• Understanding the
    Issue
  • Understanding the
    Issue

LANGUAGES ON THE BRINK

Language is the voice of a people and a culture.
Without language, peoples and their cultures cease to grow and start to fade away.


THE ISSUE

  • A Linguistic Catastrophe

    Over the last fifty years, all around the world, a silent catastrophe has been unfolding. Thousands of languages- all ancient and not well documented - have been disappearing.

    These languages are usually spoken by small groups of indigenous people who often do not have the resources to defend their language and culture against a dominant world language.
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  • Its Effect

    The tragedy is that when these languages disappear - the ideas, customs, stories and songs - embedded and expressed through them also disappear. Tens of thousands of years of a people's culture and identity are lost.

    These peoples will never know where they came from or who they were. And the world will have lost another language, another unique and irreplaceable resource of idea - a library of concepts and viewpoints years in the making gone forever.
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  • The Worsening Situation

    Though some language death is natural, the exponential rate with which cultures and languages are now dying is not. Today, language groups do not have the time or the resources to defend their distinctive identities. Languages that once stood a good chance, now do not. And the increased scale of language decimation is expected to consume more than half the world’s languages in the next fifty year.
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BORDER HANDS
"Indian languages helped the world during WWII, now it is time the world helps our languages survive."

- Clarence Wolf Guts, WWII Lakota Code Talker

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THE DIRECTION FORWARD

  • What Can Be Done?

    There are two important things that need to be done to stem the tide of language loss. The first is to ensure that, collectively as global citizens, we all learn to appreciate the value of endangered minority languages . And that we support the efforts of NGOs and policy-makers to protect and rescue these languages.

    The second important element in this language rescue is giving language communities the financial and linguistic resources they need to maintain and sustain their languages across generations.
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  • The Obstacles

    Language loss has become a huge problem worldwide. There are over a hundred languages dying per year and thousands more in jeopardy. In addition, the financial resources that governments and foundations contribute to the problem are not adequate to the task at hand.

    Even the United States, which has lost 196 Native American languages, which will loss another 91 in the coming few years, and which has another 46 on the brink of extinction, spends less than 1% on the problem compared to countries like Australia and New Zealand.
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