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SOS, Endangered Languages! How Can You Save Them?

SOS, Endangered Languages! How Can You Save Them?

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Climate change, endangered species, but endangered languages? According to the 2021 UNESCO World Report of Languages: Towards a Global Assessment Framework for Linguistic Diversity, nearly half of the virtually 7,000 languages spoken around the world today are about to go extinct.

There are several reasons why languages die out. Geopolitical factors or even natural disasters can be the culprits for language disappearance.
A community may choose to abandon its language and cultural heritage to abate an oppressor. This is how centuries ago, the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors imposed their languages and culture on the aboriginal populations of Latin America.
Today, languages disappear due to speakers abandoning them favouproring other more popular ones. This is what UNESCO defines as “endangered languages”.
Languages are central to our national and cultural identity. We should preserve them, but how? Below we identify a few essential tips to support endangered languages.

Why is it important to help preserve endangered languages?

Preserving a language is equally important to preserving wildlife. Why? Because language is the main vehicle to promote and preserve cultural heritage.

Language has served as humanity’s primary means of passing stories such as The Epic of Gilgamesh down from generation to generation. Losing a language means losing part of the ancestral heritage forever.
Local languages, folklore, songs and poems are a wellspring of the world’s diverse traditions and stories. We just can’t let it perish.

Saving linguistic heritage

While governments may impose restrictive measures to preserve endangered languages, there are simpler and more pleasant ways of preventing endangered languages from fading away.

Developing a set of resources for endangered languages

A language is a living organism, not just a means of communication. Speaking that language also shapes your thinking in a certain way. This is why certain concepts are unique to certain languages and are unrelatable in others.
For example, what an Eskimo or Inuit could express in one word, “Ayurnamat”, would take a whole sentence in English, “It’s no use crying over spilt milk”, or something along those lines anyway.
Speaking a language is also understanding its “anatomy”, or in other words – syntax, grammar rules, accents, syllables, etc. All these elements must be carefully curated and recorded to allow linguistic and cultural heritage to live on.
Usually, anthropologists and linguists work hand-in-hand to create a corpus of resources, such as dictionaries, glossaries, and conversation guides, to allow new generations to learn the language without going through all the guesswork.

Translation is preservation

A key reason native speakers refrain from speaking their language in the presence of speakers of other languages is fear of miscommunication – especially in situations where being understood clearly by the entire auditorium and the language they speak is spoken by a small number of people.
As English remains one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide, and the main language any content is translated or localized, speakers of “rare” languages switch to English to make themselves understood.
However, not all is lost. With the aid of professional translation services like Pangea Global’s, you can rest assured that your audience will understand your message, even if your native language is a rare African dialect.
With translation services readily available and dedicated project management, native speakers of rare languages no longer feel the pressure to learn a new language to communicate effectively with speakers of other languages.

Social media is your best friend

Digitalisation and social media have given rise to myriad opportunities for promotion across the board. Endangered languages are no exception. Social media platforms have also contributed to the preservation of their uniqueness.
Mini-campaign ideas such as “Word of the day” can help revive part of the lost world that a language contains. Not to mention that channels like YouTube or TikTok allow users to connect, no matter where they are geographically. So, why lose your linguistic heritage when you can share it? If you need help with that, drop us a line. We have a few ideas.
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