AILLA's Mission

Mission #1: Preservation


AILLA's primary mission is to preserve recordings made in the indigenous languages of Latin America safely and permanently. There are hundreds of native languages still spoken in Latin America, but they are all endangered, and so it is vital to collect and preserve recordings of native speakers performing oral works that are important to their cultures, as well as simple everyday speech. And even in communities where the languages are still vibrant, culturally important ways of speaking are being lost, such as ceremonial dialog or traditional narratives and songs. We preserve recordings of these works of verbal art so that future generations can remember and perhaps re-learn them.

Linguists and anthropologists have been producing collections of recordings in indigenous languages for decades, using whatever media were available at the time: from the cumbersome reel-to-reel tapes of the fifties to today's tiny digital recorders. It is a testament to the dedication of these scholars that collections of magnetic tapes recorded in the fifties and sixties still survive, but even the original researchers find these materials difficult to access today. Accidents can happen - a fire, a flood, a misplaced box - and the last recording of a now-extinct language vanishes forever. One of AILLA's most important tasks is to digitize these vulnerable scholarly collections and store them in our secure archive. Standard digital formats are easy to use and compatible with popular programs for analyzing speech and music. AILLA's collection is backed-up daily and weekly, with copies stored off-site for extra security. We are committed to keeping up with technological developments over the long term, so that we can ensure that the archive's resources remain accessible and intact.

Mission #2: Accessibility


We make the resources in AILLA available to the people who can make good use of them: the indigenous people of Latin America, the scholars who study their languages and cultures, and interested members of the general public. AILLA is especially dedicated to making the collection available to members of indigenous communities in Latin America. We try to keep our website sleek and swift, so it will work properly in small town Internet cafés as well as in big city universities, using only formats that can be listened to or viewed with common software programs that can be easily downloaded free of charge.

While we want to make it easy to access the resources in the archive, at the same time we want to be very careful to protect the intellectual property rights and privacy concerns of the people who created these resources. All users are required to register with the archive before they can access resources in the collection. The registration process requires each user to agree to the Terms and Conditions for the fair use of archive resources. All archive users are expected to treat these resources with respect for the intellectual property rights of the creators and for the indigenous communities that have generously allowed their words to be reproduced here.

Mission #3: Community support


We want to do whatever we can to support the survival of the indigenous languages of Latin America, and to help their speakers make them flourish. One way we can help is by fostering the community of speakers and scholars, using the archive and its multilingual Internet interfaces as a medium of communication across the continents.

The archive makes it easy to publish literary works written in indigenous languages and educational materials written for speakers of these languages and their children. Teachers and writers in other parts of Latin America can find these works more easily on the Internet than in a library, which means that people throughout Latin America can learn from each other and build on each others' efforts.

Scholars can share the results of their research back with the communities where they have worked by placing the materials in the archive. By publishing their field notes and preliminary analyses, students can learn how to document a language and how to study ethnography. Cross-disciplinary research can also be accomplished by sharing data through the archive.