Every two weeks, approximately one language dies. That means that every year, 26 languages disappear. Today, about 2,680 languages are at risk.
Language death occurs when a language loses its last native speaker. And even when there are still a few native speakers, but the language is no longer used for communication, it is then too often referred to as “dead.”
According to UNESCO:
“Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as a repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory.”
That means the death of a language not only means the death of a form of communication, but also the loss of a cultural history, traditions, and even identity. To help increase awareness of this reality and to support languages at risk (and those who speak them), the United Nations and UNESCO declared 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages.
Together, we can help share the importance of these languages to our world’s rich heritage and cultural diversity.
What is the International Year of Indigenous Languages?
The United Nations determines a theme for each year and this year, according to the UNESCO website is
“dedicated to increasing understanding, awareness, integration, collaboration, and cooperation in all areas related to Indigenous languages, whether that be digitally, culturally, pedagogically, or politically.”
That means this year is the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
How can you get involved?
UNESCO is looking for partners to help increase understanding, knowledge, and the spread of good practices regarding indigenous languages in order to promote and empower indigenous communities. They’re also looking for “strengthened cooperation to document indigenous languages.”
Do you speak or are you learning an indigenous language? We’d love to know more about it and your experience in the comments below!
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