25 Endangered Languages You Should Hear Before They Disappear
Irish isn't just a nationality or heritage—it’s also a language. Otherwise known as Gaelic, the language has less than 450,000 speakers, making it one of 2500 endangered languages around the world. By the turn of the century, at least half of the world’s spoken languages are expected to go extinct, according to UNESCO [PDF].
Financial services website GoCompare reached out to native speakers of 25 endangered languages and had them record a translation of a quote by Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini in their mother tongue. The phrase was “a different language is a different vision of life”—a reference to scientific evidence that language not only shapes the way we think and perceive the world around us, but also shapes our culture.
One of the languages featured in the project, the Australian indigenous language of Wiradjuri, is spoken by just 30 people. The continent was once home to 250 indigenous languages, but only 40 of those are still spoken. Wiradjuri is seeing something of a revival, though, and schools in several areas are now starting to teach the language.
Nawat, a language spoken in El Salvador, has just 200 speakers remaining. Also known as Pipil, the language evolved from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. According to historian Laura Matthew of Marquette University, some Nahuatl speakers in El Salvador are too ashamed to speak their mother tongue in public because of prejudice that persists in the country. Matthew and others around the world have started projects in an effort to preserve important documents in endangered languages and encourage more people to learn about them.
Below is the full list of languages that were included in the project:
Aymara: Bolivia, Chile, Peru
Balti: India, Pakistan
Basque: Spain, France
Belarusian: Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine
Guaraní: Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil
Limburgian: Netherlands, Germany
Lombard: Italy, Switzerland
Nawat: El Salvador
North Frisian: Germany
North Sami: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia
Ossete: Georgia, Russia
Quechua: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina
Venetan: Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Brazil, Mexico
Walloon: Belgium, France, Luxembourg
West Frisian: Netherlands
Wichi: Argentina, Bolivia