» Joint UNESCO-Talkmate Partnership for the development of World Atlas of Languages
08.07.2016 - Communication & Information Sector

Joint UNESCO-Talkmate Partnership for the development of World Atlas of Languages

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UNESCO and Talkmate host a launch event to celebrate the beginning of a new and exciting partnership on the development of the World Atlas of Languages. The joint partnership aims at developing an innovative and scalable ICT-supported model to access data on linguistic diversity around the world, encourage collaboration among different stakeholders and raise awareness on the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism for sustainable development.

Building on the existing UNESCO’s Atlas of Languages in Danger, a new online collaborative platform “World Atlas of Languages” will provide a wide range of technical and collaborative facilities to different stakeholders to access and share own data on linguistic diversity, information about good practices, existing language teaching and learning solutions, and host user-generated content and discussions.  This work will be done bearing in mind that language has the capacity to reconcile the ideas and values of people from diverse cultural, social, economic, religious and professional backgrounds. It is a key contributor to dialogue, reconciliation, tolerance and peace, as well as matters for sustainable development.

The question of language revitalization, maintenance and promotion is complex and multilayered. Many language revitalization efforts were taken by the national and local authorities around the world to provide support to the lesser used language communities. Numerous language documentation initiatives were launched by academia to document language and relevant resources as well as support speaker communities with new language tools. Yet, much more has to be done. The UNESCO Atlas of Languages in Danger includes data from nearly 2,728 out of some 6,500 languages in the world. Documentation of language is not easy as the data provided by different stakeholders is not accurate and reliable, varies from source to source regarding those languages which were not yet properly documented or on which information is not shared among its bearers. Moreover, the situation of languages varies in different countries. Therefore, efforts are required for their revitalization, maintenance and promotion, which demand focused and adapted solutions. At the same time, there has been a renewed interest in safeguarding linguistic diversity as a vehicle of development. Moreover, the role of cutting edge Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is growing in language documentation, revitalization and inter-generational transmission. ICTs are vital educational and communicational tools helping communities, public and private organizations to provide access to information and knowledge to all citizens.

That being said, the UNESCO and Talkmate launch event brings together a number of leading scientists, governmental officials, public and private organizations, UN organizations, as well as civil society to raise awareness of all stakeholders on the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism for sustainable and inclusive development. Accordingly, the thematic roundtable on “Language matters for development” assesses the current situation of linguistic diversity, identifies existing challenges and new opportunities arising from scientific and technological development, and exchanges the scientific information among higher educational institutions, national public institutions on linguistic diversity. It furthermore evaluates the application of languages in different domains and aims to create a new institutional network working on language issues.

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