It is estimated that there may have been about 10,000 languages in the ancient world. That figured dropped to the current 7,000 languages with about 90% used by less than 100,000 people, according to BBC.
UNESCO has identified 2,500 languages that it claims are at a risk of extinction. Some of these languages have so few speakers that if there is not more emphasis on the language being passed down to the next generation, the language will be forever lost.
Some believe this isn’t a time for grieving over dying languages, rather it is a time to focus on the languages that are being used in everyday life.
Kenan Malik, a writer and broadcaster, thought preserving dying languages is “irrational.” He explained in a BBC article further that language isn’t something you grasp hard onto and refuse to let go. Language is a constant, ever changing thing that cannot be controlled.
Malik argued that it isn’t wrong to try a preserve a language on personal time, but when the government comes in then there’s a problem.
“To have a public policy that a certain culture or language should be preserved shows a fundamental misunderstanding….if a language is one that people don’t participate in, it’s not a language anymore.”
Strong words. I can understand, but I don’t completely agree. To preserve a language has much more to do with conserving a culture so that we may not have such a difficult time with current languages as we had when we were trying to learn ancient Egyptian before the Rosetta Stone was found.
There are two sides of the coin found when dealing with situations such as this:
1. Someone who believes the language should be preserved at all cost, if not for the community than for the history.
2. Who relish in the death of yet another language because that means it only brings the world closer to a universal language.
Unfortunately, there can never be a single universal language. Human beings just don’t work like that.
A single universal language is like everyone having the same clothes or hairstyles. That’s just silly.
To have everyone able to freely communicate with everyone is a wonderful thought, but that’s just it: a thought.
Even if we all spoke the same language it would still be quite different. Dialects, phrases, even words would be different to fit the current geographical needs. Already it’s easy to see how this change has occurred in several different languages currentlu spoken. How we handle this is by learning and understanding their culture and lives. Not simply disregarding them for the hope of all understanding each other fluently.