FAQ

A FAQ is information listed in a question-and-answer format. FAQ stands for “frequently asked questions.”

Q. What’s is this blog for?

  • To provide information about language revitalization.

Q. What is language revitalization?

  • Promoting the use of endangered and dormant languages. Language revitalization is being implemented in every area of the globe.

Q. What’s an endangered language?

  • A language in danger of disappearing in the near future. For many reasons, parents may quit speaking their ancestral language to their children. When there are no more speakers of the language, the language is dormant.

Q. How many languages are there and how many are endangered?

  • It is extremely difficult to count languages. According to the Ethnologue, there are 6909 living languages today, most unwritten. It’s believed that about half of the languages spoken today will be silenced by the end of the twenty-first century. In the Americas and Australia in particular, languages other than English, Portuguese and Spanish are rapidly in decline as the number of people learning them as mother tongues is rapidly decreasing.

Q. What causes language endangerment?

  • There are many reasons for a language to lose speakers. Sometimes people adopt another language because it has economic advantages. In colonized countries in particular, the colonizing people have often oppressed native language use. Sometimes the only area where a language is spoken is hit by a disaster and the survivers cannot maintain their language. For reasons like these, large languages like English, Mandarin (Chinese), and Spanish expand while others lose speakers.

Q. You say that about 3500 languages are endangered. What are some examples of endangered languages?

  • ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian), Euskara (Basque) in France and Spain, and ウチナーグチ (Okinawan) in Japan are just three examples. Nearly every indigenous language in the Americas and Australia is endangered. Central and Eastern Siberia are two other locations with endangered language hotspots. There is hardly a region on the globe where a language is not endangered.

Q. What’s the importance of saving a language?

  • A language carries the story of a people and a culture. A language provides people with their place in the world and tells them who they are. It provides a source of knowledge of how to get along with others, how to act, and how to understand the world. The loss of a language breaks the connection of a people to their culture. Each language is unique and cannot be replaced with another language without losing the vital ties of a people to its culture.

Q. Are languages being saved?

  • It’s difficult to measure the success of language revitalization because it’s such a new undertaking, but people around the globe are working to spread their tongues. Elders who found their native tongue out of favor in the past are now working to recall long-forgotten words and expressions. Dictionary projects are springing up everywhere. Success is being reported particularly in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Hawai’i, though funding is always at issue. Time and hard work will tell.

Q. What can I do to help?

  1. Learn a living language!
  2. Search the Internet or find a dictionary and make posts in your living language.
  3. Learn about your local community. The chances are there is a community nearby that has an endangered language situation. A great resource to start searching is the Ethnologue.
  4. See if there is a language class offered on an endangered language.
  5. Contribute to an organization like the Endangered Language Fund or the Foundation for Endangered Languages to help fund revitalization projects.

2 Responses to “FAQ”

  1. Bruce Holcombe Says:

    I am most impressed with your site. I had always wondered why there was no Museum of Languages (at least to my knowledge) around the world. I have even been to an exceedingly interesting sex museum in Shanghai. My interest was therefore piqued this morning when I noticed an article on page 2 of today’s International Herald Tribune about the establishment of a Museum of Portuguese In Brazil. Hardly a multilingual museum but an interesting endeavor. If you have not seen the article, you may find it of interest.
    Have you read Nicholas Ostler’s book, “Empires of the Word”, an outstanding and thoroughly researched book on the history of the languages of the world?. He too is very interested in language preservation.

    Keep up the good work.

    Bruce Holcombe
    PS Apologies for my personal web site, which suffers from unforgivable neglect after a brief intial flurry.

  2. renato Says:

    Recently I found a site http://www.abkhaz.org which I trying to teach abkhaz language, by translating a kind of teach yourself abkhaz from Russian to English. I think this is very important to make this Caucasian language alive, and well known trough the world, any way they didn’t translated all lessons to English yet, but it is an interesting language.

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