Last week, I published a review of indigenous language mobile applications on my personal blog, Global Native Networks. In it, I review over ten mobile apps developed to help teach endangered and marginalized languages. Rising Voices picked up the piece and republished a version on their site.
I raised several doubts regarding the efficacy of such tools in reviving languages:
Regardless of the format of these apps, it is important not to view technology as a closed system, but instead a tool both effected by and affecting networks of people, places, and social norms. Mobile apps alone will not “save” endangered languages, as headlines often assert; cultural restoration work cannot depend on a string of code. Mobile technology can serve as a tool, although arguably not the most powerful, in a portfolio of language conservation efforts. Communities have to be excited about language-learning before they are excited about language-learning apps.
As Mark and I emphasize, technology is never itself a silver bullet to reverse the cultural erosion and sociopolitical marginalization of indigenous peoples worldwide. However, it is good to see traditional language and knowledge packaged into new media formats so that logging onto a mobile device does not mean signing out of your culture.
Feel free to comment with other interesting indigenous mobile technology projects.[Mark’s note: Here is a link to the growing list of language apps featured in the Ethnos Project Resources Database]