By Doug Meigs
For the uninitiated, Twitter is a micro-blogging service that allows users to write and read short text messages called “tweets.” Each tweet is limited to 140 characters. Scannell’s website aggregates Twitter users who write in minority languages. He started with a list of 35 languages, which grew to almost 100 within two months. Twitter users can go to his website, view a list of other users writing in their own Native language, request to “follow” individuals, and then begin receiving their tweets.
IndigenousTweets.com began when Scannell wrote a computer program to cross-reference Twitter messages with statistical data for minority languages. His website names languages by their Native names. For example, Navajo is listed as Diné bizaad, i.e., “Navajo language.” Click into the language and relevant Twitter users are listed on a second screen. The site then ranks Twitterers based on various criteria, such as number of tweets and percentage written in the language.
In addition to Navajo, other North American indigenous languages on the website include Delaware/Lenape, Lakota, Inuktitut, Mi’kmaq/Micmac and Secwepemctsín. IndigenousTweets.com features a cornucopia of minority languages worldwide, including some nearly extinct languages such as Gamilaraay from eastern Australia (the website notes one Twitter user who wrote a single tweet in Gamilaraay).