K. David Harrison: The rapid erosion of languages

There are 7,000 languages spoken in the world. This, argues linguist K. David Harrison, represents the greatest repository of human knowledge ever assembled - but it’s rapidly eroding, and this will be terrible. We’re not only losing information, but we’re losing ways of understanding the world. See video

During his presentation at Pop!Tech 2008: Scarcity and Abundance, Dr. Harrison discussed how language death leads to intellectual impoverishment in all fields of science and culture. He also detailed efforts to sustain, value and revitalize linguistic diversity worldwide. Pop!Tech, dotSUB and National Geographic asked anyone who speaks more than one language to join in an historic effort to translate Dr. Harrison’s talk into 100 languages – in just 72 hours.

The video has been uploaded to dotSUB, a free platform enabling anyone to easily translate and subtitle Web videos into any language. Any person interested in advancing this “digital dialog” can do so by clicking on the “i” on the above player, then clicking “translate this video.” This will take you to dotSUB.com, where you’ll be asked to register (at no charge), select a language and start translating the 20 minute talk. Your translation will be viewable in real time, lending momentum to a worldwide movement to help preserve collective human knowledge.

Please check back throughout Pop!Tech 2008, as we continue to add more languages. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the following translators, who have volunteered their time to help bring this critical message to a global audience. SEE ALL LANGUAGES