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Every two weeks a language dies. Wikitongues wants to save them.
Many of the world's most remote languages are in danger of disappearing. Here, neighbors in the Altai mountains in China craft a new pair of skis.
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The range connects Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, making the threatened Altai language an unusual blend of dialects. On a residential block at the border between Brooklyn and Queens, Gottscheer Hall appears like a mirage from Blue awnings advertise the space for weddings and events. Nowadays, there are years with only a single contestant in the pageant. Belay has been coming to Gottscheer Hall since he arrived in America more than 60 years ago. Then, the neighborhood was filled with refugees from Gottschee, a settlement that once occupied the highlands of modern-day Slovenia.
Every Christmas he leads a service in his year-old native language that few understand. Belay and his sister, year-old Martha Hutter, have agreed to let year-old Daniel Bogre Udell film them having a conversation.
Saving the World's Dying and Disappearing Languages
They walk past the dark wood bar of Gottscheer Hall serving pretzels and sausages, and they climb the stairs to an empty banquet room. Bogre Udell sets up his camera and the siblings begin to banter in their inscrutable Germanic mother tongue. Hearing such a rare language spoken on a residential block of Queens is not unusual for Bogre Udell, the co-founder of a nonprofit called Wikitongues.
Since he has decided to record all of them, the melting-pot metropolis is a natural launching point. In , they launched an ambitious project to make the first public archive of every language in the world. Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century.
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Read about what happens when a language dies. In rare cases, political will and a thorough written record can resurrect a lost language. Hebrew was extinct from the fourth century BC to the s, and Catalan only bloomed during a government transition in the s. The internet has connected rare language speakers with each other and with researchers.
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An ethnic German from the region of Gottschee poses for a portrait in Today, few still speak the language. One volunteer in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu recorded a language that had never before been studied by linguists. Someone looking to learn Tuvan, a Turkic language spoken in Siberia, can download the app to their phone.
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