Polyglot Indonesia x Wikitongues : Collaboration for Local Language Preservation in Indonesia

Two online communities have joined forces to combat language loss in Indonesia. They are Polyglot Indonesia and Wikitongues.

Kunto Nurcahyoko
Jun 20, 2018 · 4 min read
The Belangin Language, spoken by the Dayaknese community of Pakuraya Village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia is listed by UNESCO as endangered.

Language is a vital element of human civilization. Without language, it would be nearly impossible for someone to create meaningful communication and interaction. Keeping the existence of language is important to everyone, especially the current generation. Due to the influence of technology and communication development in today’s dynamic globalization, there are a lot of languages in the world experiencing shifts. Hence, language loss could happen if there is no action taken to keep these languages in the world, especially in Indonesia.

Based on data from the linguistics department of the University of Indonesia, the nation is one of the countries with the highest language diversity in the world, with 742 languages spoken. UNESCO states that there are 137 local languages in Indonesia which are endangered (Prasetyo, 2012). However, many languages have begun to disappear because of at least two reasons: 1) lesser speakers of the local languages, and 2) the lack of information for linguists to optimally conduct language conservation.

This sad truth produces the emergence of efforts and commitment from various parties preserving the existence of local languages in Indonesia. Thankfully, the Internet is not just a homogenizing force — it can aid in language preservation, too. To that end, two online communities have joined forces to combat language loss in Indonesia. They are Polyglot Indonesia and Wikitongues.

About PolygIot Indonesia and Wikitongues

In order to aid in the conservation of local languages in Indonesia, PI will cooperate with Wikitongues, a non-profit community of 800 volunteers, spread over 70 countries, working to preserve, empower, and promote every language in the world. Based in New York City, USA, Wikitongues creates a platform for international volunteers to make language documentation frameworks more accessible. They are building the first archive of every language and dialect in the world, focusing on oral histories. The organization also develops open source technology as part of cultural exchange to achieve this goal.

Collaboration between PI and Wikitongues is a commitment from the grassroots level to implement language conservation so that local language loss in Indonesia can be stemmed. Specifically, both communities will create several programs, including the development of a local language archive and documentation in Indonesia, organization of an en masse contribution to Wikimedia, and the creation of events for awareness-raising on language preservation.

Daniel Bogre Udell, the co-founder of Wikitongues, said, “We’re thrilled to work with Polyglot Indonesia because we see an opportunity to develop scalable, replicable models for grassroots linguistic preservation. The immense diversity of Indonesia makes the country an ideal place to explore this. We hope that in time, our efforts will create actionable ways forward for language activists around the world”.

This collaboration marks the spirit of language preservation that is led by the community. Both communities also welcome cooperation from others parties dealing with language programs.

Mira Zakaria as the Executive Director of PI fully supports this cooperation. “We realize that as young people of Indonesia, we need to preserve our heritage and culture as part of collective responsibility. Polyglot Indonesia offers its huge commitment in keeping the knowledge of local languages in Indonesia. We also invite all communities and representatives from various sectors to come along and archive the story of local language speakers in Indonesia. We are certain that through cooperating with partners who own noble vision and commitment like Wikitongues, we can reach the goal and pass down positive legacy for the upcoming generations”.

The collaboration is currently supported by the technology-oriented Participatory Culture Foundation (the PCF builds Amara, the tool which is used for subtitling and translating our language videos). Along with the wide range of membership and professional contributors in both communities, we are confident in our goals of local language preservation in Indonesia.

Therefore, in the spirit of action, we call upon everyone to contribute and volunteer for local language preservation. Join us!

Note: This article was originally published on Polyglot Indonesia’s website: http://polyglotindonesia.org/news/polyglot-indonesia-x-wikitongues-collaboration-local-language-preservation-indonesia.


Wikitongues is a non-profit platform for every language in the world.

Kunto Nurcahyoko

Written by

Kunto is a traveling addict who always gets excited to learn new things and discover the mystery of the world.


Wikitongues is a non-profit platform for every language in the world.

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