About the Endangered Languages Project

There are more than 7,000 languages on earth today. But nearly half of them are at risk of falling silent. 

When a language stops being spoken, it’s a profound loss – most importantly, to the people who use and cherish it, but also to scientific knowledge and to humanity’s cultural heritage. 

But there is hope. People around the world are working hard to strengthen, promote, and celebrate their languages. The Endangered Languages Project’s mission is to help turn the tide of language loss, and to support the crucial work of language revitalization and documentation. 

What is ELP?

The Endangered Languages Project (ELP) is an online space to support the revitalization, reclamation, documentation, and flourishing of at-risk languages around the world. We bring together language champions, scholars, and the public to celebrate, strengthen, and share knowledge about the world’s Indigenous and endangered languages. 

Our mission is to foster a collaborative online space where the speakers/signers, learners, advocates, teachers, and supporters of the world’s endangered languages have a voice and a place to gather. This is a place where all people can come together in community to share information, stories, resources, and support for the world’s languages.

Our vision is a world where Indigenous, endangered, and minoritized languages are visible, valued, and used, and where cultural and linguistic diversity is thriving.

A young learner practicing writing in Marma, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. Photo by Dr. Maung Nyeu.

Who We Are

The Endangered Languages Project is a collaborative project, led by a Governance Council of representatives from 10 different organizations and universities around the world. ELP’s two primary founding partners are the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (Victoria, BC, Canada) and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Honolulu, HI, United States). 

Learn more about our Governance Council.

What We Do

We’re a multi-faceted project, but our primary initiatives are:

1. Learning resources about language documentation and revitalization: Language documentation (creating good records of a language) and revitalization (creating new speakers, expanding a language’s use, and reversing/stopping language loss) are crucially important to keeping the world’s languages strong. 

We connect people to community, knowledge, ideas, and guidance to support their work in language documentation and revitalization. 

  • We offer free, accessible information about language documentation and revitalization through our Revitalization Helpdesk and Library. 
  • We provide personalized guidance for language champions through our Revitalization Coaches and Ask A Language Champion series.
  • We offer free webinars in language documentation, in collaboration with the Language Documentation Training Center. All are welcome! 

2. Reliable information about languages: We believe it’s important to provide accurate, up-to-date, free information about the vitality of Indigenous, minoritized, and/or endangered languages. Work to revitalize and promote languages can benefit from reliable information – about a language’s current status, the challenges to its vitality, and the work being done to strengthen it. 

A board of language scholars around the world directs ELP’s Catalogue of Endangered Languages, a comprehensive database on the vitality of the world’s endangered languages, directed by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Linguistics.  Learn more about the Catalogue of Endangered Languages. 

3. Disseminating news and events in language documentation and revitalization: ELP aims to keep people informed about what’s happening in language documentation, revitalization, activism, and policy around the world. Follow us on social media, and sign up for our email newsletter, for updates on the important work happening to strengthen endangered languages worldwide! 

4. Multimedia resources about endangered languages: We celebrate the world’s language diversity, and provide a space for people to share their languages with the world. 

We invite ELP users to share materials about their languages – you can contribute videos, audio recordings, documents, web links, or images about your languages. A song you love, a list of greetings, a video about traditional weaving, your auntie’s favorite joke, a grammatical description of verbs in your language – these are just some of the kinds of materials ELP users have shared, to build a collaborative library of over 7,000 language resources. 

5. Mentoring up-and-coming language champions: We build capacity for undergraduate and graduate students from Indigenous and endangered-language communities through our internship program. ELP interns have the opportunity to work directly with language initiatives all over the world, and develop skills in research, knowledge-sharing, outreach, technology, and more. We post available intern positions on a regular basis; keep an eye on our blog and social media channels for internship announcements.

What’s the History of ELP?

The Endangered Languages Project launched on June 21, 2012. We first came together with a 2011 grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to build the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat) at the University of Hawai’i and Eastern Michigan University. Later that year, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and Google.org joined together with the Catalogue team, and began the project which became ELP. 

In 2015, the hosting and technical administration of ELP moved from Eastern Michigan University to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. A representative from the Google Internationalization team retains a seat on the Governance Council, but Google is not currently actively involved in the project. 

Our lead partners today are the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Linguistics. The membership of our Governance Council has changed and grown over the years, but our mission remains the same: to support, share knowledge about, and celebrate Indigenous and endangered languages.