Saving A Language

Category: Culture, Language

According to UNESCO, there are 3,000 endangered languages around the globe. Since 1950, 350 languages have become extinct.

The recently released Endangered Languages Database from the University of Cambridge World Oral Literature Project lists languages from around the world that are extinct, endangered or nearly extinct. In Brazil alone, there are 35 critically endangered languages; in Europe, 49 languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people; in Vietnam 37 languages are in the database, ranging from extinct to vulnerable.

With so many languages about to vanish, what can you do? On the Acclaro Blog in March, we suggested four ways that you can help to save a language. Perhaps this is could be a New Year’s resolution for 2011? It may seem like one person cannot save a language, yet a 21-year old Frenchman proved that this is indeed possible.

Guillaume Leduey (via France-Amérique magazine) spent two months recently in Alaska to launch a project to revive the Native-American language of Eyak, which disappeared in 2008. Leduey went to Alaska to “create a educational platform to gather the descendents of this tribe and to motivate them to learn the language.” At 13, when Leduey first became interested in Eyak, there was only one person still speaking the language. He contacted two specialists in Eyak — a linguist and a journalist — and began studying the language himself. His passion for Eyak culminated with his stay in Alaska to meet in person the Eyak specialists and Eyak descendents themselves. There is still a long road ahead, but Leduey continues to be an advocate for the language and is soon to receive a scholarship from the National Science Foundation to continue his pursuit of reviving the Eyak language.

Many language enthusiasts such as Leduey are helping to save languages around the globe: local community groups, anthropologists, linguists, and even online language-learning communities. One person can make a difference. Let’s make sure that endangered languages are not forgotten. Learn more about what you can do to help an endangered language.