How AI Will Save Languages From Going Extinct?

Artificial intelligence is revolutionary, but will it help save languages from extinction? Learn more in this blog.

Languages are rapidly disappearing all across the world. According to statistics, about half of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken around the world are endangered, with many tribal languages and cultures expected to disappear by the end of this century. This problem has far-reaching effects since the loss of a language implies the erosion of cultural diversity, traditional knowledge and distinct ways of experiencing reality. Can AI bring a solution to this existential threat? Learn more in this informative blog from

Why are languages going extinct? Can AI save languages at risk of extinction?

The reason behind the language crisis is as follows:

  • Globalization and the domination of key languages

  • Urbanization and the movement away from rural and Indigenous communities

  • Lack of inter-generational transmission of endangered languages

  • The rise of cross-cultural marriages at a large scale affects communities

  • Limited funding and resources for language preservation activities

The basic causes of language extinction are varied, but they frequently come from the unstoppable forces of globalization. As major languages like English, Mandarin and Spanish continue to dominate the global stage, smaller indigenous languages struggle to compete.

Urbanization has also played an important influence, as younger generations relocate to cities, abandoning their traditional, language-rich areas. Without persistent intergenerational transmission, endangered languages gradually diminish from use, placing them at risk of extinction completely.

Adding to the difficulty, many endangered languages lack the institutional backing and resources required for preservation initiatives. Underfunded educational systems, limited access to technology and a lack of language documentation and revitalization efforts all contribute to the decline of linguistic diversity. Without concerted action to solve these structural concerns, mankind's linguistic legacy will be facing an uncertain future.

How will AI save languages from going extinct?

In the face of this impending crisis, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology have emerged as formidable allies in the struggle to rescue endangered languages.

Researchers and language preservation supporters are exploring creative solutions to document, rejuvenate and resurrect endangered languages by harnessing artificial intelligence capabilities.

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Here are a couple of large-scale applications of AI that can prevent the extinction of languages.

  1. Automated language documentation

One of the most potential AI applications in this field is automated language documentation. AI-powered techniques can quickly capture and preserve endangered languages, resulting in extensive digital archives of vocabulary, grammar and linguistic structures.

These digital repositories not only preserve linguistic legacy but also serve as crucial resources for language revitalization projects, aiding communities to reclaim and restore their original tongues.

  1. AI-powered language learning and teaching tools

Beyond documentation, AI is transforming how endangered languages are taught and learned. Artificial intelligence-powered language learning platforms can provide individualized, adaptive training adapted to individual learners' specific needs and competence levels.

These AI-powered solutions use speech recognition, natural language processing and machine learning to provide immersive, gamified learning experiences that engage users and speed up language acquisition.

Furthermore, AI-powered multilingual translation and interpretation capabilities are reducing obstacles to language instruction by allowing students to access materials and resources in their home language.

This democratization of language acquisition enables people of endangered languages to reclaim their ancestral tongues, despite cultural influences that may have previously hampered intergenerational transmission.

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AI-powered innovation to save languages from extinction

Several programs have shown the potential of AI in language preservation. In Iceland, the government has worked with OpenAI to employ GPT-4 to preserve Icelandic, a language with deep cultural significance that is under threat owing to digitization.

Researchers from IBM and University of Campinas students in Brazil have created a working prototype of an AI-powered writing helper for Nheengatu. This program can translate words, give meanings and construct phrases in Nheengatu, English and Portuguese. Surprisingly, this was accomplished with a training dataset that was far smaller than usual for such models—just 7,000 Nheengatu-English sentence pairs.

The project is a component of a larger initiative to modify large language models (LLMs) for low-data languages. The goal of the AI-powered writing assistant is to facilitate people's learning and usage of Nheengatu by promoting its use in digital communication.

In New Zealand, the Māori community constructed a speech-recognition model for te reo Māori with only a few hundred hours of data, demonstrating AI's capacity to assist even languages with little resources.

Google has launched what may be the most ambitious AI project to help save languages from extinction.

Google's Woolaroo project employs machine learning to teach and preserve languages such as Yiddish and Louisiana Creole. The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) has collaborated with Google to transcribe and develop AI models for Indigenous languages using TensorFlow machine learning technology.

TensorFlow, Google's open-source AI engine, can successfully employ hundreds of hours of data. AI models have already been created for six Australian Indigenous languages: Bininj Kunwok, Kriol, Mangarayi, Nakkara, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri and Wubuy, with another five languages spoken in the Asia Pacific being added.

OBTranslate is another exceptional program that uses AI to rescue endangered languages, with a particular focus on African languages. The company runs on two models: the business side charges fees for document translation services, while the Data for Good (D4G) side relies on crowdsourced contributions from volunteers. This network of statisticians, data scientists, language experts and native speakers works together to develop algorithms and data sets for more than 2,000 African languages.

OBTranslate collaborates with university research teams to build translation AI, ensuring that models are both accurate and culturally appropriate. Volunteers play an important part in this process, bringing their experience and knowledge to improve the quality and scope of the linguistic data collected. This crowdsourcing strategy not only helps to preserve languages but also promotes a sense of community and shared responsibility for cultural assets.

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Calling things off!

The future of AI in language preservation will be determined by the collaborative efforts of technologists, linguists, scholars and communities to develop models that not only recognize and translate languages but also respect and maintain the cultural settings in which they are utilized.

Many potential apps and projects are already making progress in this area, but there is much more work to be done. If you have an original idea for how AI can further assist rescue endangered languages, please share it in the comments section below. Our AI Authority team is constantly ready to discover new viewpoints and write about cutting-edge breakthroughs with the potential to have a substantial influence.

Additional resources

Using AI to save dying languages

AI to preserve languages at risk

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