Unesco: Languages under threat

More than half of the 6000 languages spoken in the world today may disappear by the end of the century, the UN cultural organisation Unesco said on the occasion of International Mother Language Day.

    In Africa, 80% of oral dialects are in danger of dying out

    The day was marked at Unesco headquarters in Paris by a conference on linguistic diversity focusing on the difficulties of African, Asian and American minorities to preserve their traditional tongues.

     

    Koichiro Matsuura, Unesco director-general, said: "When a language dies, it is a vision of the world that disappears.
     
    "Language is much more than an instrument, considerably more than a tool."

    He added: "In structuring our thoughts, in coordinating our social relations and in building our relationship with reality, it constitutes a fundamental dimension of the human being."

    Internet a factor

    A major part of Unesco's efforts to safeguard languages is aimed at ensuring greater diversity on the internet and in official texts, the organisation said.


    Matsuura: When a language dies,
    a vision of the world disappears 

    Today 72% of internet sites are in English, followed by German at just 7%, and French, Japanese and Spanish at 3%.


    About 90% of the world's languages are not represented at all on the internet, Unesco said.

     

    Some 20% of languages have no written version.

     

    In Africa - where one-third of the world's languages are spoken - about 80% of these are purely oral, and thus in greater danger of dying out, Unesco said.


    The African Union has declared 2006 a year of African Languages.

     

    SOURCE: AFP


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