Samuel Herrera, who is heading the university´s Linguistic Laboratory at the Institute for Anthropological Research, said some of the languages are only spoken by two or three people. The work will include both audio and video compilations, with the aim of providing not just linguistic, but historical and anthropological background into the indigenous groups as well.
The library has 800 audio language samples so far.
Some indigenous activists in Bolivia are also trying to preserve native tongues.
In mid-July, indigenous and social groups presented lawmakers and Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera with a proposed bill, the “Linguistic Rights and Policies Law,” which aims to ensure native languages are preserved and taught in schools.
“The law … is important because some native peoples are in their last stage of extinction and many [others] have disappeared because of international capitalist policies,” said Roberto Caraite, who heads the Campesino Workers Union of Bolivia, a major labor union, referring to how many indigenous peoples are speaking more Spanish as they search for jobs.
For his part, Vice President García Linera said: “I´m very happy because this project comes from the social organizations, like many other projects. I can guarantee you that the Legislative Assembly will approve this with lightening speed because the people wrote it.”
In March, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, released its Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, and warned that hundreds of native languages including Quechua – the most widely spoken indigenous language of South America – Mapuche in Chile and Argentina, Garifuna in Honduras, K´iche Maya in Guatemala and scores of languages in the Amazon basin are in danger of dying out.