There’s been a lot written about endangered and indigenous languages, but I haven’t seen them referred to as “heritage” languages before, as they are in this interesting New York Times article.

The article describes N’Ko, the standardised writing system for Mande languages, which are mainly spoken in West African countries. Mande languages include Mandika, Marka and Jula. N’Ko was invented in the 1940’s to help native speakers read and write in their own language. This is particularly important as dominant languages like English are seen as the lingua franca of the world.

N’Ko is now available for people to use on their computer and mobile phone; Windows 8 apparently irons out the problems with the script from Windows 7, and it’s possible to download an app for phones and iPads. This could be the future of heritage languages – enabling them in new technologies to engage a younger audience. It’s also a literacy issue in Guinea, where the UN estimates only 39% of the adult population is literate.

For the full story, take a look at the New York Times article.