India’s Endangered Languages Need to Be Digitally Documented

Every two weeks, a language dies and with it, a wealth of knowledge forever. In India alone, there exist more than 780 languages. The rate at which languages are dying here is extremely high as over 220 languages have died in the last 50 years. In India, 197 languages are categorised as endangered. These are further divided into four subcategories – vulnerable, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered – by the UNESCO.

Out of these 197 language, only two languages – Boro and Meithei – have official status in India while many others do not even have a writing system. When one takes into account the fact that 7.8 million Indians are visually impaired, there is a drastic need to use digital tools to preserve and grow India’s endangered languages. While there has been some effort to do the same for the 22 recognised official languages of India, the remaining languages have not received any focus.

The recent death of a language like Eyak confirms that more often than not, a language dies with the death of the older members of a tribe.

The endangered languages – which mark 96% of the total number of languages in the country – and indigenous languages of India largely lack accessibility tools. In fact, accessibility tools for most Indian languages are not affordable and are proprietary in nature.

Read more: The Wire

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