According to Unesco, as many as half of the world's 7000 languages are expected to disappear by the end of this century, but a new platform from Google Earth might offer these languages a lifeline.

Google Earth has released a new platform called Celebrating Indigenous Languages. Image by Google Earth.

 The United Nations declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness about the world's 2680 Indigenous languages and their important contribution to global diversity. In many parts of the world though, these languages are set to disappear. Some vanish in a flash, with the death of the only surviving speaker. Others can phase out gradually over time as they're overcome by a country's primary language in school, the workplace and TV. It's hoped that new technology can help preserve these languages such as Google Earth's new platform: Celebrating Indigenous Languages

The new project allows Google Earth users to listen to 50 native tongues included in the Unesco Red Book of Endangered Languages. You can head to the webpage and click on one of the locations on the world map to listen to native speakers offer traditional greetings, sing songs or say common words and phrases in their language. "It is a human right to be able to speak your own language,” says Tania Haerekiterā Tapueluelu Wolfgramm, a Māori and Tongan person who works as an educator and activist in Aotearoa - the Māori name for New Zealand - and other Pacific countries. "You don’t have a culture without the language."

 The platform can be accessed on mobiles and laptops. Image by Google Earth.

Tania is one of several dozen Indigenous language speakers, advocates and educators who helped create the tour. Another contributor is Wikuki Kingi, a Māori Master Carver, who recorded traditional chants in Te Reo Māori, an Eastern Polynesian language indigenous to New Zealand. He says, "Speaking Te Reo Māori connects me to my relatives, to the land, rivers, and the ocean, and it can take me to another time and place." In order to expand the programme, Google is looking for more contributors to share their native languages. If you'd like to get involved, you can post your interest here. In the meantime, you can support organisations like Global Reach Initiative & Development Pacific, which uses technology to connect far-flung Indigenous communities to their traditional communities or the Cree Literacy Network, which publishes books in Cree, a First Nations language, and English to keep the language alive.

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