What Happens When a Language Goes Extinct?
A lot is lost during the homogenisation of languages! Cultural traditions, unique expressions and nuanced meaning that cannot be expressed in any other way are all threatened. Key information that can help improve our planet, such as historic accounts of events, familial histories/ancestry records, medicinal therapies, food preparation and diet analysis, the evolution of climate, plants and animals, is also in danger. In other words, it is not just alternate vocabulary and a grammatical structure at stake when a language goes extinct.
It has been estimated that, in the next generation, 3,500 languages will effectively die out. The most remote areas of the world are being encroached on by modernisation. Our communication methods are some of the first to take over as we “educate” those living in less developed areas to the current modern standards.
The most extreme predictions, forecast to occur by the end of this century, state that 90% of the world’s current languages will be endangered, if not completely extinct. Documenting the world’s languages is a gigantic task that linguists globally are scrambling to complete before it is too late. One researcher, David Harrison, believes over 85% of the world’s languages are not yet recorded. The sheer volume of work and the short time frame make this an onerous undertaking.
The International Congress of Linguists recognises this rapid deterioration of linguistic diversity as a crisis. The United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations are also making these facts known through world language recognition programmes and compilations of endangered languages.
As the world’s economy shrinks and communications speed up, our need to have common languages in which to communicate has outweighed the benefits of diverse expression. Currently, the most dominant languages include Arabic, English, Spanish and Mandarin, simply because they have the most native speakers globally.
What if your native language is Japanese, Hindi, Greek or Portuguese? Does it make sense to teach your children and grandchildren the language that was passed down to you? Or do you encourage them to study English as a Second Language (ESL) or even become multilingual at the youngest age possible? If enough people choose to speak in the home the same language taught in schools, heard in the media and used internationally, it is easy to see how easily languages can become endangered in only one generation.
Just think: Saving the scrapbooks and letters from an older relative in your native language might not even make sense! It is likely that future family members won’t be able to understand them anyway, without hiring professional translators.
Recording, transcribing, documenting and translating information from generation to generation is becoming critical. Such professional services are not only needed in scientific and business industries, but also for individuals, families and cultural groups to preserve their heritage and prevent cultural devastation.
At Renaissance Translations, we take our role in sustaining linguistic diversity very seriously. When we are given the opportunity to work on a unique combination of languages or a project that could save critical information from being inaccessible to future descendants, we are truly honoured. Let us preserve your cultural heritage by translating and protecting your family heirlooms.