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Digital media and the internet

Digital Media and the Internet: Threats or Opportunities for Local Languages, Culture and Knowledge – Plenary by Osama Manzar at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Osama Manzar, Founder Director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation

Osama Manzar, Founder Director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation

There are one hundred and ninety six endangered languages in India, oral languages spoken mainly in rural India. But what is the impact of digital media on local languages? Why do some languages flourish and some do not and will we become a monolingual world?

At the 11th Language & Development Conference 2015, plenary speaker Osama Manzar described his own exposure to a range of languages in his own multilingual journey and the wealth of languages in India. India is an oral society and oral languages are making use of digital media such as Google and Facebook which reach communities and these become tools to support oral languages.

A radical shift is taking place in which graphic design, visuals and symbols become digital tools beyond language which are accessible to speakers of less spoken languages in rural areas, including older people or people who may not be literate. Osama provided striking examples of homemade local language based radio stations at minimal expense, with functions including the reduction of violence against women. Written language is restricted; oral language and oral tradition is inclusive and self-generating digital media including mobile use can support the democratic process of this inclusivity, keep less spoken languages alive and empower their speakers.

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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