Sunday, June 16, 2013


Right now there are nearly 7,000 languages spoken throughout the world.  Surprisingly, it's predicted that a majority of them will become extinct by the end of this century.

Current population of the world is approximately 7 billion people.  Of those 7,000 languages, half the world's population speaks the top 20 languages with the leaders being Mandarin (China making up an estimated 20% of the world's population), Spanish, and English in that order.  Linguists point to globalization as one of the main reasons for the rapid decline of most languages.

When a language becomes extinct, the world loses more than just the words.  The knowledge and traditions of the people speaking that language are also lost.  Following is a sample list of 8 endangered languages (in no particular order) including information from the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity.

Irish Gaelic:  Even though the government requires Irish students to learn this language and it currently has an estimated 40,000 native speakers, it is still classified as vulnerable.

Rapa Nui:  This is the native tongue of Easter Island (part of Chile even though it's located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 2,000 miles away, similar to Hawaii's proximity to the U.S. mainland).  There are less than 4,000 native speakers.  The language is rapidly being taken over by Spanish.

Seneca:  Approximately 100 people, residents of 3 small native American reservation communities in the U.S., are the only speakers of this language with the youngest speaker being in his 50s.

Yaw:  This language comes from the Gangaw District of Burma (currently known as Myanmar).  Young people living in this area understand but do not speak this critically endangered language.  There are currently less than 10,000 native speakers.

Kariyarra:  While there are many people who have a basic understanding of this aboriginal language, there are only 2 fluent Kariyarra speakers remaining in Western Australia.

Francoprovençal:  Only about 130,000 native speakers of this language exist, primarily in secluded towns in east-central France, western Switzerland, and the Italian Aosta Valley.

Yagan:  This is an indigenous language of Chile.  There is purportedly only 1 remaining native speaker even though others are familiar with the language.

Patuá:  A language derived from Malay, Sinhalese, Cantonese and Portuguese, there are less than 50 native speakers in the Macau, China area.

Hopefully there will be a folkloric history created of these languages and the many other endangered languages before they become extinct and lost to mankind for all time.


Maddy said...

I understand there are also 27 Hebrew languages and Catalan which are also under threat of extinction.

Samantha Gentry said...

Maddy: Yes, and thousands of other lesser known languages, too.

Thanks for your comment.