Endangered languages on YouTube

Without a doubt, one of the greatest gifts that the Internet has given us is access to information that previously was in the public domain but inaccessible. As a young boy (with a scientist for a father) I remember dreaming with jealousy, wistfulness and excitement about visiting institutions like the British Library, London’s Natural History Museum, The Smithsonian or The Louvre – basically anywhere with a sense of grandeur, coupled with learning opportunities that were a combination of history, art, science and spectacle.

There’s no denying that a lot of these institutions held such regard in my young mind because they were also foreign – how or when was I going to get the opportunity or time to go to Europe or the Americas? If I went with my parents, how would I convince them that I could spend a week in each?

While it lacks the frisson of the unattainable, Google’s efforts to preserve endangered languages on YouTube does now give access to the other attractor: the information. Songs, spoken word and non verbal communication methods from Siberia, Papua New Guinea, Africa and South America are featured – including Tuvan throat singing, which had arguably already been immortalised using the tried and true method of associating itself with the best self documentation movement around – punk.

In a funny way, it reminds me of visiting the doctor’s surgery as a child, but instead of out-dated and dated-looking National Geographic magazines (which remained fascinating regardless, like Grandma’s fifteen year old encyclopedia set), we have this Enduring Voices project, we have Fotopedia‘s Heritage project for mobile platforms (ok, that’s more a desire than a reality – it’s only available on the Apple platform, #boohiss), Flickr’s Map and Interesting Photos and, of course Wikipedia.

Imagination food has never been so easily accessible – I wish I was as time rich as I was twenty years ago.