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5 Language Museums to Explore Around the World

Linguists, retired elementary school teachers and sociologists have created language museums to preserve and celebrate written and spoken words. Many of these museums utilize advanced technologies to digitally archive languages or to showcase languages through interactive exhibits.

There are more than 30 language museums throughout the world. Some of these museums focus on revitalizing an area’s indigenous language while others highlight a country’s official language. Let’s take a closer look at five of these unique language museums that you can explore online or during your travels.

Canadian Language Museum

If you want to learn about the hundreds of languages spoken in Canada, the Canadian Language Museum is the place to visit. Since 2011, the team behind the museum has worked to “promote an appreciation and understanding of all of the languages spoken in Canada” through bilingual traveling exhibits. In 2016, a permanent exhibit space opened in the Glendon Gallery on the York University campus in Toronto.

New exhibits are produced each year and cover topics like the Aboriginal language Cree, sign languages of Canada and the history of the French language in Canada. Check the website to learn which exhibits are currently on display. If you don’t want to wait for your next trip, explore the museum’s online offerings. Messages from the Mosaic is an interactive exhibit that gives visitors the chance to learn about the history of Canada’s many languages from the comfort of their home.

Museum of the Portuguese Language

São Paulo, Brazil is home to both the world’s largest Portuguese-speaking population and the only museum dedicated solely to the Portuguese language.

The Museu da Língua Portuguesa opened in 2006 in the Estação da Luz- a site picked because many immigrants have passed through this station when arriving in Brazil. Before a 2015 fire devastated the museum, it included a variety of interactive exhibits, games, art pieces and films that covered different aspects of the Portuguese language. As visitors explored the museum’s three floors, they could listen to audio clips of Portuguese dialects or trace the evolution of the language on a large display. The museum is still being rebuilt after the damaging effects of the fire.

Planet World

A retired first-grade teacher helped bring Planet World to life in 2020. This is the world’s first voice-activated museum and uses interactive displays to help people of all ages learn more about words and languages.

This museum is located in Washington DC’s Franklin School, the site where Alexander Graham Bell first successfully used a photophone to transmit a wireless message. Visitors can engage with languages in fun and unique ways throughout the museum. Stop by the “Unlock the Music” exhibit to learn about songwriting or “The Spoken World” to virtually interact with diverse language speakers from around the world. Language-themed lectures and trivia nights are also hosted regularly at Planet World.

Alutiiq Museum

The Alutiiq Museum is dedicated to archiving and exploring “the heritage and living culture of the Alutiiq people”- an indigenous group from the Kodiak Archipelago and the Alaska Peninsula. The Language Studies branch of the museum works to preserve and revitalize the Alutiiq language. A grant provided by the National Science Foundation funded the museum’s Naken-Natmen (“Where from-Where to”) project. Project researchers review historic documents and collect new audio recordings from native speakers to help build the collection.

Most of the museum’s language archive is available online. Digital visitors can listen to interviews in the Alutiiq language or read biographies collected from native speakers to learn more about this culture and language. If you visit the physical location in Kodiak, Alaska, you can view a collection of artwork, spiritual objects and artifacts significant to the Alutiiq people.

National Hangeul Museum

Seoul, South Korea is home to the National Hangeul Museum– a sprawling collection that looks at the history and significance of the Korean writing system. Hangul was developed in the 15th century and is the main system used to write modern Korean today.

Since the museum opened in 2014, visitors have been able to explore permanent and special exhibits that discuss topics like “The Creation of Hangeul”, “Korean Pop Lyrics” and “The Globalization of Hangeul.” If you visit, don’t skip the museum’s programs. Food, dance and storytelling activities are offered that showcase how Hangeul is used in different parts of Korea’s culture.

Language museums are a fascinating way to learn about the communication methods used by different cultures. With modern technology, many of these museums give visitors the chance to engage and interact with native speakers. Which language museum would you like to visit first?

If you want to read about other interesting language topics, browse the articles on ALTA’s Beyond Words Blog.

Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based travel blogger and freelance content creator. You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.







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