Forgetting a Language

Languages are going extinct. There are about 7,000 languages currently in the world, but only about 100 of those are spoken by 95% of the world’s population. Why is this happening?

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Trade and communication are big factors. 

Parents in various parts of the world want their children to grow up safe and be considered “normal.” Having the opportunity to learn a well known language gives the child easier access to jobs and a deeper connection to the world around them.

Plus, with so much of today’s television in one of the dominate languages a child would be hard pressed to truly understand certain bits of technology without understanding the language it’s set in.

Language is rich in culture and history, losing a language takes this away from a society. It’s for this very reason many have tried to revive their language with tourism (such as the Silbo Gomero the whistling language), or merely having the language on bus stops or signs along side the dominant language (such as Gaelic or Welsh).

But what if a language wants to be forgotten?

When would a language ever want to be forgotten? In the case of various Native Americans, it’s because of what sort of history the language had.

During the 1860’s the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a part of the American government, forced children of Native families to study at American boarding schools. The schools prevented the children from using their native customs. If they were caught doing something of the sort, they were punished.

Now, the language brings regret to many Native tribes, especially those of the Maidu people. Unfortunately, for many who wish to study the language or record it, the Maidu people are hesitant to show outsiders the information due to the lack of trust and respect they feel for the outsiders.

It’s strange to think of a world so filled of information will be without some of its most precious knowledge: language and culture. Language and culture is what defines humanity. Without our definition fully explained, how will we be defined when we’re dead and gone?

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