- What is an Endangered Language?
An Endangered Language is a Language which has a very limited number of speakers,i.e., Languages which are not used very frequently and are most likely to disappear in the near future. The most common reason for Language Endangerment is Language Shift, like English is the most spoken Language in the US and other Languages which were spoken earlier are disappearing gradually. Now Language Shift occurs due to various reasons including political, social and economical. If proper measures are not taken most of the Languages that exist today will get extinct in this very century. More than 500 Languages have already been extinct because of the fact that the native speakers did not teach their children their own native Language. In fact some of the critically Endangered Languages do have only one or two native speakers left and those Languages will die with those speakers.
- How does a Language become Extinct?
The answer to this question is simple but the reason is complicated. Languages get extinct when native speakers start abandoning their Language, Culture and Heritage. There are various reasons behind this, Cultural assimilation is the most common reason. Wars and other political conflicts sometimes force people to Shift their Language. A number of historical examples can be found for Language extinction. Language Extinction does not happen overnight, it happens gradually when one generation does not speak their native Language outside home and the subsequent generation does not even learn the Language.
- What are different levels of Language Endangerment?
UNESCO has labelled Language Endangerment at Four Levels:
- Vulnerable: A Language is considered Vulnerable when the youngest generation does not speak their native Language outside their home or only in presence of their close relatives.
- Definitely Endangered: A Language is considered Definitely Endangered when the youngest generation does not even learn their Language even if it is their Mother Tongue.
- Severely Endangered: A Language is considered Severely Endangered when only the oldest generation uses the Language and speakers are limited.
- Critically Endangered: A Language is Critically Endangered when the Language is used by very few people of the oldest generation. A Critically Endangered Language is most likely to get extinct very soon.
- Why is it important to save a Language?
When a Language gets extinct, it takes away an entire culture along with it. Each and every Language has its own History, Heritage and Cultural Importance and all of it wipes out if the Language dies. Imagine a generation will never know their own History if their native Language has become Extinct even before they are born.
Saving and preserving a Language can save numerous Traditions, Folklores, Customs and most importantly the story of Origins of those Languages. Saving Languages is of utmost importance.
- How can we prevent a Language from Extinction?
There are a lot of ways to save a Language. Some of them are:
- Speaking the Native language: This is the easiest way to save a Language. If we insist on speaking our Native language more often, the Language usage will increase significantly.
- Language Teaching: It is extremely important for the youngest generation to learn their native Language and that can be achieved by Language Teaching. If primary schools encourage teaching Native Languages especially if the older generation voluntarily teaches children their language it would save the language.
- Language Documentation: Languages can be documented i.e., by videography, voice recordings or via printed medium for preservation. This keeps the Language from extinction.
- Content Creation: It is extremely important to create content in native languages. It can be a song, a story or even a folklore. The young generation should be interested in learning the Language and creating new contents is the only way to keep them interested. Also if the young generation starts sharing those contents in social media, the language gets more exposure.
- How many Languages are Endangered in India?
As per UNESCO report there are 197 Languages in India which are endangered. Now since the 1971 census, Indian Government has decided that languages which are spoken by less than 10,000 people will not be added as an official Language. As per UNESCO, any Language spoken by less than 10,000 people is potentially endangered. During the People’s Linguistic Survey of India held in 2010, famous activist and literary critic Mr. Ganesh Narayan Devy documented 780 Indian languages and found that 600 of these languages were on the verge of extinction. He also added that 250 Languages had already died in India during the past 60 years.(Mentioned in an Interview conducted by The Indian Express).