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For Rare Languages, Social Media Provide New Hope


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One of the reasons some indigenous languages are endangered is that increased connectivity through the Internet and social media have strengthened dominant languages such as English, Russian and Chinese, says Anna Luisa Daigneault of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Endangered languages stand a greater chance of survival when they are used online.

"Having a Web presence for those languages is super important for their survival. Social media are just another connection point for people who want to stay connected to their language," says Daigneault, Latin America projects coordinator and development officer at the institute.

Today, Facebook — the world's most popular social networking site — is available in over 70 official languages. The list includes indigenous languages like Cherokee and Quechua. This year, Facebook says it launched 13 news languages, including Azerbaijani, Javanese, Macedonian, Galician and Sinhala.

Facebook users can request a new language through the website; if there is enough demand, the language will then appear in thetranslations application and the Facebook community can begin translating the interface.

Does Facebook auto translate between languages like Google does?

In certain cases, yes. They've had a program so users can help translate. It seems to have given them a competitive advantage with translations, especially that people have such highly engaging conversations, over-time, on Facebook.

That's a fascinating thought, that Facebook brings the world together by translating between languages.

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