Every week another language disappears for good. If nothing is done about it, around half of the almost 7,000 languages spoken today will be extinct by the end of the century.
As each language dies, so does a huge part of our world’s history. Not just words and sentences, but songs, stories and jokes; never to be spoken or heard again.
10 languages about to be lost forever:
1. Korana (South Africa)
A shining example of a language on the verge of extinction, last year Korana was listed as having just one speaker.
2. Tehuelche (Argentina)
With just three native speakers, the language of Tehuelche is considered critically endangered.
3. Achumawi (USA)
With fewer than 10 native elderly speakers, this language will soon be extinct. A programme was set up the 1980s to try to maintain the language, but this is no longer in operation.
4. Zaramo (Tanzania)
Only a few elderly speakers still communicate using Zaramo.
5. Kardofanian (Kenya)
This severely endangered language is still spoken by around 50 people.
6. Gardiol (Italy)
With only around 300 native speakers of grandparent-age, this language is severely endangered.
7. Poitevin (France)
Only a few elderly speakers use Poitevin and numbers are decreasing rapidly, with even the most competent speakers likely to be heavily influenced by French.
8. Irantxe (Brazil)
One of many severely endangered languages in Brazil, Irantxe is thought to have fewer than 90 native speakers remaining.
9. Michif (Canada)
The endangered language of Michif has fewer than 200 native speakers, nearly all of whom are over 70 years old.
10. Cornish (UK)
Believe it or not, Cornish has been extinct several times but has been relearnt and now has around 600 speakers, showing that it is possible for a language to be revived.
Why do languages die?
As the world becomes more globalised and people move on from traditional ways of life, the dominant languages win over smaller ones. An environment that respects multilingualism can allow smaller languages to survive, and enable a wealth of cultural information and ancestral knowledge to continue to be passed on to future generations.
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