Wikitongues: documenting the world’s languages

Wikitongues has been on the go since 2012, but I heard about it just recently. It’s a project aimed at documenting linguistic diversity and exploring identity, in the form of short videos of people speaking different languages and dialects – about 50 at the time of writing.

Based in New York, the project is spread across social media websites: Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and YouTube, the last of which may be the easiest place to browse the videos. Speakers talk about themselves and their languages for 30 seconds to 18 minutes, though most videos are around 1–4 minutes long. A few have transcripts.

Sites like Ethnologue, Omniglot and WALS offer detailed information on many of the world’s several thousand languages, but there’s always room for a project like Wikitongues, whose participants are engaging and interesting to listen to. Complete multilingual transcripts (or subtitles) would be a welcome addition.

If you’re interested in taking part, or know someone who might be, this Facebook update invites new participants:

Want to be a part of Wikitongues? Send us a message and we’ll arrange a recording session. Not in NYC? No problem! Find Wikitongues on Skype and we’ll interview you online.

Here are four videos, chosen more or less at random from the full set:

Stella speaking Russian, English, and Armenian:

Stephen speaking Gikuyu:

Lolly speaking Zulu:

Mark speaking Luxembourgish:

Hat tip to Omniglot.

Update:

In a follow-up post, Lauren at Superlinguo assesses Wikitongues’ merits and compares it with similar sites, some of which (Glottolog, Language Landscape, Endangered Languages Project) I’d neglected to mention. She questions the “gatekeeper bottleneck” of a site named Wikitongues, but says it wins points “for its focus on speakers of languages and the rich intersection of language, identity and personal history”. Be sure to read her full post.

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8 Responses to Wikitongues: documenting the world’s languages

  1. Sean J. says:

    Interesting. Nice. Even lovely. [I like Lëtzebuergesch]. However, I do still boycott Mr Sugarmountain’s Gesichtsbuch. :)

  2. Stan says:

    Sean: I enjoyed hearing Luxembourgish too. It’s a country I’d like to visit properly, since I’ve passed through it but never lingered.

  3. nataneva says:

    Reblogged this on Course Blog-1603 and commented:
    A very interesting and informative post! Thanks. I particularly enjoyed listening to the Russians – their stories are quite revealing and reflect rather well the recent history of Russia.

    • Stan says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, nataneva, and thanks for sharing the post. Yes, I like the personal and cultural aspect of the videos; it lends them an appeal that more abstract or arbitrary topics might not.

  4. John Cowan says:

    I’m going to be recording my dialect of American English next week as well as (possibly) some Lojban.

  5. […] Wikitongues: documenting the world’s languages […]

  6. thnidu says:

    Bottleneck is right! Go there, and what the heck is it? I just posted this through the only access the website offers:

    So what IS this site? You don’t have an About page or any real explanation or description. When I click on the only link that seems like it might be informative— the one labeled “…”— the screen goes dark, with only “Help us translate this page” at the top, and when I hit the browser’s BACK button I’m back at the page I came here from (http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/wikitongues-documenting-the-worlds-languages/). Not very welcoming at all.

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