Languages are constantly evolving. Words and even phrases are being borrowed from other languages and new technologies lead to creation of new words. Languages represent current social and economical trends within countries and translators need to stay immersed in the local cultures in order to stay up to date with the language developments.
However, at the same time when many languages evolve, some languages die. Unfortunately, the process of globalisation and some technological advances, along with wide range of other factors, are creating a world with fewer and fewer languages. Out of almost 7,000 languages that currently exist in the world, approximately 43% are endangered and about 3,500 are expected to disappear by the end of this century! That’s right, we are losing languages at a very fast pace, many simply become extinct and with every dying language we’re losing more than just a communication tool. We lose more than a set of characters used to convey a message, we lose culture and history represented by that language and its users; humour, expressions and heritage accumulated over centuries disappear with every dying language.
In addition, even knowledge is lost with every dying language. According to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, who produce the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat), ‘Seventy-five percent of plant-derived pharmaceuticals were discovered by examining traditional medicines, and the languages of curers often played a key role.’ Therefore, if a language becomes extinct, so is the knowledge accumulated by users of that particular language, and without that knowledge we’re likely to lose opportunities for new medicine discoveries.
Every lost language on Earth can be compared to a lost species; and in similar way as human kind tries to preserve the endangered species, there are projects that help with preservation of endangered languages. For example, the Endangered Languages (http://www.endangeredlanguages.com/) project uses the internet and technology to protect this phenomenal part of who we are. This platform allows users to upload content in their language, which other members can use to learn and preserve these endangered languages. Thus keeping them alive.
Other initiatives, such as the Endangered Language Fund http://www.endangeredlanguagefund.org/ organise grants for projects that help with language preservation. These projects range from support in creation of teaching tools to local radio stations that broadcast in the endangered language.
If you’re interested in more statistics about the endangered languages, please visit the UNESCO website here (http://www.unesco.org/culture/languages-atlas/index.php). Hopefully with these initiatives we’ll be able to preserve as many languages as we can and thus protect our global culture, our history and our knowledge.
If you wish to promote multiple cultures and engage with foreign speakers around the world, do get in touch and tap into our network of professional translators and interpreters.