What is Wikitongues?


By: Harriet Cook

In our latest series on the different languages spoken in Italy we included links to videos on YouTube made by an organisation called Wikitongues. Given how useful these videos were in compiling the blog posts and getting a feel for languages like Piedmontese and Sicilian, in this week's post we have decided to look more closely at Wikitongues as an organisation, what it aims to achieve and how it has grown.

Wikitongues, a non-profit organisation based in Brooklyn, New York, is, according to their website, 'building the first public archive of every language in the world' 'to empower community activists'. They write that their 'work empowers people to share their languages with everyone, making linguistic preservation easier than ever' and they also state that they are committed to publishing open source technology that can help communities experiencing language loss preserve their language. To this end they have created a tool called 'Poly' which aims to streamline 'the process of creating and sharing dictionaries between any two languages'. Poly was initially crowdfunded on Kickstarter and you can read more about their campaign here.

Another of their aims is related to language activism. They join together with organisations, institutions and communities across the world 'to promote better language services and increase cultural awareness around the world'. Having read the information they include on their website, Wikitongues' primary aim seems to be to fight against language loss. Their definition of language loss as 'a catastrophic tragedy on an intimate, human scale' is particularly striking and highlights their concern not only for the words and grammars that make up a language, but the communities that use specific languages also. If you would like to read more about why Wikitongues does what it does, you can do so here.

As of August 2018 their YouTube channel has almost 34,000 subscribers. The videos they upload here are published under a Creative Commons License which means that the general public can reuse their videos for personal, cultural or educational purposes.

If you would like to watch their introductory video, you can do so below:

The most popular video on Wikitongues' YouTube is one of Caroline speaking both Gullah and English and you can watch it here:

Finally, if you would like to take a look at the Wikitongues' YouTube page or sign up to receive updates when they post videos of new languages, you can do so here.

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