What we’re doing for International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL)

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6,500 languages are spoken around the world. However, only a few have received the official status or have digital resources that help the native speakers to express themselves in their own languages using digital mediums. UNESCO estimated that almost half of the world’s languages are dying in a century’s time unless we work our ways to protect them. As languages play a core of a society, it’s important to preserve them and one couldn’t have asked anything better than the Internet as a tool to do so. To celebrate the diversity of indigenous languages and to promote them online, UNESCO declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL).

Thanks to Rising Voices, a project at Global Voices—we were fortunate to be invited to a preparatory international UNESCO conference on the “Role of Linguistic Diversity in Building a Global Community with Shared Future” at Changsha, China that was organized in 2018. OFDN’s director of innovation and co-founder Subhashish Panigrahi attended the conference and presented a talk titled “Rising Voices: the Digital Possibilities for Marginalized Languages” during which he shed light on our flagship project OpenSpeaks, and contributed to a very important proclamation known as the Yuelu Proclamation that aims at identifying the challenges and opportunities with the promotion of indigenous languages while recommending best practices for governments and other key stakeholders across the world.

What it really means for your language if you speak any of the indigenous languages?


The whole year of 2019 is going to be eventful—with local communities organizing campaigns, projects and other initiatives, to UNESCO and other partners organizing many global initiatives for the same singular goal of helping grow indigenous languages.

  • UNESCO has listed a range of activities in their official IYIL portal.
  • We were honored to be one of the official partners of the IYIL campaign and we started contributing to many of the initiatives supported by UNESCO and started several on our own.
  • We have recently migrated our Multimedia Toolkit for Language Documentation from the OpenSpeaks website to Wikiversity, a sister project of Wikipedia that allows for creation of collaborative curriculum and Open Educational Resources (OER).
  • We recently started the Marginalized Community Council, an online working group consisting of activists and other key stakeholders who are working on marginalized issues. The first meeting will commence on August 9 to celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a United Nations event to raise awareness about indigenous groups around the world.
  • Rising Voices, Digital Empowerment Foundation and ourselves have recently joined hands to start a Twitter-based weekly curation called @AsiaLangsOnline where we will invite activists who are working towards digital activism on indigenous languages to tell their stories to the rest of the world. The campaign will start officially on Aug 6 and our Subhashish Panigrahi will be the maiden host.

    What it really means for your language if you speak any of the indigenous languages?

    The whole year of 2019 is going to be eventful—with local communities organizing campaigns, projects and other initiatives, to UNESCO and other partners organizing many global initiatives for the same singular goal of helping grow indigenous languages.

    • UNESCO has listed a range of activities in their official IYIL portal.
    • We were honored to be one of the official partners of the IYIL campaign and we started contributing to many of the initiatives supported by UNESCO and started several on our own.
    • We have recently migrated our Multimedia Toolkit for Language Documentation from the OpenSpeaks website to Wikiversity, a sister project of Wikipedia that allows for creation of collaborative curriculum and Open Educational Resources (OER). You can help grow this OER, translate into your language and even fix any mistakes that we might have left. It’s openly-licensed and is open for the community to use, share and edit.
    • We recently started the Marginalized Community Council, an online working group consisting of activists and other key stakeholders who are working on marginalized issues. The first meeting will commence on August 9 to celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a United Nations event to raise awareness about indigenous groups around the world. Please reach out if you’re an activist who is currently growing digital resources online and are interested to join us.
    • Rising Voices, Digital Empowerment Foundation and ourselves have recently joined hands to start a Twitter-based weekly curation called @AsiaLangsOnline where we will invite activists who are working towards digital activism on indigenous languages to tell their stories to the rest of the world. The campaign will start officially on Aug 6 and our Subhashish Panigrahi will be the maiden host.

Stay tuned! More to come here!!

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