By 2100, more than half of the 7,000-plus languages spoken on Earth—many of them not yet recorded—may disappear. When the last speaker of a language dies, the world loses a wealth of information about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain.
Between 2007 and 2013, National Geographic’s Enduring Voices project, a collaboration with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, worked directly with indigenous communities to document endangered languages and prevent language extinction. Using the Language Hotspots model developed by the Institute’s linguists, Greg Anderson and David Harrison, the project team identified places on the planet with the most unique, poorly studied, and threatened indigenous languages. When invited, the team also assisted indigenous communities in their efforts to revitalize and maintain their threatened languages, providing technology and training.
By 2013, the Enduring Voices project had completed 15 expeditions, from Australia to South America to India to the California coast. Working with local communities on more than 100 languages, the project team documented the geographic dimensions of language distribution, identified links between biodiversity and linguistic diversity, and recorded and catalogued translations of words and phrases as a resource to help communities teach their native language to the next generation.
Visit the Enduring Voices YouTube channel to see and hear members of participating communities share their endangered languages.
(Please note that the links above are archive pages. Archived content may contain dated information and broken links.)