Researchers at the University of Melbourne have created a free app that lets speakers of endangered languages, whether encountered by academics doing field work or self-selected in networks of colingual neighbors and friends, use relatively cheap Android phones to record their speech. After the sound file is uploaded, people anywhere can listen, stop the playback at any point and record voice translations of the sentences into another language. The translation sound files are linked to the source sound files in the database, creating a vast verbal Rosetta stone that doesn’t require literacy to accomplish preservation and sharing. This archive of vocabulary, grammar and content—tales and histories—will be available for future linguists to explore, centuries from now.
In an interview about the project on Australian ABC Radio National, Dr. Bird said once the person demonstrating the software has explained how it works, it is older people especially in the village who are delighted and start recording story after story in these rare languages.
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