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Think Out Loud

Saving the Siletz Language

Pete Springer/OPB

By the end of the century, half of the 7000 languages in the world may disappear. That’s one language dying every 14 days. Linguists say indigenous languages are dying due to the trends of a globalizing world, like increased migration and urbanization. But the Athabaskan language of the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians may have found some unlikely help in another major force of globalization: the internet.

The Siletz are cataloging their language by saving over 10,000 words and phrases in an online talking dictionary. They hope the free and simple database will help make the language easier to learn for those who want to speak it in the present day. And they hope that if the language continues to disappear, the dictionary will preserve the Athabaskan words for future generations to be able to access and resurrect.

What’s the role of technology in keeping traditions alive? Have you seen projects similar to the Siletz talking dictionary? How did they work?


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