It amazes and angers me so much that languages across the world are being undermined and going extinct at such a high rate because of the online world.

There is no justifiable reason that all languages aren't provided for digitally. "Big-tech" makes billions and they can't spend thousands to pay translation and localisation to help the world.

Instead it's English 1st, major languages 2nd and everyone else waits for scraps.

I think if you truly believe in environmentalism, decolonialisation, anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism you're pro-indigenous languages.


Indigenous languages inherently have local knowledge. They actively support local communities and sense of place. They often have a totally different perspective on the world allowing different views on how to conduct life.

Capitalism enforces everyone using the same language because it is easier to data-mine and make money. The pittance it'd cost to implement languages across the world would reduce its rampant profiteering.
Reduces sense of community which pushes people to spend more on products that fill the gap although fleetingly.

@athairbirb hmm. on the other hand, I was able to learn (a bit of) Gàidhlig because of the online world. I would probably never have done that otherwise. But that's probably only a small drop in the bucket.

@daniel_bohrer for sure, that's the good aspect of digital world. My irritability comes when the larger-companies don't make it easy for non-English sites to exist. I've got Gàidhlig as my prime language on Firefox and so many sites don't provide for it, in terms of site navigation etc.

That doesn't begin to get near Speech-to-Text or Text-to-Speech which is always closed-source (if provided at all).

@daniel_bohrer I remember the story of Icelandic, they wanted help to translate sites etc into Icelandic. They weren't getting very far at all and they, eventually, went and did it themselves because the majority of the Icelandic websites etc were English (if memory serves)

@daniel_bohrer @athairbirb Personally I'm of the opinion that a global language is good and I've made a lot of use of knowing English well. But that shouldn't mean the lingua franca replaces other languages in every sphere, which is what is problematic in multiple ways. This is also not only an English specific problem, as standardised languages are erasing non-standardised varieties and minority languages in all countries, either openly intentionally or not. E.g. "dialects" of Italian peninsula are disappearing, historically very large languages like Occitan, Provençal, etc. of European southwest have almost disappeared, Standard Turkish has overtook almost every regional dialect and language in Turkey, with Kurdish being a large but slowly receding exception.

@cadadr @daniel_bohrer In agreement with most of what you've said there.

It's a real shame that so many dialects are in retreat. I truly believe they add flavour to their locality that the standardised dialect cannot give.

@athairbirb I never considered this and I really love the perspective, especially the idea that remaining localized adds a richness that globalization can't touch. I agree that our differences are the point of the world and are to be celebrated, but this is a new angle on that. Tapadh leat

@thesunshinesushi 's e do bheatha! I really think it does add a richness that globalisation removes. High Streets, so I hear, used to be different in majority of the towns and cities you visited (in Scot and GB anyway) and now they're somewhat identical.
I think there's a sense of location and what makes a place somewhere and not just anywhere, in the different shops.

Like the local non-chain coffee shop has a different vibe to one in the next town over but every McDs is the same.

@athairbirb I'd never considered it from a data mining perspective. I always just figured it's easier to make deals with people you can understand.

@Magess From my reading that's part of the reason for it. If you're writing in a language that the ad-brokers don't understand they can't advertise accurately.

Being understood is likely a large factor too, perhaps the biggest. There're only a handful of people here who know Gàidhlig for example.

I think there's linguistic imperialism going on too, if everything's already in English it promotes English as the default state you're less likely to use other languages that you may know.

@athairbirb If that's the case, is it really a good idea to call on big tech to develop text to/from speech software for these languages?

@grainloom honestly, I've no idea. I think they should be funding it as a matter of course. Whether that is by them or via an institution that's more open I'm not knowledgeable enough to say.

I think it'd be amazing if language provision was funded without big tech but I can't see that happening. It's not easy to translate stuff, it's thankless and it's really tedious work.

@athairbirb However, today, the extinction rate of indigenous languages is not driven by prohibitions but by the speakers themselves often discarding their languages for very pragmatic reasons. Language use is opportunistic. You do what works for you. You use the language that helps you to get understood or to get you the info you are looking for. So if you want to preserve a language, you need to preserve the sphere where it is naturally used. (cont)

@athairbirb (cont) Indigenous languages cannot be effectively protected in isolation from the rights to self-determination, land, territories and resources, because with your land you loose precisely that place where the language is still naturally used. You cannot supplant that by e.g. Wikipedia editions in indigenous languages. They will only be used and maintained by a few language enthusiasts, but they will have no measurable effect on the number of speakers

@johannes I think I'm in disagreement with the majority of what you've said there.
Prohibitions are still in place and hold over from decades prior. The pragmatism is driven by those prohibitions (Gàidhlig for example is not prevalent online in-part because it is not available on the majority of sites).

One cannot self-determine if there is only one option. That's often viewed as pragmatism too, because it's the easy option and doesn't allow for choice.


@johannes this article covers a tract of that with regard to Irish:

The argument about isolation etc, is exactly why indigenous languages should be provided for.
An example of this would be Lewis where Gàidhlig is still a regular language being spoken but is facing pressure from English because online spaces, where communication is predominantly held, do not provide for Gàidhlig.
This isn't pragmatism, it is prohibition.


@athairbirb Thanks for the link! The article seems to make the same point as I do:

To preserve the language, you have to protect the spaces where it is used. Individualized "staged Irish" doesn't do the trick. The article talks nether about online spaces, nor about prohibition.

Maybe a source of confusion was that I was thinking about indigenous peoples, such as the native peoples of the Americas or of the Russian Arctic, for whom land rights & self-determination are core issues of concern.

@johannes I may have misunderstood earleir. I was linking that, in part, to show that keeping languages alive has been placed entirely in the hands of speakers and there haven't been provisions to speak it in their area.

Land-rights and self-determination is something of a hot topic in Scotland currently, most definitly the Highlands. I'm unfamiliar with regard to Russia and only surface aware in the US with indigenous peoples struggles.

@athairbirb Thanks. As for Russia, take the Nenets, a people of 40,000, one of the very few indigenous languages not threatened by imminent extinction. Why? Because many still live as nomadic reindeer herders in small communities where their language is the vernacular. But this space is under massive threat by the gas industry so it gets ever harder to defend what they have. I have said some words about this during a recent webinar, just in case you are interested:

@johannes many thanks for sharing that! It's an area of interest for sure.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

This is a Mastodon instance primarily intended for (but not limited to) users in Scotland or who identify as Scottish.