We are a nonprofit organization focused on promoting language diversity and revitalization—with the help of our mascot, the Lingua Bear™ toy.
Through our work, we aim to raise awareness about language extinction in the 21st century, empower the communities most affected by linguistic and cultural homogenization and extermination, and to provide a fun and immersive way to learn a diverse array of languages.
Lingua Bear provides a window into how people think and use language via an original listener-based acquisition model. It incorporates corresponding words and phrases in both English and a target language while highlighting its unique idiosyncratic features. We chose English as our auxiliary language because of its status as an international lingua franca. Through the different lists of words, phrases, art, and songs, we hope to capture each language’s ethos, taking inspiration from Nasa’s Golden Record Capsule sent into space in 1977.
We designed Lingua Bear with the environment and broader society in mind and aim to include all languages regardless of their “usefulness” for international commerce or communication.
We should prioritize keeping our languages alive because each of them is a vessel containing our ancestral knowledge, history, and culture; and through a high degree of linguistic diversity, we amplify our collective intelligence.
Lingua Bear features indigenous languages, such as Guaraní from South America or Bube from Africa; and major language dialects, such as Japanese from Osaka or Spanish from Oaxaca. We also include major languages because they are useful for international communication, and because many of them have developed their own unique grammars and vocabularies following colonization.
By hearing and learning foreign languages, the next generation will have a vested interest in their survival. We recognize that they are the driving force for maintaining linguistic diversity and that we can have a significant impact on glottophagy by facing the taboos associated with speaking indigenous languages and encouraging the youth to relearn forgotten ones. Whether you were an indigenous child separated from your parents and placed in a boarding school, a refugee whose parents were killed in a war, or someone whose predecessors were kidnapped, human trafficked, and forced into servitude, we want to provide you with the opportunity to reconnect with your roots.
Here are some answers to the questions we receive most about the project.
If we missed anything, please do not hesitate to contact us.
So what are the reasons for maintaining linguistic diversity apart from the basic need for communication? One may argue that having fewer languages could potentially optimize communication. But that’s not the whole story.
Learning languages has been proven to help people of all ages stay cognitively fit, and more importantly, language and culture are intimately intertwined. Our values, beliefs, customs, and behaviors are coded in the language that we speak. The loss of a language implies the loss of a particular perspective on the world, resulting in a more limited ability to deal with the challenges that all societies face. Linguistic diversity is important for the same reasons that ecological diversity is crucial. Just like biology tells us that diverse ecosystems are more likely to survive and thrive, the lessons learned from history show us that the most culturally diverse societies have been better able to overcome challenges and prosper. Any effort to preserve and protect a language and its culture from extinction is an effort to protect humanity’s amassed wisdom and knowledge.
It is hard to say exactly how many languages were spoken at the peak of linguistic diversity. But if one had to guess, it would be around 10,000. And they are disappearing at a rapidly accelerating rate. There are approximately 6,700 languages existing in the world today and we are losing one language every 13 days. At this rate, we could lose over 90 percent of our languages by the end of the century!
We use English as our auxiliary language because of its status as an international lingua franca. Our human resources model involves working with ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) schools, language teachers, and other target language community members to help us create custom scripts reflecting the true spirit and functionality of their languages—idioms, culturally relevant nouns, songs, humor, and more.
The content team is made up of project managers who are responsible for guiding the translation and recording process. When their task is complete, they submit their work to our audio engineers who edit and master the recordings. These recordings are in turn used to program the virtual and physical Lingua Bear toys.
Once a script is formalized, we select charismatic voice actors who can read the script in both the target language and in English. At times, we make accommodations for readers who are articulate in their native language but whose English is not sufficiently proficient. In these cases, we pair the reader with a surrogate English speaker.
An important part of the Lingua Bear mission is to ensure that we provide continuing support to the communities and people we work with. That is why raised revenue is used for social entrepreneurship, community development, and/or school fees and tuition for minor and tribal community members. You may submit your letter of intent by clicking here or by navigating to our contact page.
In order to reduce our ecological footprint, we incorporated interchangeable language cartridges (brains) in our design. They eliminate the need for entirely new toys for each additional language. The toy’s brains and other internal components are made of upcycled plastic, and its packaging is meant to be reused for collecting brains.
Lingua Bear is sewn in Xonacatlán, a Nahuatl speaking town tucked in the Sierra Nevada mountains about an hour from Mexico City. In an era of app-based learning tools, our plush toy stands out by featuring collectible characters providing the user with a highly kinesthetic learning experience.
For now, we are referring our customers to a third-party solar charging unit, and have plans to create a more sophisticated original design that enables quicker and more convenient solar charging. Currently, you can use conventional AAA alkaline batteries or AAA solar charging NiMh batteries made from environmentally friendly materials. We avoided lithium batteries in our design because they have been known to cause fires.
Our content team is financed primarily through grants and donations while engineering, manufacturing, marketing and distribution are funded through the sale of the Lingua Bear toy. Our goal is to be financially sustainable through the sale of the Linga Bear toy by 2025.
The effects of globalization on language will be difficult to slow down, and as a result many languages may die off. For this reason, we are linguistically codifying our data so that it may one day be used to recreate lost languages with the help of AI. Our accumulated wisdom, knowledge, and history live in our languages and we may be able to preserve them if we have the necessary dynamic data to create language oracles that would embody a language’s grammar, phonology, pragmatics, and other integral linguistic nuances.