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MCB Natt (Photo by Simon Brandseth)

This is a lightly-edited transcript of remarks given at a reception for Fulbright Norway grantees at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Oslo, February 2019.

I am an associate professor in the School of Communications at Elon University, a private, mid-sized, masters-level institution in North Carolina. I’m affiliated with a graduate program in interactive media as well as undergraduate programs in communications, all intentionally designed to be both intellectually rigorous and professionally focused. Elon is nationally known for excellence in teaching, experiential learning, and global engagement. …


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By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Breaking the spiral of silence for minority languages with an emoji

Last year, William J. Moner and I asked several hundred Irish people — mostly secondary and university students, and learners of Irish as a second language— about how they used the Irish language in social media. One of our findings is that many learners avoid using their language in public social media. Learners are more likely to use their Irish in private contexts such as a personal exchange on WhatsApp than in public contexts such as a Twitter or Instagram post. …


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Image courtesy Wikitongues.

r12n Profile: Daniel Bogre Udell and Frederico Andrade of Wikitongues

This story originally appeared at r12n: technology and language revitalization.

Wikitongues founders and directors Daniel Bogre Udell and Frederico Andrade have embraced an ambitious mission to document — and teach — every language in the world. And by “every language,” they really mean every language, including those estimated 3,000+ languages that are unwritten, the world’s 300+ sign languages, and even constructed languages (conlangs) like Esperanto and Lojban. Skepticism about such grand claims is natural, but it’s worth reviewing the project’s work over the past several years, work that may yet warrant such optimism. …


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Battle for Wesnoth (Scottish Gaelic localization). Image courtesy iGàidhlig.net, © 2017 Battle for Wesnoth, licensed under the GPLv2+.

12 tips for free software localization for minoritized and indigenous languages

r12n recently published an article on the work of GunChleoc, project manager for the strategy game Widelands and free software localization expert. Here are her tips on how to start a localization initiative for a language of few speakers:

1. Translate free software.

It is much easier to get your locale added, and you can contact the developers directly if you are having any issues. It is usually also a lot easier to get to test your translation.

2. When looking at a piece of free software, make sure that it has an active developer and user community.

Then you…


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Widelands, Scottish Gaelic localization. © 2017 The Widelands Development Team, licensed under the GPLv2+.

r12n profile: Free software localization with GunChleoc, Chieftain of Widelands

In the strategy game Widelands, the player begins as the chieftain of a small settlement. The player guides the development of the settlement from a single outpost building into a sprawling commercial empire. In many ways, Widelands resembles the game series The Settlers which first appeared in 1993. While the latest version of The Settlers can only be played in English, Widelands can also be played in dozens of other languages: global languages such as French and Spanish, national languages such as Bulgarian and Finnish, and even several languages of fewer speakers such as Catalan, Galician, and Esperanto. …


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Image courtesy Wikitongues.

r12n Profile: Daniel Bogre Udell and Frederico Andrade of Wikitongues

Update: a version of this article has been republished by Global Voices, and translated into Español, Français, Italiano, and Português.

Wikitongues founders and directors Daniel Bogre Udell and Frederico Andrade have embraced an ambitious mission to document — and teach — every language in the world. And by “every language,” they really mean every language, including those estimated 3,000+ languages that are unwritten, the world’s 300+ sign languages, and even constructed languages (conlangs) like Esperanto and Lojban. Skepticism about such grand claims is natural, but it’s worth reviewing the project’s work over the past several years, work that may yet…


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r12n Profile: Marc Bogonovich of Openwords

Update: This story has been republished by Global Voices, and translated into বাংলা, Español, Português, and русский.

Learning a language is a challenging endeavor. Digital technologies have been developed over the last several decades to aid the process, ranging from (probably) familiar platforms like Rosetta Stone to immersive virtual environments. In recent years, the web and mobile app Duolingo has risen to prominence by developing a novel learning model that focuses on maximizing user engagement. While Duolingo is free to use, it is not “open” in the sense that it can broadly invite users to collaborate and contribute. Duolingo learning…


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Blue sky over Sitting Bull College on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (North Dakota), June 2016.

Names given to new concepts provide glimpses into history and culture.


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Northern Lights over Reykjanes Peninsula Sea Stacks by Diana Robinson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A Pirate Party takeover has been years in the making, and Icelanders have already embraced the Pirates’ brand of more direct democracy.

Update 30 October 2016: The votes are in, and the Pirates came in third with 14.5% of the vote, a lower percentage than recent polls suggested. Voter turnout was a historic low. This is still a massive success for the young party, leaving the Pirates with control of 10 of the parliament’s 66 seats.

As Icelanders prepare to elect a new parliament today, it appears probable that the Pirate Party will gain sufficient seats to head the new government. Although their name may ring a bit whimsical to outsiders, the Pirates’ call for “direct democracy, transparency, civil rights, the right…


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Rural County Galway, Ireland in January 2016.

Designing mobile technology for indigenous and minority language users

Update: this story has been republished by Global Voices, where you can also read it in Italiano and Français.

Last summer, an Irish woman named Caoimhe Ní Chathail sent her mobile phone company a tweet to let them know that she was having some trouble using their website. For months, the site had been rejecting her name as “invalid” because it contained an accented Irish letter (í). The mobile company’s response was to ask if Caoimhe could just use the “English version” of her name. This very public exchange caused a minor uproar on Irish Twitter: an Irish company seemed…

Derek Lackaff

civic technology | languages of few speakers | social and antisocial media | @EloniMedia faculty

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