Atayal and Seediq, two endangered languages in Taiwan, were added to Wikipedia today as language options, as part of the government’s plan to preserve Indigenous languages and culture.

The two languages joined the Sakizaya language in the growing ranks of Indigenous languages that have become available in the online encyclopedia.

Taiwan’s government officially recognizes 16 Indigenous tribes and each of them has their own language. Most of these languages risk extinction due to the declining number of speakers, who are mostly elderly.

UNESCO declared the Atayal language to be “vulnerable” and the Seediq language “severely endangered” in 2018. In Taiwan, the Atayal and Seediq peoples number around 90,000 and 10,000, respectively, but fluent speakers are much fewer.

Lim Siu-theh, a professor emeritus of ethnology at Taipei’s Chengchi University and the leader of the government project to preserve Indigenous languages, said these languages are going extinct because most people don’t use them in daily life anymore.

“Most of those who speak Indigenous languages are the elderly,” Lim said. “Many young people know only basic vocabulary and sentences.”

Lin Teng-chiao, Taiwan’s deputy minister of education, said Atayal and Seediq are the 32th and 33th Austronesian languages to be available on Wikipedia. Sakizaya was added as the 29th in 2019.

Lin said the government has been pushing forward a program to help Indigenous peoples turn their languages into texts and modernize them to be passed on to future generations.

In the program, a team was formed for each Indigenous language to build Wikipedia entries in that language.

Lituk Teymu, the leader of the Seediq team, said she feels glad to have the language of her ancestors seen around the world and that the team will continue their efforts moving forward.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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