July 02, 2011


LiveAndTell, A Crowdsourced Quest To Save Native American Languages

By Paul GladerIn an attempt to preserve endangered indigenous dialects such as Lakota and Ho Chunk, South Dakota-based programmer Biagio Arobba has built LiveAndTell, a user-generated content site for sharing and learning Native languages. It can work for any language, but his passion is to preserve the endangered tongues you won't find in textbooks, language programs, or widely taught in classrooms. "For Native American languages, there's a scarcity of learning materials,” Arobba says. “Native American languages are in a crisis and we have not moved very far beyond paper and pencil methods.”

Arobba, 32, is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe. He built LiveAndTell as an efficient, easy-to-use way to pass the Lakota Sioux language (and others) from older generations to younger ones. An accompanying Facebook page is intended to introduce the languages to a broader audience.

LiveAndTell lets users create "audio tags" for pictures, similar to tagging on Facebook or Flickr. An audio recorder allows a Lakota speaker to record a message with each picture. They can also post a series of audio or text below each picture. In essence, it’s Flickr meets Rosetta Stone. The pictures and album can be embedded into other web sites as well. LiveAndTell has no upfront participation fees; users can sign in and start creating content immediately.

As LiveAndTell expands, Arobba is working with area tribes to integrate the web site into tribal sites, and is running workshops so Lakota speakers can learn how to input photos, audio, and text. He's planning mobile versions for the iPhone and Android platforms. He's also collaborating with Oglala Lakota College and others to apply for National Science Foundation funding.

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