Moribund languages


The question under consideration today is whether English as a language is so very inevitable today? In most cases the answer would be yes. English language is one of the most important languages as far as global communication is concerned. The rise in the use of internet and globalization has raised its bar to an unprecedented level. But the United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO) has registered about 6000 languages. English is one of them, what about the rest?

According to UNESCO the world is at the verge of losing more than 3000 languages if the language heritage and its culture are not conserved. About more than half of the languages are now endangered. In the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing, about 50 European languages are under the threat. France alone has 14 of them. Even Siberia has around 40 languages in danger.

However, the condition is much better in Asia and the pacific. Thanks to our multilingual governments. Papua New Guinea, the country of 800 languages, the most diverse in the world, has only 88 endangered dialects. But the rise of globalization in the region is now becoming a threat to these multilingual states. India tops in chart by 196 endangered languages. Second is US close to 192. In the past 3 generations almost 200+ languages have become extinct and about 178 languages have its speaker count in between 10 to 150. UNESCO has rated 538 languages as critically endangered, 502 severely endangered, 632 definitely endangered and 607 unsafe.

According to experts a language is rated endangered when 30% of its children stop learning it. It then passes on to the next generation and hence reaches on the verge of extinction. There are many factors which result in a language to become endangered. The rise of globalization and the use of internet especially in the developing countries is a major factor. Now days even the educational factor plays a big role in a language to be in danger. To study we all need a common platform of language. The same happens at work. A student going abroad is almost ready to make his mother tongue a secondary language for him.

In India, from the very beginning a child is asked (at times forced!) by his parents to converse in English. I know they have a reason for it that may be valid. The new syllabus of many educational boards, have a choice between Sanskrit and French and an elective.

To learn French is absolutely fine but at the cost of indigenous languages of India like Sanskrit must be prevented. In many disputed regions military and government policies also play a major role in disappearance of a language.

The Enduring Voices Project by national geographic channel and HRELP are some of the initiatives to save these endangered languages. The deputy chief of UNESCO said “we should feel proud to speak our own languages “ and we really must do so.

Data Source: UNESCO Annual reports; Image Credit: Shawn Econo




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