations for First Nations leadership and government. 

Q: How did FPCC get involved with the project?

A: Google contacted FPCC because they recognized that FPCC had many years of experience developing technologies for language revitalization. FPCC has been actively working to revitalize First Nation languages for 22 years and has developed FirstVoices.com and many other cutting edge technologies in partnership with First Nations communities in B.C.

Q: What are the benefits of this project to FPCC?

A:

  • Visibility for the languages in B.C.
  • New connections with other language communities around the globe
  • First Nations in B.C. can join the Language Alliance and share information about their languages
  • Ability to share our best practices work in language documentation, research and revitalization across the globe
  • Ability to ensure there is correct data on the site about each language

Q: What is FPCC’s role in the project?

A: Together with a small team of language experts, FPCC has worked with Google to provide advice and feedback on the project since July 2011. Specifically, FPCC brings an Indigenous perspective to the development of the site and acts as a strong advocate to support in-community capacity and allow Indigenous experts to take the lead in language revitalization. We encouraged Google to develop a site that would invite language champions from around the world to share their work and languages. Now that the site is live, FPCC will be on the international Advisory Committee of experts in endangered languages supporting the project to move forward and acting as a key moderator of the site.

Q: Did FPCC get any money from Google?

A: Yes, FPCC will be receiving some funding to assist with the administration of the ELP Advisory Committee as well as costs associated with facilitating the international group.

Q: Will FPCC be sharing information about B.C. languages on the site?

A: FPCC will be sharing information about our work but we will not be sharing any language archive data. Community language champions may choose to share their language and language revitalization tools on the Endangered Languages Project website. FPCC will share our in-house resources like the master-apprentice workbooks and our language documentation and teaching templates.

Q: Is Google taking the language information collected by FPCC?

A: No - participation is voluntary. Please see the above answer.

Q: What does FPCC hope will happen as a result of this project?

A: FPCC wants to see an international network of language champions using the site to share tools/ideas and support each other in this sacred work.

We want other organizations and governments to take notice and learn that language revitalization is important. The site educates on the value of Indigenous knowledge, which may lead to more support for reconciliation with Indigenous groups.

We hope that the site will contribute to language revitalization efforts and support the world’s language champions.

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