“It is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century. With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only a cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.”
This quote from the UNESCO Endangered Languages Programme gives me pause. While we know not to totally censure our students’ use of their home languages, we certainly do encourage them to become predominantly English users within the schools. Whether they maintain and/or gain fluency in their home languages is not our mandate. Are we missing something here? Perhaps a little research into who speaks what and where, might be in order? Rather than wring my hands because a child can no longer communicate with her Grandmother, I decided a little research was in order.
By the way, UNESCO actually encourages carefully structured language policies to maintain home languages or revive them in the cases where only a very few speakers of a language remain. While many of our additional language learners come from vibrant linguistic heritages, what about those who come from far-flung places and have been persecuted for various reasons, including using their home languages? What about our Aboriginal learners and the historical attempts to wipe out their languages? The number of First Nations languages that are seriously endangered is staggering.
For starters, take a look at the interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. I was fascinated to browse and learn but also sad to see how many languages are in deep trouble right here in British Columbia. Do check it out at: Atlas of World’s Languages
In this light several languages have been researched and the findings are posted here. At present we have the following for your perusal: