According to UNESCO, at least half of all languages spoken around the world are on track to disappear by the end of this century. Most of these languages are spoken by indigenous populations whose number of native speakers get smaller with each generation. New technology can help preserve these native tongues: A social media campaign launched in 2013 aimed to preserve the Sami language of northern Europe, and a 2016 interactive web game focused on the Marra language of aboriginal Australians. The latest of these efforts comes from Google Earth, and it promotes not one, but 50 threatened languages.
As Smithsonian reports, the Celebrating Indigenous Languages project allows Google Earth users to listen to audio clips of languages as spoken by their native speakers. Just head to the webpage and select one of the markers on the world map to hear people respond to different prompts.
Rahamatu Sali of Cameroon recites her favorite proverb in Fulfulde: "For who does not see what is happening today, cannot see what is going to happen tomorrow." Bivuti Chakma of Bangladesh tells listeners how to say mother in Chakma, and in Canada, Aluki Kotierk sings a traditional song in her native Inuktitut. The platform also includes brief descriptions of each language, including the level of threat it faces.
The languages sampled for the project are just a fraction of all the endangered languages spoken on Earth. Of the 7000 languages spoken today, roughly 4000 of them are limited to indigenous communities. Various efforts are being taken to preserve disappearing languages, but sharing them with a wide audience online is one simple way to raise awareness of the issue.
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Will flags fly out of your mouth when you achieve fluency? Well, no.
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TL;DR: Rosetta Stone is offering up to 45 percent off subscriptions from now until July 1.
Rosetta Stone has been the go-to program for many language-learning enthusiasts since its launch in 1992. Whether you’re considering taking up a new language to prepare for a future vacation or just to pick up a new hobby, here’s a quick guide to what it is, how it works, and what you could gain from becoming bilingual (or multilingual).
What Is Rosetta Stone?
After you said your very first word, your parents almost definitely didn’t hand you a textbook filled with long vocabulary lists and essays on grammar rules. Instead, they probably built up your language skills by doing things like pointing at a dog and saying “Dog.” Before long, you could say “Mom, can we get a dog?” without ever having been aware that you were learning a language.
Rosetta Stone is a subscription-based service founded on the premise that learning a new language should be just as easy. Basically, it’ll pair a word with an image, speak the word out loud, and then ask you to choose a similar image that corresponds to that word from a few options. It’s sort of like your mom pointing at a dog, saying “Dog,” and then asking you to point out the next dog you see. As the lessons progress, you’ll build on that vocabulary until you’re choosing images that match phrases and sentences, and then having full-fledged conversations into your device's microphone.
Since the goal is communication, Rosetta Stone never makes you memorize grammatical dogma—after all, when you’re asking your waiter in Italian which meals are dairy-free, they’re not going to make you identify the prepositional phrase in your sentence before they answer. Just like you did as a kid, you’ll subconsciously pick up grammar and syntax patterns in your new language and echo them without even realizing it. There’s also speech precision technology that recognizes parts of your accent that could use a little work (and it’s adjustable, so you can lower it to your ideal level of nitpicky-ness).
What Are The Benefits of Learning a New Language?
The benefits of learning a new language extend far beyond helping you convey your dietary restrictions in restaurants abroad. In terms of mental exercise, it’s a little like circuit training for your brain. Studies have suggested that bilingual speakers’ ability to juggle more than one language at a time makes them better multitaskers, and it’s possible that learning a new language could even help protect against Alzheimer’s or dementia.
And, of course, it could help you catch a translation error that might otherwise cause you, your company, or your country some serious problems (or at least a moment of embarrassment). When KFC opened its first store in Beijing in the 1980s, for example, their famous “Finger-lickin’ good” catchphrase was mistranslated as “Eat your fingers off.” Ford Motors had a similar problem in Belgium, where a campaign that was supposed to boast that “Every car has a high-quality body” ended up reading “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” Though nothing quite beats President Jimmy Carter’s 1977 visit to Poland, when his interpreter translated “when I left the United States” as “when I abandoned the United States,” and “your desires for the future” as “your lusts for the future.”
What Does It Cost?
Now through July 1, you can purchase a lifetime Rosetta Stone subscription for $199 (instead of the usual $299). While that’ll get you the best bang for your buck, the monthly deals accommodate various levels of commitment: a three-month subscription is $11.99 per month; 12 months costs $7.99 per month; and you can sign up for a two-year subscription for $5.99 per month. There are 24 languages to choose from—including Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and more—and you can find out additional details about all their deals here.
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