Founded in 2010, the Endangered Language Alliance, or ELA, is an “urban initiative for endangered language research and conservation.”
Out of a small office on West 18th Street, in what is known as the Urban Fieldstation, dedicated ELA linguists are recording and translating endangered languages before they disappear.
Why in New York City? Well, of the roughly 700 languages spoken here, the organization estimates that maybe 400 are endangered. Globalization has dramatically accelerated the rate of extinction of minority languages as world and national languages dominate.
“New York City could be the most diverse linguistic area of the planet, and have the highest density of endangered languages per square mile on earth,” notes their website.
These dedicated language caretakers are hoping to reduce the death rate of languages and preserve some of them—along with the wealth of human experience, knowledge, and history embedded in each.