Human Journey

Crowdsourcing Subtitles for Endangered Languages

[This text is from an official press release by Viki and the Living Tongues Institute.]

Video Streaming Site Viki Partners With Living Tongues,
Helps Save Endangered Languages Through Subtitles and Global TV

SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 16, 2014)–Recent reports suggest that less than 5 percent of the world’s languages are online–and that for the other 95%, the Internet can be a path to extinction or revitalization. Viki, a popular video streaming site with primetime TV shows and movies from around the world, is hoping to reverse that trend with the help of its 33 million viewers. Viewers on Viki, a play on the words video and wiki, also happen to write or “crowdsource” the subtitles for the shows they watch.

Today, the company announced that it is launching an Endangered and Emerging Languages Program in partnership with Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. Viki, a subsidiary of Rakuten, and Living Tongues will work to document endangered languages and assist communities with maintaining and revitalizing knowledge of their native tongues, like Quechua in Peru, Basque on the French-Spain border, or Cornish in the United Kingdom.

“Technology alone does not doom or save languages. But pride in a language, and willingness to creatively expand its use through technologies like Viki, can certainly help save it,” said Dr. K. David Harrison, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College and Director of Research for the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.

Linguists, scholars, technologists, students, and other members of the Viki community are already using the Viki platform to help make shows available in languages on the brink of extinction. To date, shows on Viki–including Korean dramas, Japanese anime, Bollywood and US films–have been subtitled into 29 endangered and threatened and 20 emerging languages, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the 200 languages available on the site.

“In the past two years, we’ve been contacted by nearly a dozen organizations whose mission is to preserve their languages, and by extension, their rich cultural histories. They wanted us to add their language to our subtitles list so that they could help the younger generation practice and learn,” said Razmig Hovaghimian, Viki CEO and co-founder. “We want to help ensure that these languages are not forgotten or lost, but live on in a tradition that has carried them for generations–through storytelling.”

[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE] As many as half of the world’s known 7,120 languages are in some state of decline. On a continuum of vitality, called the EGIDS scale, languages may be ranked from completely safe and used on a national scale, like Nepali, to extinct and having no native speakers, but undergoing revitalization, like Cornish. (Map courtesy of Viki and the Living Tongues Institute)To learn more about Viki ‘s Endangered and Emerging Languages Program in partnership with Living Tongues, how to get involved, and how to help provide access to global TV no matter what language you speak, visit

About Viki
Viki is a global TV site with TV shows, movies and other premium content, translated into more than 200 languages by a community of avid fans. With 33 million viewers each month and over 650 million words translated, Viki uniquely brings global prime-time entertainment to new audiences and unlocks new markets and revenue opportunities for content owners. Viki was named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer 2014 and acquired by Japanese internet services giant Rakuten in September 2013. The company has offices in San Francisco, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo.

About Living Tongues
The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated solely to the documentation, maintenance, and revitalization of endangered languages globally. It develops and manages linguist-aided, community-led projects that promote the use of digital video, computers, and other modern information technology. Staff members of Living Tongues Institute have successfully completed funded projects in India, Siberia, Native North America, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Mongolia and India.

  • Melanie McMurray

    As an educator who loves foreign culture I am very excited to read about the concern and focus to save endangered languages. I first learned about such loss of native languages when traveling in Bali and found that a large part of the younger generation understands limited BASAbali as the Indonesian language has crowded out their own cultural native language. This project of documenting and supporting the survival of various languages is a brilliant use of technology paired with education.

  • Janine

    I see nothing about the arawak languages of the west indies colombia and venezuela

  • Saiful Gazi

    Where is BANGLA Arabic Language in Map ?

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