New Google app can help preserve endangered languages

By making photographs of objects, you can learn an indigenous language. Image: The Keyword

Google has released a new app that can help to preserve endangered languages. Via the “Woolaroo” app, users can learn ten disappearing languages by taking pictures of objects. Besides offering a new learning tool, the app provides a way for indigenous communities to preserve their heritage.

Woolaroo supports ten languages from across the world: Louisiana Creole, Calabrian Greek, Māori, Nawat, Tamazight, Sicilian, Yang Zhuang, Rapa Nui, Yiddish and Yugambeh, Dutch news website reported. Since these languages have not been spoken frequently for decades, they are in danger of being forgotten. The app should prevent that.

Modernising ancient words

An essential feature of the app is its open-source basis. This allows indigenous communities to preserve and expand their language word lists in the app. They can also add audio recordings to help with pronunciation. “Woolaroo puts the power to add, edit and delete entries completely in their hands”, writes Yugambeh Museum CEO Rory O’Connor in a Google blog post on the release of the app.

It can be especially difficult to try to describe modern items using Indigenous languages

O’Connor also hopes the app will help endangered indigenous languages to “modernise” their vocabulary. “It can be especially difficult to try to describe modern items using Indigenous languages like Yugambeh”, he explains. For example, the word “fridge” does not exist in Yugambeh. “So we say waring bin – a cold place. The same with a telephone – we call it a gulgun biral – voice thrower.” 

Woolaroo is one of the many apps from the Google Arts & Culture platform, which has grown in popularity during the coronacrisis. If you want to know more about its features and how the tech giant is getting involved with heritage, you can read this article.

Source: (Dutch), The Keyword and Woolaroo

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