On Wednesday, September 9 at 19:30 GMT:
There are more than 6,000 distinct languages in the world today. But about 2,500 of them are at risk of becoming extinct, according to UNESCO. Some languages, for example the native Wiradjuri in Australia, are spoken by as few as 30 people – with limited national incentive to keep them alive.
To make matters more complicated, more than half of all languages have no written form – particularly ones spoken by Indigenous communities. As a result, they risk being forgotten completely, according to K David Harrison, assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. When they disappear, there is little historical record of their existence.
As languages disappear, they take with them aspects of Indigenous culture and tradition, leaving entire identities at risk of being erased.
UNESCO defines endangered languages as those where children no longer learn the language as the mother tongue in the home and the youngest speakers of the language are the grandparents. It is estimated that in the next 10 years at least 50 vulnerable languages will disappear.
On this episode of The Stream, we will take a closer look at some of the world’s lost languages and meet the activists trying to save them.
On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
David Harrison, @kdavidharrison
Linguist, Swarthmore College
Kaiako (teacher), Maori language
Biidaasigekwe Peterson-Briggs, @bdoteschool
Immersive Ojibwe teacher, Bdote Learning Center