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Storytelling – Dying Languages [EN]

People around the world put so much effort into stopping global warming, saving animals and our oceans. Hardly anyone is trying to prevent the loss of our endangered languages and our linguistic heritage.

Latest UNESCO statistic on endangered languages says that half of the current 6,000 languages are in danger of disappearing or being replaced by dominant languages (read more).

Every two weeks a language vanishes without trace.

By the large number it seems fairly impossible to reanimate these languages simply because of the lack of interest and attention. Even if some people learn an endangered language it will probably not sound authentically like the original language on account of that people will probably have an accent. Maybe especially because of these challenges there are only few people, mostly adults, which are interested in endangered and rare languages and might find it appealing to learn one.

A common belief is that minority languages become less important in the course of globalization.

Due to the low demand ancient languages are not being taught in schools anymore. Parents often teach their children English, French or Spanish in order to enable them to have a better education and because of occupational relevance. Languages such as Latin or Ancient Greek are considered to be dead languages. Nevertheless they are remarkably useful as a basis to study a new language because of grammatical or etymological parallels. Beyond that speaking more than one language improves ones communication skills in general.

The loss of language diversity is conjoined with the loss of cultural heritage.

The most crucial reason why people should care about endangered languages is that language is intimately connected to culture. Besides our individual demands it is everybody’s responsibility to preserve the world´s cultural heritage. When language disappears, it hardly ever leaves behind dictionaries, texts or records of the accumulated knowledge and history of a vanished culture.

Learning dead or dying languages is time well spent.

Thus it is vital to have linguists that study modern languages as well as endangered ones in order to compare languages and their history and preserve the culture. The existing safeguarding programs, for instance by UNESCO, might be useful to slow the process down but it ist to be feared that it is not enough to save and keep endangered languages alive.

Good to know: Find more information on endangered languages by UNESCO.

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