Microsoft provides access to technology to 1 billion speakers of endangered languages

It’s been duly noted that to succeed in the 21st century, people need technology skills and training to become full global citizens. Everyone should be able to participate without having to give up their local language.

In support of UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day 2010, Microsoft is announcing it will offer dozens of new languages for the new releases of Windows, Office, and for the first time, Visual Studio.  I wrote about the importance of language and the role technology can play to help keep indigenous languages relevant over on the Microsoft On the Issues blog.

The work is part of Microsoft’s Local Language Program where the goal is to find new ways to create economic opportunities, build IT skills, and preserve local languages, traditions and ancient knowledge. From an education perspective…not only does it help students realize the power of technology, but it can start to build a culture in a community around technology’s usage, and how it can change not only classroom environments, but also employable workers who have ICT skills.

In the rainforests of Peru, for example, more than 7 million people honor their Incan ancestry by speaking the ancient language. Software programs in Quechua make it easier for people who might find language one more barrier to cross in the seemingly insurmountable digital divide.  By having something in the language that they speak…instead of having to learn Spanish…they are able to only need to learn the technology, not another language at the same time.

You might be surprised to learn that a language dies out every 2 weeks. If you are interested in learning more…check out this video on how the Inuktitut language in Northern Canada is also being saved…and what experts have to say about how educating children on their native language can help bring it forward to the modern world.

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