Indigenous languages at risk
Linguistic diversity is at risk around the world, and the effects are especially being felt by indigenous peoples.
UNESCO, who compiles information about language endangerment, has found that around 600 languages have become extinct in the last century alone. Alarmingly they are disappearing at a rate of one every two weeks. Indigenous languages, usually native to smaller regions and spoken by fewer people, are disappearing at a critically high rate. Unfortunately, fewer children are learning these languages from their parents and elders, meaning that the languages are disappearing with the passing of generations.
Saving indigenous languages is a matter of urgency. Languages are intrinsically linked with identity, communication, education and development. The conservation of indigenous languages is key to ensuring the protection of indigenous peoples’ cultural identity and heritage, as well as their future.
Any loss of an indigenous language means the loss of irreplaceable indigenous knowledge with huge implications. Traditional knowledge informs development in many areas including the maintenance of the world’s biological diversity and the loss of knowledge could affect our ability to tackle climate change and future global challenges.
To address the growing concern that indigenous languages are at threat of becoming extinct, the United Nations have proclaimed 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. It is hoped that this year-long celebration and discussion will draw attention to the issue and encourage activities that will promote and revitalise indigenous languages.