The Death Of Language

Imagine if you woke up and no one was speaking English. The language you grew up speaking, and the one you hear in your head was not no longer used in the world. This is the reality for speakers of 450 languages world wide.  Ethnologue: Languages of the World  lists 6,809 language and only 330 of them have one million speakers or more.

Various languages are becoming endangered for a multitude of reasons. One of the primary causes for language loss is shift in language through the generations. Parents teach their children to learn prestige languages, that is, languages learned to participate in a more robust economy. Children leave their native tongue to achieve mastery of a language that they think will get them a better job or into college.

It might not seem like a real issue for languages to die off, but it is. Language is a device of culture that not only allows us to communicate but one of the most powerful components of our culture. When we loose language often, along with it go the customs and traditions associated with the eldest ancestors that speak it. Linguists estimate that a language is dying about every two weeks.

In what is known as the information age, we are rapidly producing the destruction of it. When we have cultures so dominant that they drown out the voices of others it is a problem. A broad cultural spectrum spurs our mental and emotional growth. Especially, since the places where these languages are dying are some of the most remote places in the world. There is knowledge about the locale that is dying along with them. Some of these cultures do not have written words at all so the only record of some or the events in their history is passes on with the speakers of the tongue.

If you woke up and  found that you were the last living person that spoke your native language, imagine how incredibly alone you would feel. Not only alone but the worry that your entire history my fade away with your own death. The gravity of it is unimaginable. Along with loss of language goes the wisdom and perspective of that culture.

Anthropologists seek to record and learn as much about the endangered languages as possible, but as not native speakers, much it lost. Language loss is an irreversible effect of our modern way of life, it will have ramifications that we may never fully understand, we can only hope to preserve the language that are left and cultivate a respect for all cultures where they occur naturally.