Monthly Archives: November 2013

Meeting the Endangered Language Alliance and Wikitongues

Meeting the Endangered Language Alliance and Wikitongues

Recently I met with two Daniels to hear about their language projects.

Daniel Kaufman is the Executive Director of the Endangered Language Alliance.  There’s an excellent New York Times profiles of its work here.   As ELA’s website says, “Hundreds of the world’s languages are down to just a few speakers, and a significant percentage of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages are set to vanish before the end of the century.”  ELA  works to document and preserve those languages – largely in New York City which is a major hub for them.

ELA recently launched a series of events called “Unheard of” featuring live poetry and oral literature in endangered languages.  The first was in September at the Bowery Poetry Club on the Lower East Side.  It focused on five Indonesian languages.  Here’s Queens resident Rose Monintja reading at that event in her native language Tontemboan, which is spoken by around 100,000 people.  She is reading a creation myth called “The Story of Lumimuut and Toar”:

And PRI’s The World reported on the event here.

I also met Daniel Bogre Udel of the Wikitongues project.  Founded earlier this year, Wikitongues is gathering videos of people speaking all of the world’s languages.

Here’s an example of one of the many videos already on the Wikitongues YouTube page.  Tatenda speaking Shona, a Zimbabwean language:

Watch this space for future collaboration between ELA, Wikitongues and the “I live here” mural project: as a first step we are hoping to record speakers of indigenous Mexican languages in Jackson Heights.