OER and creative commons can help preserve Indigenous language

Indigenous languages matter for social, economic and political development, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation in our societies. Yet many of them are in danger of disappearing. The United Nations declared 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages in order to encourage urgent action to preserve, revitalize and promote them.

The world’s indigenous languages foster and promote unique local cultures, customs and values which have endured for thousands of years and these languages add to the rich tapestry of global cultural diversity. Without them, the world would be a poorer place.

However, despite their value, languages, especially indigenous languages, are continuing to disappear at an alarming rate due to a variety of factors. According to the Forum on Indigenous Issues, 40 per cent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world are in danger of disappearing. The fact that most of these are indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk.

By Christer Gundersen. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

Creative Commons enables translation into Indigenous languages

Educational materials for children is important to preserve indigenous languages. For many of the communities that speak indigenous languages, it is almost inconceivable to be able to provide educational materials in the local language for the children in their community. Lack of resources and political focus on education in national official languages often creates a barrier that is impossible to overcome. 

For these indigenous languages, translation of existing learning resources could be the only option to preserve a language that is in danger of disappearing. This is where open educational resources and creative commons can play an important role. 

The most common way to openly license copyrighted works is to add a Creative Commons license to it. CC licenses are standardized, free-to-use, open copyright licenses that have already been applied to more than 1.2 billion copyrighted works across 9 million websites.

Collectively, CC licensed works constitute a class of works that are explicitly meant to be legally shared and reused with few restrictions. 

This enables local communities to:

  • Translate the content
  • Adapt and change the educational content to fit the local context
  • Share the content with their community
  • It also will enable local publishers and tech startups to develop apps based on local needs in an indigenous language

Releasing content under a free license creates a unique opportunity to provide educational materials into languages that play an essential role in the daily lives of all peoples. 

These languages contain the indigenous people’s history, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression but more importantly construct their future. By developing more quality open educational resources we directly or indirectly support languages are pivotal in the areas of peacebuilding, human rights enhancement, education, research, innovation, protection of the environment, and sustainable development. 

One of the paragraphs in this text is reused from Cable Green, and the blog post “Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy” that is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. This text is released under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.