Making a Difference

“Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind.” – Wade Davis

elpman pointing sA company like Rosetta Stone is, at its heart, made up of the people that work within it and the values they believe in. Our employees often hold up the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program (ELP) as one of the best embodiments of the spirit of our company. We’re all lovers of language and believe that learning a language can change your life and make the world a better place. We’re changing the way the world learns languages. The ELP is one way we hope that learning a language will change the world, especially if learning that language helps to restore cultural identity and enables it to be passed on to the next generation.

With at least 50% of the world’s almost 7000 languages headed for extinction within this century, language revitalization sure seems like an overwhelming challenge. Can anything be done about these thousands of languages that are predicted to fall silent so soon? Why would we want to bother? There’s been so much written on both sides of this debate that there’s little original that I can add. Certainly a language’s prestige will wax and wane within its political, historical, economic and social contexts. And certainly this will be reflected in the number of its speakers, who all too often have little control over its future. While one speaker remains, the knowledge acquired through centuries of adaptations to a natural environment endures. But when that last speaker passes, an irreplaceable fragment of humankind is lost.

elp computersThe Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program formed in 2004 in response to several North American tribes with an interest in using Rosetta Stone software for revitalization of their languages. Check out our work so far, and our current projects. We’re hopeful that Rosetta Stone software will play a key role in language revitalization in these highly motivated communities. And in case you’re wondering, you won’t see these particular Rosetta Stone products advertised anywhere on our website. They’re sold and distributed solely by the communities themselves, and the custom language and photographic content within the software remains the intellectual property of the sponsoring native group.

polarjustinSo what is the mission and focus of the Endangered Language Program? We work with native language communities to create custom Rosetta Stone software for use in their language revitalization programs. We assist native language experts, both remotely and on location, in the creation of custom photographic, audio, linguistic and pedagogical content. We promote global linguistic diversity and embody Rosetta Stone’s belief that language learning makes the world a better place.

Marion Bittinger

Marion was fascinated with languages from an early age, and has been learning ever since. She is a 1979 Modern Languages graduate of Elizabethtown College; and 1981 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with an M.A. degree in Ibero-American Studies. Teaching Spanish occupied the early years of her professional life, but she’s been a part of the Rosetta Stone family since 2003. Marion loves to travel and read, and would love to learn the endangered language of her own heritage, Pennsylvania Dutch.
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