While English continues to enjoy robust growth with the expansion of the internet over the past two decades, rare and indigenous languages continue to experience decline in the number of fluent speakers. Of the more than 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, only a couple of dozen account for the primary languages spoken by more than half the world’s population.
Indigenous and rare languages provide some of the most vital means for capturing and preserving the cultures of which they are a part. Losing these cultural records necessarily depletes the rich diversity of art, literature, and other forms of cultural expression. Taking time to formalize a language, and then steps to preserve it, can not only celebrate a vital part of a country’s or people’s history, but it can also enrich the future.
At least 2,000 of these rare languages are considered endangered, as fluent speakers number under 1,000. These languages include many Indigenous languages, which are often lost with the aging of fluent speakers. The expansion of online resources in primary languages like Chinese, English, and Spanish can also contribute to the decline of these rare languages.
Language services, including interpretation and translation, can play a vital role in the preservation of rare and disappearing languages. While technology can help with this preservation, so much more is needed. By providing opportunities and resources through community and business support, language services can bring helpful insight into the nuances of the language and vital support for its continued use and preservation. Preservation, in turn, helps to protect the rich cultural resources and history contained in these rare and indigenous languages.
As the 400 Language People, A Foreign Language Service seeks to provide services in a number of rare languages, including Basque (660,000 speakers left), Irish Gaelic (440,000 speakers left), Ojibwe (6,000 speakers left), and Quechua (2,300,000 speakers left). If you cannot find your language on our 400 languages and counting list, please let us know! We would love to grow our resources and to work with you and your organization!