Nearly 200 countries live on the planet Earth. But there are up to 7,000 living languages. The list of endangered language by UNESCO functions as that of endangered plant or animal, with a sliding scale ranging from “vulnerable” to “extinct”. It shows that by 2100, half of those languages will have fallen into oblivion.
These days, learning a new language is easy. Being accessible to the learning source of a new language is simple. But that is merely the popular language like English. Regarding the less known languages, every 14 days, each of them will vanish into thin air. It is unavoidable that many languages are destined to be lost for good in the upcoming years.
How can a language become endangered?
An endangered language also known as a moribund language will be lost when its native speakers die out or they shift to use another language. It happens when native speakers no longer us it and they don’t teach their children to use their language any more. Also, if they are under a great force of external pressure, they become critically endangered.
For example, a lot of native languages in North America completely fell into oblivion. When America was colonized, a massacre was carried out and half of indigenous languages became extinct. In 1994, there were about 155 native languages that survived in the North America. But 135 out of 155 were critically endangered. Because young native Americans grew up and learnt to speak English only. A census in 2016 revealed that approximately 80% of American children above 5 years old spoke English only.
Another unfortunate thing is that many languages from the endangered list have the speaking forms only. It means these languages will die out for good when the native speakers who are now elderly pass away. Without the writing form, it is impossible to pass these languages down to the younger generations. Some ethnic tribes are now abandoning their ancient religions to merge with the larger cultures. This will intangibly push their native languages into oblivion.
Effects when endangered languages become extinct
On a short term vision, it seems unimportant to a society when a language dies out. Because if this dies out, they can learn another language to communicate every day. However, language is not used to communicate only. Languages carry the soul of a culture. It is among the most important and unique features for a culture.
For example, in Greek philosophy, there is a great amount of differences in the translation of the ancient surviving texts. This can lead to conflicts among the community studying Greek philosophy. In other words, no one has managed to translate a text without changing its meaning.
Accordingly, the dire consequence will happen in long term. Ancient texts, sayings, chronicles, etc. which are the heart of a culture will disappear for good when the native language dies out. It is no a comfortable feeling for the upcoming generations to know nothing about the history.
Five endangered languages
Resígaro: This is an Amazonian language of Peru. There is only one speaker of this language alive on our planet. The last female speaker of this language, Rosa Andrade, met her death in a seriously savage way of beheading. The last speaker of it was Andrade’s brother whose name was Pablo Andrade. Pablo has been starting a project to document the language since 2016.
Chamicuro: Another language of Peru that is in the list of engdangered languages. Spanish dominated this language and there have been only 8 native speakers of this language.
Alawa: also known as the Galawa and Waliburu. In 1994, there were only 19 native speakers of this language. This number of course dwindles and it is likely that there are about 4 native speakers of this language. It is on the verge of disappearing for good in the next few years.
Ainu: an endangered language from Japan. With about 15 native speakers who are now elderly, this language is now on top of Japanese language facing extinction. Efforts are underway to save this language.
Yuchi: a native American language. In 2013, it was among the most critically endangered languages with only 4 alive native speakers.