As many of you will know, the United Nations has declared this year as the Year of Indigenous Languages. The purpose of this is to raise awareness of the crucial role that languages play in people’s lives. There are currently just over 7,000 living languages in the world and of those, 2,680 are endangered. Many more are vulnerable. To explain the consequences of language loss, the UN wrote “Given the complex systems of knowledge and culture developed and accumulated by these local languages over thousands of year, their disappearance would amount to losing a kind of cultural treasure. It would deprive us of the rich diversity they add to our world and the ecological, economic and sociocultural contribution they make”.
In the last few centuries, languages have been lost at an alarming rate. The UN predicts that we may lose up to 90% of today’s languages within the next century.
There are currently numerous blogs, YouTube channels, language events and websites dedicated to language learning. Some of them promote the preservation or growth of vulnerable or endangered languages. I therefore decided to ask some of my friends, who are active within the polyglot community, if they had written or recorded anything about vulnerable or endangered languages and I received quite a few replies!
MAUREEN (me): Over the last few years, I have completed several language challenges to learn some vulnerable or endangered languages, some of which were long and some short. The longer challenges I did were for Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Sicilian and Napulitano. On each of those links, I shared my resources and my 15 minute video I made with a native speaker on the last day of my challenges. If you select Sicilian, Welsh or Napulitano from the categories on the right, you will also see some blog posts I have written in those languages.
I also wrote a blog post about Greko (spoken in Calabria, Italy) after I completed the Greko Tribalingual course. There are only around 300 native speakers left! Another article I wrote was about my trip to Alghero, Sardinia where I talked about the vulnerable language of Alguerès. Recently, I attended a Cornish Language Weekend in Cornwall and wrote about that on this post.
MICHELE FROM THE INTREPID GUIDE:
Michele runs a wonderful blog about both travel and languages. Like me, she tries to learn at least some of the local language before travelling to a new country.
On this article , she has written a Beginner’s Guide to Khoisan Languages: Africa’s Clicking Languages.
This article is about how many languages there are in the world today, including information on endangered languages and the earliest writing systems.
Nicky has completed many online language challenges and records her progress on You Tube. This is a video she made in Zazaki with a translation in the comments.
Hannah has been learning some Gwich’in. On this video, she learns some phrases from a native speaker.
Cesco sent me a link to this website about Linguistic Rights, ran by his organisation, The Universal Esperanto Association. They regularly participate in the UN Forum on Minority Issues and you can watch videos about some of their work here .
Jared is an active Greenlandic learner. He has made several videos about Greenlandic such as this video. I also interviewed him for my “Let’s Talk Languages” series, where we discussed Greenlandic and well as the languages of the Pacific Islands that he has learned. You can watch that interview video here.
Gareth is a fluent Welsh speaker and is also learning Basque. He regularly contributes to the Polyglot Community with his videos of the events, language learning videos and his blog, How To Get Fluent . On this video, he shows us what it’s like to attend the Eisteddfod, the Welsh language annual festival.
ROB AND XIA:
Rob and Xia did a challenge to learn Lombard. Here is their video speaking Lombard after learning for one month (with subtitles).
Lara Gabrielle did a challenge to learn Yiddish. Here is her video speaking Yiddish after two months of learning.
JESSICA @ FOR THE LOVE OF LANGUAGES:
Jessica is making a You Tube series called 52 Pick Up which is about 51 different languages including many endangered ones. This is a video she made about Tamazight.
PARROT TIME MAGAZINE:
Erik Zidowecki from Parleremo & Trish Dunbar from Language Learners Journal published a language magazine called Parrot Time. They released a special edition dedicated to endangered languages. In that edition, there are articles about Tuvaluan, Marshallese, Roma, Vurës, Cornish, Gaelic, Welsh, Manx and Nahuatl. To read that edition, click here.
This summer, I went to the Edinburgh Festival and attended a half day course on writing in Scots. The course was aimed at Scots speakers who have never learned to write in our own language as this wasn’t allowed within our education system. The Festival also included poetry and songs in other endangered languages from around the world.
Next month, I will be presenting about Scots and Scottish Gaelic at the Polyglot Conference in Japan. Other language workshops at the event will include Tuvinian (Tuvan), Ainu, Yiddish and Yucatec Maya.
Langfest in Montreal this summer included sessions on Breton and Yiddish.
The Polyglot Gathering is an annual event that always includes workshops or presentations about endangered languages. Keep an eye on their website for the next programme!
What are the bigger companies doing?
ITALKI is the site I use for speaking practice in all my languages from beginner to advanced level. If you register using this link, you will receive a free $10 credit after paying for your first lesson.
JOHN MURRAY PUBLISHERS (CHAMBERS IMPRINT): A new book was released this year called Poems From the Edge of Extinction featuring poems in 50 endangered languages such as Scots, Maori, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Navajo, Saami and Yiddish, along with English translation.
WIKITONGUES is a project to make videos of people speaking many different languages, including many endangered ones.
GOOGLE EARTH made a special edition where you can click on various countries and listen to recordings of speaks in 50 endangered languages, along with English translations.
TRIBALINGUAL is a language learning company who specialise in lesser-known languages such as Ainu and Ladino.
UTALK publishes courses in over 140 languages, including some endangered ones such as Manx, Maori and Sardinian.
MANGO LANGUAGES offers online courses in over 70 languages. The following languages are available to study for free: Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Tuvan, Chaldean Aramaic, Dzongkha, Hawaiian, Cherokee, and Yiddish.
HIPPOCRENE BOOKS publish books in many languages including some endangered and vulnerable languages such as Basque, Quechua, Welsh and Ladino.
ROUTLEDGE Colloquial Series comes with audio and is available in many languages such as Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish and Yiddish.
More Information about Endangered Languages:
UNESCO – Click here to access the official website for the UN Year of Indigenous Languages.
The Endangered Languages website contains information and materials in over 3,000 languages.
Cademia Siciliana – These guys were very helpful to me during my Sicilian studies.
Have you written anything or made a video about an endangered language? Leave a link in the comments!