Challenges Facing Indigenous Languages | International Year of Indigenous Languages

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Challenges Facing Indigenous Languages

Reasons for concern:

  • Today about 7,000 languages are spoken worldwide, but scientists estimate that about half will no longer be spoken at the end of the century
  • Indigenous people speak the majority of the world's 7,000 languages

What are benefits of indigenous languages?

  • Languages play a central role in the identity of indigenous communities
  • Each language provides a unique way of understanding the world
  • Each language acts as a repository of cultural knowledge, practices, and histories

Why are languages being lost?

  • In the US, the government adopted policies to eradicate indigenous languages, like sending indigenous children to boarding schools where they were only allowed to speak English
  • Worldwide, forces of colonization, globalization and westernization have encouraged people to speak English or other world languages

What is being done to help?

  • Indigenous communities around the world are taking steps to revitalize their languages
  • Initiatives include providing language training to youth, developing online resources, and encouraging community members to place a high value on their language
  • Linguists and anthropologists are actively supporting these efforts
  • Picture on right shows textbooks and DVDs prepared by Lamkaang community in Northeast India

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