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Daniel Bogre Udell | 1

Join Us. Wikitongues is an effort to document the world’s 7,000 languages. Unlike many projects of its kind, Wikitongues does not emphasize linguistic concepts like morphology and syntax. Instead, we aim to explore the human side of communication, by interviewing individuals from around the world, in their native tongues, about their personal conceptions of home and identity. Wikitongues is therefore much more than scientific documentation. It’s an homage to diversity. Based primarily in New York City, we have spent the nascent stages of the project taking advantage of our location’s rich cultural diversity, documenting the personal narratives of individuals who have been shaped by a wide array of cultures. We have also begun tapping into the power of social networks, accepting videos submitted from speakers in other countries and conducting interviews over Skype. Over the course of this year we plan to launch an open-sourced website so that anyone can contribute to Wikitongues and explore our rich body of content in exciting interactive ways. Team Wikitongues is made up mostly of students engaged in history, linguistics and design. We are transnational and ready to collaborate. Join us, and help build a database honoring the breadth human identity. Founder’s Motivation I have been blessed by a series of experiences that have torn down the walls of prejudice society built around me. Growing up in a mountain town two hours out of New York City, I was raised aware of the difference between urban and rural lifestyles. When I was fourteen, I had the privilege of attending The Hotchkiss School, a boarding school in Connecticut with an internationally diverse student population. At sixteen, I studied abroad in Zaragoza, Spain, a provincial city in the country’s region of Aragon. The following year I interned in Barcelona, the capital of the neighboring region, Catalonia, where I learned the native language, Catalan, and was introduced to the concept of a stateless nation. During that that period of my life I spent most of my time with individuals from the Mediterranean’s many marginalized peoples: Basques, Corsicans, Palestinians, Western Saharans. Six years later, I live in New York, one of the world’s most linguistically dense cities. When I run my daily errands in Red Hook, I have frequent interactions in Arabic and Spanish. At school I have friends with whom I speak Hebrew, Polish and Portuguese. I co-edit the Catalan-language edition of Global Voices Online, a news organization dedicated to reporting on the international blogosphere. This has given me the opportunity to get to know colleagues from everywhere from Québec to

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Madagascar, and to sit on panels alongside Iranians, Israelis, and Cubans. (I often joke that to myself that the UN should be a lot more like our community.) Growing up with these experiences has led me to believe in one fundamental truth: in our difference, we are the same. As a child of the Internet age, I have had the privilege of growing up alongside powerful tools for sharing information, like Youtube, Wikipedia, Twitter and Instagram. In some ways, I’ve learned just as much engaging with these tools as I have by engaging with all the beautiful people whom I’ve had the privilege to meet. I’m therefore passionate about developing a project aimed at tearing down the walls of prejudice that society has built around us all. Current Progress Wikitongues is an amalgamation of documentary, interaction design and community-building. Since the project is long-term, I’ve had to focus on certain elements for my thesis presentation at the end of April. Given that the construction of an open-sourced video database is a technically complex task, I decided that my time this semester would be better spent making Wikitongues a familiar brand and building a community of followers. I have documented a diverse group of individuals, speaking an interesting array of languages from Mayan to Cambodian, thereby creating a large and growing body of content that has been useful in prototyping the web application as well as building a community of followers on Youtube and Facebook. I have also begun a research blog on Tumblr and Instagram feed documenting Wikitongues “behind the scenes.” Since I haven’t begun advertising, the numbers are impressive: 81 individuals follow us on Facebook, six have subscribed to the YouTube channel (which has earned nearly 2,000 views) and 10 users follow the research blog. Building this brand has allowed me to test the viability of the idea and understand our potential audience. Furthermore, I have begun stitching together a team of students eager to help build the organization with me after the thesis phase of the project is done. For more information:

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Moving Forward Last Monday, several sections of CDT students met and presented our thesis projects. I was motivated and inspired by the feedback I received, which was, generally speaking, a cathartic affirmation about the potential of Wikitongues and a reminder about the next steps I need to take leading up to our thesis presentations at the end of the month. Users were generally responsive to the intimate presentation of languages, often describing the experience as feeling like a conversation with the interviewees. Others were interested in the way different languages were related and looked forward to the promise of a project that can help us connect our world’s disparate cultural dots. Considering the feedback outlined in the attached document, my final deliverables for April 15th will be:

A thorough social media presence: a Facebook page, Youtube channel, Instagram feed, and Tumblr research blog.

A branding identity packet.

A promotional website presenting the project’s content and purpose, which allows interested individuals to get more easily involved.

An interactive prototype of the open-sourced web application.

Over the summer, I will be building the web application and reaching out to foundations for funding. I have two trips planned: one through the American south and one to Catalonia, where I will be documenting a variety of languag es, including Cherokee, Louisiana French, Gullah, and Occitan. By the turn of 2014 I hope to have established Wikitongues as an organization in its own right.


Wikitongues is a nascent effort to document the world's nearly 7,000 languages.