An app to save indigenous languages from the risk of extinction

There are currently 2680 indigenous languages at risk of extinction: this is why the United Nations declared 2019 to be the International Year of Indigenous Languages (#IYIL2019).

A few months ago, in an article from the STUDIOTRE blog (, we already addressed this issue which is particularly close to our hearts because every language preserves a people’s identity, culture, history, traditions and memory.

Which criteria help determine whether a language is endangered?

According to experts at UNESCO, the criteria which determine when a language is endangered are:

  • intergenerational language transmission;
  • absolute number of speakers;
  • proportion of speakers within the total population;
  • shifts in domains of language use;
  • availability of materials for language education and literacy;
  • governmental and institutional language attitudes and policies, including official status and use;
  • type and quality of documentation written in a specific language.
Technology comes to the rescue of indigenous languages

The good news is that – thanks to an idea by several researchers at the University of Groningen (Netherlands) – a project has been set up to save local languages.

What is it? Stimmen fan Fryslân (translated: “Voices of Friesland”) is an app which lets users record expressions in Frisian (a Germanic language spoken in the southern coastal areas of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany), creating a real database that now has over 46,000 words and phrases.

Inspired by the Dutch, Australian researchers at Macquarie University created Coo-ee (which means “Come here” in Aboriginal), another app whose goal is to collect as much information as possible on indigenous Australian culture and language.

Alongside these two apps, other initiatives have been set up online with the goal of preserving local languages:

  • the translator Michael Bauer created a Gaelic version of the Opera, Firefox and Chrome browsers, the Thunderbird email program, OpenOffice, LibreOffice and VLC media player;
  • while Kevin Scannell created Indigenous Tweets and Indigenous Blogs, two websites that let minority language speakers see people who tweet or write articles in their own language in order to strengthen these language communities’ presence online and beyond.

If you know of any other projects created to save languages and dialects at risk of extinction, then send us an email ( or write on our Facebook page (


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