https://www.duolingo.com/Larkspire

Icelandic (and up to 20 other languages in Europe alone) facing "digital extinction"

  • 25
  • 19
  • 11

I thought others might appreciate this interesting article in The Guardian today about a problem being faced by Icelandic, and many other languages.

Essentially, because the vast majority of the internet is in English, speakers of smaller languages increasingly have to use it in their day-to-day lives. It costs companies at least the same amount to translate to Icelandic (just over 300,000 speakers) as it does to translate to French (230 million) or Portuguese (250 million), so usually it doesn't happen. And when it does, the translations are apparently so frustratingly poor that most Icelandic speakers just use English anyway. Since youth in particular spend so much of their lives online - and because the Icelandic economy relies so much on tourism, and barely any of the tourists speak Icelandic - many of Iceland's young people know English better than they know Icelandic, and some disengage with Icelandic altogether because they just don't see the point.

I think this is a huge shame - and also an excellent opportunity for Duolingo to help meet a need (or several) and fill a void (or several).

11 months ago

9 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/ExSquaredOver2
  • 25
  • 24
  • 23
  • 13
  • 12
  • 426

The thing is that not all languages can have success on the internet - for the exact reasons you have described. I do think, however, it is sad that Icelandic is being forgotten in daily life in the youth of Iceland. I believe that the languages of even the smallest amount of speakers carry a unique culture that defines who we are, and we should fight to preserve them.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/exp271828
  • 25
  • 15
  • 7
  • 7
  • 25

That was a powerful article; thank you for sharing it.

Not sure if I can say this well or not, but here goes ...

I believe language is an art, in the same sense that painting or sculpture or music is an art. Our ability to use a language says something about where we are now, in the same way that the music, paintings, and sculptures of today do. They provide us with a mental vision of what life is like right now. They show us ourselves as we are, as we might wish to be perceived, or as others might see us.

Sometimes art inspires us; it makes us want to do something, to go somewhere. Just sayin', one of the many purposes of art is to show us who we are, and provide us with a sense of direction. Language and art can both be visualized as tools, to help us achieve this end.

Some music and art has been preserved. For this, I am profoundly grateful. I have seen petroglyphs on canyon walls, and tried to imagine the people that made them. I can listen to Bach, and feel something about the times and circumstances in which he lived. I can listen to Gershwin, and imagine the sounds of New York City in the early 1900's. I see modern art, hear modern music and language, all around me.

Music and art have changed over the ages. They show both the best and the worst of where we are now, and where we have been. Languages change too. My hope is that somehow, someway, the best of all these things will be preserved, and will be incorporated as part of our future. And it causes me some sorrow to know that there are beautiful things in all these, that will be lost to the future.

I doubt that people who are addicted to cell phones today, are happier or better than the rest of the world's population. A cell phone can be a wonderful tool, but it makes a lousy master. You use tools to do the job at hand - whether that job is necessary simply to survive, or to create or preserve something that brings you pleasure.

For me, survival alone is not enough. To paraphrase something I've read somewhere, it's not about the number of moments you're breathing, it's about those moments that take your breath away - those are the things that make us truly alive.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HalJam
  • 25
  • 25
  • 22
  • 1428
11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/psionpete
  • 25
  • 23
  • 21
  • 21
  • 19
  • 6
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 1845

Duolingo’s main raison d’etre was to use crowd sourcing to translate the internet. Only a couple of years ago it had a couple of large contracts to translate their web sites and a spin off was the Immersion facility where users could upload and translate pages from various sites.

Unfortunately, it was never really a successful and viable business model hence the Advertising and Subscription options.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MissSpells
  • 25
  • 23
  • 16
  • 15
  • 14
  • 13
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 8
  • 6
  • 6
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3

I did not use duolingo during the famous golden age of translation, so I don’t know what I am missing. I did however, recently listen to Luis Von Ahn’s Ted talk https://www.ted.com/talks/luis_von_ahn_massive_scale_online_collaboration/up-next in which he originally introduced the idea of duolingo and the concept behind it. I found it really inspiring. It seems that duolingo has changed direction, and I don’t blame them for wanting to stay profitable/ viable, but I can’t help but wonder what ever happened to the original goal of translating the web.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MissSpells
  • 25
  • 23
  • 16
  • 15
  • 14
  • 13
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 8
  • 6
  • 6
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3

Recently I wrote a post about why Duolingo might be improved if it were open source. https://www.duolingo.com/comment/26246912/Could-should-duolingo-make-its-software-opensource. There were good pros and cons given in the discussion, one of the pros being that open sourcing would make it easier to foster the developement of small languages. From what I gather however, it does not seem duolingo will head in this direction, because it would not be viable for them. Curious, I wondered if anyone else had the same idea, and I found Openwords. http://www.openwords.com Openwords is an open source language learning project, where users can contribute to and build courses. It seems to me that it is still in the beginning stages. They crowdsourced their funding and I think the site is still being developped. I am not affiliated with this site at all, however I would encourage anyone who has an interest in the and/or the skill the contribute to minority languages, to check out Openwords, as it seems like it might be able to fill the minority language gap that Duolingo does not have the resources for.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
  • 25
  • 1634

Following the link in The Guardian’s article to the META-NET press release (from September 2012), the language rankings are based upon four criteria: machine translation, speech processing, text analysis, and speech and text resources. Note that none of the examined languages earned an “excellent” ranking, and only English earned a “good” ranking in any of them. It seems to me that predicting a language’s spoken extinction based only upon these criteria’s rankings in the digital realm would be reading too much into it; for example, Croatian earned a “weak/no support” ranking in three of the four criteria, but there doesn’t seem to be the same wringing of hands about the potential demise of spoken Croatian.

Links to the studies for each of the examined languages are on META-NET’s Key Results page.

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/betarage
  • 13
  • 13
  • 12
  • 12
  • 12
  • 11
  • 11
  • 11
  • 11
  • 10
  • 9
  • 9
  • 9
  • 8
  • 6
  • 6
  • 4
  • 3
  • 675

The problem is that there are not enough Icelandic people i was surprised when i learned there are only 300.000 people living there i thought there where at least a few million

There are more people that speak welsh and basque than Icelandic i actually noticed that some languages have become bigger online over time in the early days it was all english and maybe a little bit of Japanese and german but now i see a lot more Languages but the smaller european languages can't grow but i don't think it will get extinct as long as Iceland will stay independent

11 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Grimnir99

Icelandic is the one language I was hoping Duolingo would offer a course for that it doesnt already. Id love to learn it but unfortunately it is hard when there are so few sources on it

11 months ago
Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.