The Dodo’s Long Gone – But You Can Still Save a Language

Category: Language

“We all are [responsible for endangered languages]. We all are as a species. If we are interested in what makes us human. If we’re committed to understanding knowledge, and where we came from, and where we’re going, we need to connect with this, our linguistic past — and present.”

– Mark Turin, founder of UK-based World Oral Literature Project

Languages are dying. And unless we do something about it, some are going to disappear completely — going the way of the dinosaur, alchemy, and floppy disks.

Linguists and researchers are already taking the first step: visiting the world’s remote regions and documenting the grammar and sound system of native languages.

But after that, they need help, first and foremost from the people themselves who have to choose to revitalize and maintain their language, as well as teach it to the next generation.

You can do something, too. Here are some quick, actionable steps:

  1. Learn about the issue. Use tools and links provided by organizations like Living Tongues and the Foundation for Endangered Languages as a source of information and a jumping off point for your own education on the topic.
  2. Help spread awareness. There are numerous channels, both online and offline, for people to get involved in social issues. Change.org, DoSomething.org, and TakePart.com are all places where you can introduce this unique issue to a community that cares. You can also explore National Geographic’s Enduring Voices campaign
  3. Encourage (with words and action) your own government’s financial support of language-saving initiatives. It works! Just 20 years ago Welsh was nearly extinct; today, thanks to government funding, there are hundreds of thousands of Welsh speakers.
  4. Celebrate International Mother Language Day each year on February 21.