James has appeared in an article in the New York Times this morning talking about mobile phone-based dictionaries.
The article focuses on endangered languages and some of the steps being taken internationally to combat language death. Here are the relevant paragraphs:
Of course, online resources are useful only to communities with Internet access. Communities without that access, like the Kim, still require books to be printed, and recordings to be copied onto CDs or tapes.
Holding more promise are programs that put electronic dictionaries on mobile phones. James McElvenny, a linguist at the University of Sydney, has led the development of software to help revitalize vanishing languages. Mr. McElvenny has been working with Aboriginal groups like the Dharug of Sydney to give learners, many of them no older than 16, a portable reference that supplies the definition and the sound of words that are otherwise no longer spoken, because Dharug is a dead language.
“A lot of the older members are technophobic,” he said, “but the kids are really getting into it.”