"While you won't have any trouble finding a way to learn Spanish, French, or German in the United States, brushing up on your Lakota or Navajo isn't so easy.
The Endangered Language Fund projects that half of the languages spoken on earth will disappear in the next century, and Native American tongues are among them. The Administration for Native Americans reports that when the U.S. was founded, more than 300 Native American languages were spoken. That number has since dropped to 175, and only 20 are taught to children. The rest, it says, “are classified as deteriorating or nearing extinction.”
In 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 websites as well. LiveAndTell has no upfront participation fees; users can sign in and start creating content immediately...."