Paraguayan Visionaries Build App to Save Their Language & Adapt to A New World

Languages are disappearing at an alarming rate. To some it may not be a big deal, but it is. Once we begin to forget our roots, abandon our culture, clear out anything that we are indifferent to, it will be the beginning of a world without humanity. Sure, I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m not wrong.

Our world is this beautiful place with diverse cultures and different perspectives. The unique nature of every single person, every civilization, all the thousands of different languages, clearly define who we are, where we come from, and creates identity for all of us.

Language is a huge factor when discussing culture. In a world that is constantly changing, and adapting to a globalized world, indigenous languages such as Guarani face extinction. Most youth are forced to learn the language of the world (English), meanwhile they tend to forget their roots. This unique problem has opened up an opportunity for a team of visionaries that believe you can have both.

Of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, linguists say, nearly half are in danger of extinction and are likely to disappear in this century. In fact, they are now falling at a close rate of one every two weeks.
— John Noble Wilford, New York Times
Speaking Guarani World Map

Speaking Guarani World Map

How does one preserve one’s native culture, while adapting to this new world we live in?

Technology of course! The entire world is becoming globalized, and in the case of many Paraguayans, it makes it very hard to hang onto indigenous culture. Many fear that their ancient customs and Guarani language are at high risk as mainstream languages such as Spanish and English become more useful. Our friends are fighting to hang on to what makes them who they are, while trying to adapt to the this new world that surrounds us and have created a solution for this new reality of ours.

Enter Guaranglish.

In Asuncion, and all the way to Los Angeles, a team of Paraguayan visionaries have built an application that's core mission is to save their endangered native tongue, Guarani, while teaching English in tandem.

How does Guaranglish help people hold on to their native identity and adapt to mainstream culture simultaneously?

Guaranglish is the first mobile app that provides a pedagogical tool for Guarani speakers to learn and practice English. Also, it makes it possible it for English speakers to learn and practice Guarani. The app use gamification to engage users during the learning process.

The app also has other approaches to engage these targeted language learners. One of them is a weekend camp program for Guarani-speaking students in rural areas in order to give them their first contact with the English language through games and practical lessons.

The other approach is a workshop for English and Guarani teachers to introduce the use of technology in a learning process and other best practices to keep students engaged in class. It’s not just about fluency — it’s about respect for one’s identity and even deeper, belonging.

We have a big dream; we want to reach all Paraguayans and foreigners who love our culture. Our mission is to be the hub of all minorities and indigenous language around the world. We want to be a bridge that connects people with opportunity and hope, through English, while preventing people from losing their identities and culture.
— Luis Rojas, Founder, Guaranglish

The Guaranglish app focuses on the unattended population, which due to social, economic and geographical restrictions, have fewer chances to get education possibilities. Besides offering a learning solution as many other mobile applications, Guaranglish app lays on a social improvement purpose and promotes equality and inclusion.

Regardless of economic or social status, if the user can not afford the intermediate or advanced level, they can apply for scholarship or financial aid provided by partners through a corporate social responsibility program.

You won’t find this app on Google Play or the iOS App Store today, but you will be able to download Guaranglish sooner than you think! While their platform is still in production, you can find their team putting together local camps in their hometown to help the youth discover their passion for language; English, and Guarani in specific.

The Guaranglish app methodology has the potential to be replicated in order to become the main technology platform indigenous languages worldwide by connecting with all other languages. Imagine a world where we continued to learn English, and other regional mainstream languages, but were able to bring our indigenous roots back in the home?

There is also the deeper issue, which is why 89% of the population still speaks Guarani in one form or another — their history, culture and traditions. This is something that must be preserved. With the world being as globalized as it is, we need to maintain culture as much as possible for the sake of our well-being. We must learn to preserve this, and all other indigenous cultures, while learning to adapt to a world where you can be in China in 18 hours by plane, and Skype with 20+ different countries in just a “click”

What do we do when that is lost? How can these visionaries save an indigenous culture and language while adapting to the future?

Guaranglish believes that maintaining and strengthening indigenous languages provides information and knowledge about culture, history, places and even ways of how people see and understand the world.

Why is this important?

The minute we take something away as precious as someone’s language, we are opening the door to handful of other sacrifices such as culture, tradition, family values, and the biggest one — personal identity.

If someone can take away another’s language or culture that easily, and isolate who they are as a person — what makes it any different for them to take away the things that make you… you?

Imagine if the extinction of these languages silences every indigenous culture? Our mission is directed towards enhancing cultural heritage by empowering and keeping an indigenous language alive.

It's inspiring to see the youth passionate about their people’s roots; their history. The idea that we can innovate the world, while preserving all valuable culture within it, keeps my hope for humanity burning fervently. It makes me wonder in how many ways these individuals will influence others to do something else impactful for their community — or better, the world.

Signing out.

Matt Wright

Matt Wright is the Latin America Regional Manager at AngelHack. For more posts, follow him on Twitter and Medium.