Our language in your hands

Public interest design is about listening to people; learning about their customs, traditions and daily routine. It is about understanding what they desire from their surroundings and working together to create something compelling and life changing.

So what better way to listen than in their own language? After all, to miss the point is to demand they speak our language, whatever that may be?  Isn't it?

Unfortunately, many of these remotely spoken languages are becoming increasingly endangered - threatened to extinction as Mandarin, Spanish and English bulldoze along, and ultimately nullify them. It would be terrifying to think that, in the present day of global communication, we would neglect to save them, with all the tools in hand to prevent that? We would have failed to listen and to effect a change. A public interest change. 

Dr. Mark Turin is an anthropologist, linguist and broadcaster. Co-located between Cambridge and Yale Universities, Dr. Turin is a warrior for language preservation and all that comes with it: the history, the culture, the pride. I was lucky enough to hear him speak a few weeks ago in New York City and was inspired by his passion and his dedication to documenting endangered languages. Through social media, through making and reviving recordings of native speakers, and through the painstaking creation of the first dictionaries for some of these isolated cultures, Dr. Turin hopes to open a dialogue with some of the most remote villages in the Himalayas.

In doing so, he will save an invaluable part of their lives: their words.

Listen to the BBC programme for an insight into Dr. Turin's work in South Africa, or visit his website for more videos and current projects.


Author: B. Ashbridge