Duolingo should help save languages
What really would be cool is if Duolingo had Navajo. Although with only some 170,000 speakers I think it would be hard to add to Duolingo. Although it would be awesome and challenging. Duolingo would also be such a help to save the dying language.
What are your thoughts?
A long time ago (years), Duolingo announced that they would support 5 endangered languages. It was highly hoped by some that there would be Native american languages… and one was released (from South America): Guarani (for Spanish speakers). From Europe, there are also Welsh and Irish. And Hawaiian is in the incubator.
"We were very keen on getting started with Native languages right away and were working with the White House on an agreement to promote it but it got very bureaucratic on their end and fell through, unfortunately. While Duolingo really cares about protecting languages and helping teach heritage languages, we are still focused on growing our user base. Because of that... we can't really launch a course unless it has real potential to help us grow either through a large user base or through media. With regards to Native American languages, it'd have to be through media exposure and it will be hard to achieve that without the support of a large entity like the White House."
(Sorry, I cannot find the original post announcing the idea of supporting endangered languages.)
Why is the world were they looking to the US federal government to help Native languages? For one, Native nations are sovereign and anything involving their culture and language should include them first and foremost. Plus the US government has a very awful record of relations with Native peoples, and more specifically in recent years, right wing groups like the Goldwater Institute have been trying to gut the Indian Child Welfare Act, which in part protects Native peoples' right to raise to raise Native children in their own cultures and languages. And since, right now, those people's political party is in charge, so many Native peoples are very worried that they will succeed. Going to the US government for assistance with promoting their cultures seeing almost like a bad joke done is extremely bad taste.
Actually, since Duolingo is free and they have difficulties to be financially sustainable, I think they are looking at anybody that can give them money.
So, I'm pretty sure they looked at other possibilities. But they had an agreement with the White House (which, obviously, has a lot of money) which finally didn't work (and what you are explaining is probably the reason it didn't work, no real interest from the US government, too many conditions, …).
I don’t know if there was ever a discussion here written by a Duolingo employee with such an announcement, but there was a discussion with the contents of an e-mail from Duolingo regarding five “dying languages” (not necessarily all indigenous North American languages), and Dr. von Ahn made a brief reply to a question on Quora.
Duolingo should also support other dying languages shown here https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/apr/15/language-extinct-endangered
Oh, I didn't realise Scots was considered endangered in any way. Not as surprised about Scots Gaelic, though.
For the time being, I would only learn endangered Germanic languages.
I don't have the time for other endangered languages at the moment and will not for some time.
At least Yiddish is quite likely to be added somewhere down the line.
Low Saxon, Scots and Elfdalian (which is not on the website because Sweden sees it as a "dialect") would be a feast but I would be happy with any endangered Germanic language.
I would be happy if Duolingo added more endangered languages, but I don't think it should their mission. Why? Because these are community languages and many of these communities have long histories of being mistreated and their culture appropriated by dominant cultures, which often discriminate against them as well.
Additionally, a Duolingo course would not address the historical reasons why their languages are endangered within their own communities, which is a complex issue wrapped up in very sensitive politics that I'm sure mods here would get very frowny and dyspeptic over if I started talking about. But feel free to seek out Native activists involved with language revival. They will be more than happy to tell you about that.
No endangered language has ever seen its future course reversed by people outside of their community learning their language. That's just not how language revival works. It has to start with the communities for whom the language is part of their identity as a people. Because language revival must include that language's community. these communities' self-determination, including the future of their languages, is something the rest of us should respect.
I study a little Navajo on the side, but I do so carefully and with the knowledge that there are Navajo who don't want non-Navajo people like me learning their language and that is absolutely their right Their language is core to the preservation to their identity as indigenous people of this land, which most people here on Duolingo who have asked for a Navajo course cannot claim to be. That identity is sacred to them and if one day they so choose to share their language via Duolingo with the rest of us, we should be grateful and humble about it. But until they do, let them decide what's best for the future of their language. Being non-Native people who think we know what's best for Native peoples and their cultures is not the side of history we should aspire to be on.
Great post--I agree with your points about Native peoples making their own determinations about their languages.
Out of interest, what is your method of studying Navajo (carefully, and with full knowledge of the implications thereof)? Do you use particular resources?
I teach in a summer program with a lot of Navajo high school kids, and some of them tried to teach me a few Navajo words and phrases. Unfortunately, I'm not in much contact with them during the year, but I would love to know a little more Navajo to speak with them next summer.
I feel that Not only Navajo could come but also languages like Cherokee, Creek, Iroquois, and Ottawa. I would like to learn a Native American language especially the fact that I live in Oklahoma.
Oh that would be so awesome! I for one live native american languages. That would be sooooo cool.
It would be nice to have such languages, but it's not Duolingo's mission or job to save endangered languages. It might be hard to find speakers of them anyway.
I personally speak Navajo, and, although it has few speakers, it is not endangered. There are many endangered languages. http://www.endangeredlanguages.com/#/4/67.588/-221.557/0/100000/0/low/mid/high/unknown
Okay, you have all made your point. Duolingo should not focus on endangered languages and focus on more requested languages.
This is really dependent on how many are still speaking the language, how often it is being used on a day-to-day basis and whether or not is it being passed down for the younger generations. As English is a global language which is becoming a requirement for work, many languages can be lost due to native language speakers learning more and more English in order to maintain a secure job. This can lead to a language being used less and less as time progresses, which can lead to it dying out. Once a language dies, it is impossibly hard to revive. Getting more people to learn languages of smaller communities can definitely help save a dying language but it's all about the number of people and how often it is being spoken.