6 Creative Ways to Save Endangered Languages Before They Disappear

Each year twenty-five languages die out, but these groups are developing creative ways to keep other endangered languages from becoming extinct.

View as Slideshow

Translate “Star Wars”

Translate “Star Wars”Tristan Ahtone/Fronteras
Thanks to Navajo Nation Museum director Manuelito Wheeler, members of the Navajo tribe can now hear "May the force be with you" in their native tongue. In an effort to preserve the endangered Navajo language, which has gone from 178,000 to 169,000 speakers since 2003, a team of five translators worked with Lucasfilm to dub Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, making it the first-ever film in the Navajo language. It premiered at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, Arizona, on July 3, 2013.

Track Tweets

Track Tweetsindigenoustweets.com
Kevin Scannell, a mathematics and computer science professor at St. Louis University, is attempting to save dying languages 140 characters at a time. Scannell scans Twitter to identify words and phrases that could be from endangered languages; so far he has identified more than 100 of them. Findings posted on Indigenoustweets.com allow speakers of Basqu, Haitian Creole, Cymraeg, Tamasheq, and other dialects to create communities around their shared tongue.

Create a New Rosetta Sone

Create a New Rosetta SoneThe Long Now Foundation's
A panel of linguists, digital-etching experts, and artists are the creators of the Rosetta Disk, a three-inch nickel disk etched with 13,000 microscopic pages in 1,500 different languages. They've taken an intentionally analog approach to preserving endangered languages; the waterproof disk can withstand high temperatures and is resistant to electromagnetic radiation. You also don't need a computer to read it, though you do need a microscope.

Content continues below ad

Go Shopping

Go ShoppingMandy Migues
Colonization of Louisiana in the early 1700s lead to the development of several distinct French dialects in the state, including the Cajun French, Colonial French, and Louisiana Creole French that are still spoken today. To preserve this piece of Louisiana history, a group of French-speaking young professionals has organized a "piestres en masse," or cash mob, to patronize French-speaking or French-friendly businesses such as bakeries, supermarkets, and cafes on the third Saturday of every month.

Get Immersive

Get ImmersiveJack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock
In an effort to save British Columbia's aboriginal languages from extinction, the First Peoples' Cultural Council created the Master-Apprentice Program in 2008. Masters of the dialects are paired with novices for a three-year, 900-hour immersive study, during which they speak only the native language (no English allowed). Upon graduation the apprentices become masters, passing the native tongue on to others.

Make It Art

Make It ArtZoe Brookes
Tim Brookes doesn’t understand the languages he carves into maple planks, but his art (endangeredalphabets.com) helped the indigenous children of the Chittagog Hill Tracks in Bangladesh learn to read and write in their native language. Brookes, who carves words, phrases, and poems in various alphabets to raise awareness of endangered languages, worked with a Marma educator and other artists to create the first school books in the indigenous tongues of Bangladesh.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you the newsletter each week, and we may also send you occasional special offers from Reader's Digest. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.

Fields marked with an * are required
Foods That Harm Foods That HealWant a Free eBook?
FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL offers important information about the role diet plays in the struggle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Answer the question below to receive your FREE digital eBook.

Someone in my household experiences the following conditions:

Send me a link to download FOODS THAT HARM, FOODS THAT HEAL:
By clicking below, I agree to the Trusted Media Brands Privacy Policy