GRANT #346:

7000 Languages

05/13/2019
A Support System For Dying Languages

When Alexa Little first learned that thousands of languages were disappearing, she was deeply moved. She started with a high school “Bake Sale For Languages” and went on to Yale to study endangered languages. Alexa’s passion for language revival (and computers) led her to a breakthrough solution.

The big idea? Help Indigenous communities create free online lessons to teach their endangered languages and their culture. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy. For example, there is only one fluent speaker of Benhti Kenaga’, a native Alaskan language (94-year-old Sarah Silas.) As executive director of 7000 Languages, Alexa has been helping Sarah and her community create an online language-learning course for Benhti Kenaga’. This work also helps people to connect to their cultural identity. Young people who learn the language of their heritage seem to have higher self-esteem and do better in school. (We learned about these benefits from AWB Grant 301, Saving the Lakota Language)

7000 Languages courses are available free because the software is donated by Transparent Language. But Alexa still needs to pay for some of the basic hardware. Our AWB grant will help Alexa continue to work with Indigenous communities to develop their own language and culture lessons.

Check out 7000 Languages! If you’re a language lover, you’ll want to try learning a few words in a language you never heard of before. Perhaps you’ll take the three-lesson free course in Koasati when it’s released on June 7 (it’s a language spoken by the Coushatta people of Louisiana), after which you will be able to express your gratitude to 7000 Languages by saying “Aliilamo!” (Thank you)

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