The website The Verge has just published an interesting article by Kristen Sinclair analyzing the struggle of many streamers who broadcast on the Twitch platform in minority languages to get them to create official language tags so users can find them easily.

This decision by Twitch would be an extraordinary support to all those content creators, and the languages they use.  To understand why this is important, remember that Twitch is the largest live-streaming platform in the world, and while at first, it specialized in broadcasting video game plays, more and more it now offers other types of content, such as music, lifestyle, chats with users, and sports.  Over 75% of live online broadcasts are on this platform.

Not being able to clearly and officially label these broadcasts in the actual language being used makes reaching potential audiences dramatically more difficult, forcing users to really have to dig to find broadcasts in their languages.  This pushes potential audiences away and makes developing these channels harder.

And this is not just a problem for the development, but indeed the survival of all of these languages.  There’s a lot of talk about how bad biodiversity loss is for the planet.  The destruction of multiculturalism is just as bad for human culture.  But the struggle against those irreplaceable losses does not seem to be among the priorities of those who have the power to take measures to prevent it.

As we were reminded in an article by Russ Rymer in National Geographic (which we’ve linked to below), every fortnight, a language dies, and it’s estimated that half of the 7,000 languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century.

This process of irrecoverable loss for the world’s cultural diversity has accelerated drastically with the advent of new technologies.  While it can easily be used in every language, in practice, only the biggest are most commonly used, and the rest are rendered invisible.  Add to that languages that don’t have any official support, and this problem is only exacerbated.

The speakers of Basque and many other languages in the world have to make a constant, and sometimes herculean, effort to guarantee the survival of their languages, and to be able to continue being a part of the community they belong to.

It might seem like an exaggeration, but it isn’t: a tag on Twitch to identify these languages would be an important step in the right direction.  But it would seem Twitch hasn’t yet realized that.

Because, despite the fact that over 350 new broadcast tags, covering different ethnic and other underrepresented groups, were added, the languages they speak, and other underrepresented languages, were not included in that measure.

And one of those excluded languages was Basque.  And it’s not like there hasn’t been any push to have it included.  A group of Basque streamers launched the #3000Twitz hashtag last December as part of a campaign to get their language to reach that status.  Their petition, the second most voted on (after Ukrainian, spoken by 40 million people) on Twitch User Voice has already surpassed that number, and even the number for the petition for Catalan (which did end up getting a tag).

Basque streamers and speakers (be they users of this platform or not) are still waiting for a reply from the streaming giant.

We don’t know why (not), but this reminds us of the campaign asking WhatsApp to include the ikurriña as one of its flag emojis, and despite the success of the petition, it’s still nowhere to be found (unless you look at the top left-hand corner of the flag for Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, as the ikurriña is a part of that flag).

Thanks to The Verge and Kristen Sinclair for reminding us these problems exist, and point out the lack of commitment and sensitivity to helping keep languages from disappearing.

The Verge – 16/6/2021 – USA

THE TWITCH STREAMERS FIGHTING TO KEEP MINORITY LANGUAGES ALIVE

Minority languages are often associated with aging rural communities, thought to have fallen out of use or confined to textbooks. Defined simply as a language spoken by less than half of the population in a country, they adapt with the times like any living language, often due to the efforts of enterprising young people.

Recently, many of these languages have found new life from an unexpected source: video game streamers.

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National Geographic – 7/2012 – USA

Vanishing Voices

One language dies every 14 days. By the next century nearly half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken on Earth will likely disappear, as communities abandon native tongues in favor of English, Mandarin, or Spanish. What is lost when a language goes silent?

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