The Role of Software in Sustaining

Languages are fundamental to cultural identity and heritage, yet many are at risk of extinction. As globalization and technological advances continue to dominate, smaller linguistic communities often find their native tongues disappearing. Fortunately, innovative software tools are playing a crucial role in preserving these endangered languages. This article explores how language learning apps, dictionary databases, and collaboration platforms for linguists are being used to document, teach, and promote endangered languages. It also examines the partnerships between technologists and linguistic communities to create sustainable language preservation solutions.

Language Learning Apps: Making Endangered Languages Accessible

Language learning apps have revolutionized the way people acquire new languages, offering interactive and engaging platforms for learners of all ages. These apps are particularly beneficial for endangered languages, which often lack traditional educational resources. By integrating endangered languages into their platforms, these apps are making these languages more accessible to a global audience.

One notable example is Duolingo, a popular language learning app that has partnered with various linguistic communities to develop courses for endangered languages. Duolingo’s Scottish Gaelic and Hawaiian courses have attracted thousands of learners, raising awareness and interest in these languages. The app uses gamification to make learning fun and interactive, encouraging users to practice regularly and achieve language proficiency.

Another example is the app Mango Languages, which offers courses in indigenous languages such as Cherokee and Hawaiian. Mango Languages collaborates with native speakers and cultural organizations to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of their courses. This collaboration not only helps preserve the language but also promotes cultural understanding and appreciation among learners.

Dictionary Databases

Dictionary Databases: Documenting Languages for Future Generations

Dictionary databases are essential tools for documenting and preserving endangered languages. These databases serve as comprehensive repositories of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation, ensuring that future generations have access to the linguistic knowledge of their ancestors. Digital dictionaries are particularly valuable because they can be easily updated and expanded, providing a dynamic resource for language preservation.

The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages has developed several digital dictionaries for endangered languages. For instance, the Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary is an online resource for the Siletz Dee-ni language, spoken by the Siletz Tribe in Oregon. This dictionary includes audio recordings of native speakers, allowing users to hear the correct pronunciation of words and phrases. By preserving this linguistic data, the dictionary ensures that the Siletz Dee-ni language remains accessible for future generations.

Similarly, the FirstVoices project, initiated by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council in Canada, provides digital tools for indigenous language documentation and revitalization. FirstVoices offers an online platform where communities can create and share digital dictionaries, language learning resources, and cultural content. This initiative empowers indigenous communities to take control of their language preservation efforts and share their linguistic heritage with the world.

Collaboration Platforms: Empowering Linguistic Communities

Collaboration platforms are instrumental in bringing together linguists, technologists, and community members to work on language preservation projects. These platforms facilitate the exchange of knowledge and resources, enabling more effective and sustainable preservation efforts.

For example, the Endangered Languages Project (ELP) is an online platform that supports the documentation and revitalization of endangered languages worldwide. ELP provides a space for linguists, researchers, and community members to share resources, such as research papers, audio recordings, and educational materials. The platform also offers tools for creating digital language archives, ensuring that valuable linguistic data is preserved and accessible.

Another collaboration platform is CoLang, the Institute on Collaborative Language Research. CoLang hosts workshops and training sessions for linguists, community members, and students interested in language documentation and revitalization. By fostering collaboration and skill development, CoLang helps build the capacity of communities to carry out their language preservation projects.

Partnerships for Sustainable Language Preservation

Successful language preservation efforts often result from partnerships between technologists and linguistic communities. These collaborations ensure that the tools and resources developed are culturally appropriate, linguistically accurate, and aligned with the needs of the communities they serve.

For instance, the Cherokee Nation has partnered with Apple to integrate the Cherokee language into Apple’s operating systems. This collaboration has resulted in Cherokee language support on iPhones, iPads, and Macs, making it easier for Cherokee speakers to use their language in daily digital interactions. Such initiatives demonstrate the potential for technology companies to play a significant role in language preservation.

Similarly, Google has collaborated with indigenous communities to develop tools for preserving endangered languages. The Google Earth Outreach program, for example, includes the Celebrating Indigenous Languages project, which features audio recordings of native speakers from around the world. By leveraging Google’s technological expertise and global reach, this project raises awareness about endangered languages and provides valuable linguistic resources.


Software tools are proving to be powerful allies in the fight to preserve endangered languages. Language learning apps, dictionary databases, and collaboration platforms are making these languages more accessible, documenting them for future generations, and empowering linguistic communities to lead their preservation efforts. Partnerships between technologists and linguistic communities are essential for creating sustainable solutions that respect and promote linguistic diversity.

As technology continues to evolve, so too will the tools available for language preservation. By harnessing the power of software and digital platforms, we can ensure that endangered languages are not only saved from extinction but are also revitalized and celebrated. Through these efforts, we honor the rich cultural heritage that languages represent and contribute to a more inclusive and diverse world.