Digital technology often gets accused of accelerating the rise of English at the expense of other languages, but according to a piece on the BBC Technology pages, the internet could be the salvation of endangered languages. As the article mentions, North American tribes use social media to re-engage their young, for example, and Tuvan, an indigenous tongue spoken by nomadic peoples in Siberia and Mongolia, even has an iPhone app to teach the pronunciation of words to new students. Many languages become extinct owing to the geographical isolation of the few remaining speakers. Social media and the internet both facilitates communication, acts as an oral and written repository of knowledge of the language and as the article points out, just as importantly, helps the endangered language to appear cool and relevant to the next generation.
As a coda to this story, this week's Economist has published an article, Embracing the Future, which looks at some interesting case studies from around the world of where technology has had a positive impact in preserving endangered languages.