Episode 26: Can AI help preserve indigenous languages?

Updated: 6 days ago

The Ask AI interview Anna Kazantseva, Research Officer for Indigenous Language Technologies, NRC


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A diversity of languages is a hallmark of the human experience, and a rich fabric of communication provides societies around the World with a crucial engine of innovation. In may ways, the language we speak shapes our view the World around us, and this in turn produces novel perspectives that are a major contributor to the phonomenon of "collaborative intelligence". New ideas, fostered by language diversity, play an important role in the maintenance of a thriving cutlure, and offer an irreplaceable tool for a global population that is facing new cutlural, economic, and ecological challenges at every turn.


However, the unforunate reality is that languages are under siege almost everywhere. According to the UNESCO Atlas of Languages in Danger, there are 6,700 languages spoken in the world, 40 percent of which are in danger of disappearing altogether.


In Canada, more than two-thirds of the 70 distinct indigenous languages still spoken are endangered, and the rest are vulnerable. According to the 2016 census, many of these languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people, and some by only hundreds. Overall, there are 260,550 speakers of Indigenous languages in Canada, which, according to Statistics Canada — is less than one per cent of the total population.


This attrition can be blamed on multiple factors, not the least of which are the colonization and forced assimilation (often via residential schools) that interrupted the intergenerational transmission of languages.


Ask AI host Jaxson Khan sat down with Anna Kazantseva, Research Officer for Indigenous Language Technologies at the National Research Council of Canada and asked the question:


Can AI help us preserve indigenous languages?


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Episode credits


Sponsors: Microsoft Canada's Free AI Business School and Cinchy, the Dataware platform that eliminates integration Chatbot partner: Ada Support Series Producer: Chris McLellan Episode Host: Jaxson Khan Series Editor: James Fajardo Original music: Mike LeTourneau

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Ask AI is a volunteer project exploring Canada's fast-emerging artificial intelligence sector. Our projects include thought leader interviews, team check-ins, and live events. To learn more about sponsorships, guest blogs, and volunteering, please contact us or ask our chatbot.

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