“Who knows what we don’t know that already exists within a culture other than ours? The key to extracting that knowledge is language! It is my hope that more people will become aware of this and embrace other cultures and languages as a result.” – Carla Hurd, USA

Later this week – Thursday, February 21st — is International Mother Language Day, established by UNESCO in 1999 to promote linguistic diversity and multilingual education, and to drive greater awareness of the importance of mother tongue education. (To celebrate the day, we’ll profile National Geographic Fellow and linguist Dr. K. David Harrison – don’t miss it!) So this seems an ideal time to introduce Daily Edventures readers to Carla Hurd, who helps lead Microsoft’s Local Language Program (LLP). The LLP provides individuals access to technology in their native languages to help preserve those languages and to help them evolve for the 21st century.

Hurd has been instrumental in supporting Microsoft’s efforts to preserve struggling languages, most recently with the launch of the Cherokee language for Windows 8. The program’s objectives are wide-ranging, bridging the digital divide by enabling communities to:

  • Discover, share, and develop IT terminology in their mother tongue
  • Strengthen their local IT economy, increase individual productivity, and stimulate activity in local businesses and governments
  • Foster societal and economic benefits of the growing IT industry
  • Provide collaborative communities, partnerships and services with local governments, language authorities, universities, and local partners to further embrace their local language

Most important, the Local Language Program respects tradition while helping languages and cultures embrace – and thrive in — the 21st century. Today, Carla Hurd shares some of what she’s learned about the critical issue of language preservation, including the shocking percentage of languages that could be lost in the coming decades if nothing is done to keep them alive.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

I run a program at Microsoft called the Local Language Program. It represents Microsoft’s efforts and evangelizes its solutions around language. I have become the subject matter expert at Microsoft around language preservation and have gained a strong passion for promoting language revitalization. When it comes to education, a child’s mother tongue is extremely important. A child will, obviously, learn better and more deeply if they are taught in their own language.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

More and more people are becoming aware of the global phenomenon that is surrounding us when it comes to language loss.  Scientists estimate that there are somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 languages that exist in the world today.  If nothing is done to help those languages thrive, then we will lose half of them in the next century.  About every two weeks a language dies.  We should all care about language loss since entrapped within these languages is knowledge — knowledge about the world, cures to ailments, weather predictions, algorithms, etc.  Who knows what we don’t know that already exists within a culture other than ours?  The key to extracting that knowledge is language!  It is my hope that more people will become aware of this and embrace other cultures and languages as a result.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

Microsoft has been committed for years to continuing to expand their language support within their technology.  The issue is that there are a lot of people that don’t know about the work, which is why the Microsoft Local Language Program exists — to be a catalyst in helping to evangelize this great work.  For instance, did you know that Windows and Office are available in 108 languages which have a reach of 4.5 billion speakers?  For the newest Windows release, Windows 8, Microsoft has added 13 new languages!  Please visit http://www.microsoft.com/LLP to find out the languages that are supported as well as the different technology offerings.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

In addition to providing free downloadable Language Interface Packs for Microsoft Window and Office, Microsoft has additional technologies and initiatives to help languages to move into the 21st century and be used in technology.  Microsoft Translator is a machine translation solution that allows the user to translate content from and into 41 different languages.  You can use it in your applications, your mobile device or online.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
Implementing technology solutions into education that integrate the student’s mother tongue.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Learn first the needs of the student and then accommodate.  How would they learn best?  How can you open their access to the world using technology?

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

A surface!  Kids today want to use technology and do use technology.  It should be available to them in an education setting as well as outside of the classroom.

About Carla Hurd

Birthplace: Walnut Creek, California, USA

  • Current residence: Redmond, Washington, USA
  • Education: BA, University of Idaho
  • Website I check every day: Facebook
  • Person who inspires me most: My mom
  • Favorite childhood memory:  Riding on the back of my mom’s bicycle.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Not sure yet.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why?  At my kids – they come up with the funniest quotes at their young ages.
  • Favorite book: Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly
  • Favorite music: Country, Rascal Flatts
  • Your favorite quote or motto:  You don’t spell team with an “i”.

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