If you wantÂ to change the default language on your iPhone, you have many options to choose from, such as Turkish, Dutch, Catalan and both the Brazilian and Portuguese dialects of Portuguese.
If you speak Icelandic, though, youâre out of luck.
The same is true on many computers, particularly voice-activated devices such as televisions, virtual assistants and electronics.Â Some people believe this â along with the worldâs increasing globalization and widespread usage of English â could lessen the use of the Icelandic language, which isÂ spoken by less than half a millionÂ people.
It wouldnât be the onlyÂ language facing this fate.
âMany of the worldâs 6,000 languages will not survive in a globalized digital information society,â the Multilingual Europe Technology Alliance said in a report stating Icelandic is one of the most endangeredÂ languages in the digital age. âIt is estimated that at least 2,000 languages are doomed to extinction in the decades ahead.â
âThe status of a language depends â¦Â on the presence of the language in the digital information space and software applications,âÂ the report said.
The use ofÂ Icelandic in language technology was âvirtually non-existentâ in 1999. All that existed in the digital sphere for the language, according to META, was a good spell checker and a weak language synthesizer.
It has gained more of a foothold since then, but the gap between it and other languages leaves much to be desired. As Mashable reported, âVehicle GPS units stumble over Icelandic names for streets and highways. So-called digital assistants like Appleâs Siri and Amazonâs Alexa donât understand the language.â
Of course, the Icelandic language has done just fine for centuries without digital devices.
The language was originally brought to what is Iceland in the 9th and 10th entries by settlers from western Norway. Given the island countryâs remoteness,Â it âhas remained relatively unchanged since the 12th century, and so old Icelandic manuscripts can still be read by todayâs Icelanders,â National Geographic reported.
The language is unique, but it also isnât spoken by many people âÂ the countryâs population is only about 339,000. It isnât used much outside the country, either. Only about 5,000 Americans speak it, for example.
And there isnât a particularly compelling reason for companies, particularly those based in Silicon Valley, to include the language in their devices.
Former Iceland president VigdÃs FinnbogadÃ³ttir recently told the Associated Press unless this trend changes, âIcelandic will end up in the Latin bin.â
Some have been concerned about that for years.Â EirÃkur RÃ¶gnvaldsson, a language professor at the University of Iceland, spoke to the ReykjavÃk Grapevine in 2013 about the continuing rise of voice-activated technology that doesnât include Icelandic.
âThe more our everyday lives become a field where we canât use our mother tongue â which is not something happening to an isolated group of people, but all Icelanders â the more danger it is that people give up on the language, thinking: âWhy bother learning this language, why donât we just switch over and start using English so we can be competitive in a modern world?ââ he said.
Ãsgeir JÃ³nsson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland, told the Associated Press that the current trend could lead to a âbrain drainâ for the country.
âNot being able to speak Icelandic to voice-activated fridges, interactive robots and similar devices would be yet another lost field,â he said.
Itâs not something native speakers take lightly.
âIf we lost the Icelandic language, there would be no Icelandic nation. And if thereâs no Icelandic nation, there is no Icelandic sovereignty,âÂ Ari PÃ¡ll Kristinsson, head of language planning at the Ãrni MagnÃºsson Institute for Icelandic Studies, the Icelandic governmentâs language research agency,âÂ told PRI.
Currently, the small countryâs Ministry of Education estimates it would cost 1 billion krona â about $8.8 million â to fund an open-access database that would allow developers to incorporate Icelandic into our digital devices. But time is of the essence.
âIf we wait, it may already be too late,â said SvandÃs SvavarsdÃ³ttir, a member of Icelandâs Parliament for the Left-Green Movement.
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