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How To Learn Sign Language

How can we keep Earth’s 7000 languages? | Michael Quinlan | TEDxTacoma

Translator: Alina Siluyanova
Reviewer: Denise RQ Good evening. My company, Transparent Language,
has developed unique technology that we want to give away
to people and organizations that are working
to save endangered languages and the world’s other
under-supported languages. According to the Ethnologue, there are about 7,103 different living languages on Earth. About a 100 of those
get any significant attention from the commercial world. The other 7,000 are largely ignored, and actually many of them
are at risk of completely dying out, doing a lot of social damage
in the process. Transparent Language would like
to prevent that language loss, but even more – as crazy as it sounds – we would like to make it
so that if somebody wants to learn one of those 7,000 languages, they can. So, how could you possibly do that? I mean, how do you even find and connect with so many dispersed and
out-of-the-way language communities? Our answer is the 7000 Languages Project. There are people
and organizations who know a lot about these 7,000 languages
and care about them. Some care about all such languages, some just about languages
of a particular region, or certain language family,
some just about one language. And the idea of the 7000 Languages Project is to make available to all
of these people and organizations, at no charge, a shared best of breed
technology infrastructure that will allow them
to create and then disseminate awesome, tech-enabled
language learning materials; materials that are specially designed
for fast and reliable language learning, and it will work on just about
any computer, or tablet, or smartphone. The learners then could be a community’s
own children and grandchildren, who might be at risk
of losing their own native language, or the learners could be anyone, anywhere. So, these students in Bali, Indonesia,
are educated in Indonesian, but they can also learn Balinese using some compelling
Balinese learning software from the BASAbali 7000 Partnership. These good women
revel in speaking Ojibwe, and they and their colleagues
are making compelling Ojibwe language learning software as part of the Grassroots
Indigenous Multimedia 7000 Partnership. So, we think of the 7000 Languages Project as having two big parts,
the technology and the people, and the Project is bringing them together. The technology is the systems
that allow someone to easily make high quality language learning materials for a language of no commercial interest. The people are all these organizations,
and advocates, and experts who care about and know about less-common languages
and endangered languages. The purpose of the Project is to bring the people
and the technology together with energy and with sufficient support, so that their work creating
language learning materials is successful. And because there is no money
associated with these languages, it all has to be done free of charge. The technology is one of the big pieces, one of the two big things
that you need to bring together to have this project happen, and that’s why Transparent Language, in particular, is doing
the 7000 Languages Project. We already have that technology, we developed it for a different customer
and a different purpose, but we already have it, and we bring this technology with us
to the 7000 Languages Project. So, Transparent Language’s
primary business is inventing innovative
technology and capability to support the U.S. Government’s most rigorous and stringent
language learning schools and programs; programs that teach over a 100 languages, and where the success
of every student is critical. The U.S. Government needs many of its people to have
strong language capability in order to succeed at diplomacy,
defense, humanitarian relief, science, health, commerce, and on and on. Sometimes, we hire people
who have the languages, but often we train our professionals
in the languages they need. Busy professionals have no time, so we needed ways to train
languages faster, much faster, to train in half the time, and Transparent Language develops
the systems and the capability to do that. We’re not talking about just one
little language course in each language, like you might see on some TV ad
for consumer software. Our systems need to be able
to efficiently create effective technology support
for every purpose of a language, every course of instruction, sometimes dozens of courses for one language in a single organization. Sometimes, in an extreme example,
but one that happens regularly, we need to suddenly create lots of varieties of job-related
language learning materials with almost no notice,
and create them immediately. This is something
that we call “language surge”. So, imagine, as we’re here,
some disaster occurs out in the world: a flood or an earthquake,
infectious disease outbreak. So, you maybe remember
the Haiti earthquakes of 2010, the Pakistan floods
that followed later in that year; perhaps, the Pacific tsunami
that hit Fukushima. When something like that happens, the eyes of the U.S. Military
turn to that region, and we begin moving people and material. It’s very impressive and inspiring. And, as a part of that,
hundreds of Americans or thousands may suddenly need to learn
a job-related language in a language that yesterday
they didn’t know they would need. So, here is the cool overlap
between language surge, which we think about
as a part of our business, and the 7000 Languages Project,
which we do pro bono. People who are working to save
or invigorate some less-common language, have almost exactly the same needs
as a surge language team, that is rapidly pumping out
job-related language learning materials to help responders. The surge team
is in much, much more of a hurry, but they both need
simple, clear, efficient systems to create these language
learning materials, materials that are specifically designed for faster and more reliable
language learning, and that will work on
just about any device that you bring. And that overlap of interests
between these two is really good news
for the 7000 Languages’ people. Transparent Language,
we are pleased, thrilled even to take the systems we’ve developed
for our paying customers and provide them at no charge
to the 7000 Language team. We’ve done that with a lot of languages: Ojibwe and Balinese,
and many other languages; our people love doing it. The only problem
is that we’re a small company, we can only work
with a few language teams at a time. So, to break that bottle neck we invented the concept
of the 7000 Partnership, and the partnerships
are the key to scaling up this work. The 7000 Partnership
is a company, or organization, that cares about languages
and that is willing to dedicate some of its people
to learning our systems, learning how to train
others in our systems and then to work with them. Now, the 7000 is young, but we already have
some great partnerships: the National Council
Of Less Commonly Taught Languages, and they are NCOLCTL 7000 Partnership; the Maryland Language Science Center, and the Langscape 7000 Partnership,
the BASAbali 7000 Partnership, Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia
7000 Partnership, The Manitoba First Nations,
Kurdish Language and Culture; one too new to be up there, the Alpha Edge Western African
Languages 7000 Partnership, and we hope to have many more. So, Transparent Language, instead of directly supporting
the language teams, we support the partnership,
and the partnership supports the team. And this way, we hope to be able to help thousands of languages,
instead of the limited number that we would have been able
to support directly. Losing a language is like pulling out one more thread
from the human tapestry. It flattens our cultural landscape. Losing a language can’t be undone. Saving a language saves an important part of who we have been, and who we are. It keeps us colorful, it keeps us strong. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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