An endangered language is a language at risk of extinction, a language thatmay to become vanish and won’t exist anymore in the near future. This is can besurprising when we know that today, we can number about more than seven thousandslanguages in the world.
However, asDavid and Greg pointed out in the documentary one small language disappearsevery two weeks. These small languages are disappearing and are not use anymorebecause there are been replaced by others languages more widely used in theworld such as English in the United States or French in France. We can identifyaspects of languages that are endangered such as the fact that there is only asmall numbers of speakers of this language and this number is decreasing overthe time, moreover those speakers are in majority elderly because children donot learn those languages anymore.
These languages on the verge of extinction willdied because they are no longer being learned by children and their lastspeakers will die. For example at the beginning of the documentary in 2003,David and Greg took a poll of nine speakers of Chulym, a native language spokenin Siberia, by 2008 four of them were dead. In fact, more and more languagesare not just endangered but likely to be lost in the near future because onlyone native speaker still living, and when this person will die the languagewill die with his/her: the language will no longer be spoken, or known, byanyone. Inmy opinion, those languages are unknown by the world. Language which for manyyears communities achieved to communicate, transmitted their knowledge andkept alive their customs. If the language disappears, the culture associatedwith it will disappear too and people will not use it anymore.
When we thinkabout a language death, we are not only talking about a specific method ofcommunication, language is more than that. Behind the language we can finddifferent branch of knowledge, like Kallawaya that is famous for their healingpractices and their knowledge of medicinal use of thousands of plants, differentways to look at the life and at the same time different methods of transmissionof ideas. As I said before, language and culture are together and if a languagewhatever it is became a dead one the identity of a town became dead too.
Justfor that reason we should care about language which are in verge extinction notfor the communication method because people will develop another language touse but on the other hand the memories of that town will be forgotten with thelanguage as its history, its culture, its knowledge and its inhabitants becauseno own will be able to carry on it. Iwould feel the same way if English or French, my native language, were on theverge of extinction. But the way a language spread, is kipping active and notbeing endangered is also thanks to language contact. Because these endangeredlanguage are spoken in remote part of the world did not help to spread it. Incontrary, English or French are spoken by many people across the world. As Isaid before, language use is extremely linked to culture, if French will be onthe verge of extinction I would feel that part of my culture is disappearingand part of who I am.
4. The kind of conditions that would make children not want to learn alanguage spoken by their parents or grandparents is primarily due to politicalenvironment. Boarding school policiesthat forbid to speak any native languages seen as “gutter languages” like thedriver speaking Chulym pointed out.
Indeed, because of the school system, mostof the children would feel ashamed to speak their native language. That is why,in the movie, when the scientists are visiting a boarding school, most of thestudents do not speak their native language. The same observation was made inthe United States, indeed in the documentary they pointed out that speakingnative languages at school was prohibited and children were punished if theydid so. Also children may not want to learn these native languages because ofeconomic factors. They feel or they have been told that it will be useless forthe modern world. Finally they have the idea that by choosing to abandon theirnative language, they will be more efficient to learn another language, told tobe more useful, and it will increase their economic advantages. On the other hand, childrenmay want to learn these native languages to carry on their native culture,their history, and their connections to ancestors, as it is a cultural heritage.
These native languages provide their livelihood. As the linguistics said at theend of the documentary they don’t have to give up on their native languages tolearn another one. Being able to speak these native languages is also relatedto being able to carry on specific knowledge, specific rituals and specificideologies.
For example, all the knowledge of Kallawaya speakers about healingpractices thanks to plants that would be gone if there is no speakers anymore. UNESCO’swebsite states that ‘Cultural diversity is a driving force of development, notonly in respect of economic growth, but also as a means of leading a morefulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.’ It reallyhighlights that linguistic diversity provides and is part of the culturaldiversity of the world. Focusingon the causes of language endangerment four main types of causes can be identified:natural catastrophes, famine and disease, war and genocide, overt repressionand cultural, political, economic dominance. If we apply it to actualsituations of language endangerment or just the willingness or possibilities tospeak its native language for speakers of foreign languages or multilingualspeakers living in the United States, we can focus on the last cause thatimpacts the most. First economic, people migrate more and more to citiesbecause of rural poverty that lead to gather different people with differentbackgrounds that will adapt in order to be able to communicate. In fact,globalization and the development of economies further tourism, and tourismgathers speakers of majority languages, but they won’t be encouraged to speaktheir native language because of the economic environment that implies to speakEnglish. Then cultural dominance, in cities we are exposed to the culture ofthe majority community, for example education and literature through themajority or state language policy only.
Because of this cultural dominance,multilingual speakers or foreigners do not have the opportunity to speak theirlanguages or to maintain their cultural differences. Finally, political causes,for example education policies which ignore or exclude local languages, lack ofrecognition or political representation, bans on the use of minority languagesin public life. Throughoutthe documentary we understand and take into account the importance on howlanguage shapes social identity and how the loss of a language affectsindividuals and communities. However the loss of a language is not only a concernof recognized identity but much of the cultural, spiritual, and intellectuallife of a community is experienced through language. This means that the nextgeneration won’t experience and be aware of its all legacy that has been lostthrough time and more specifically this is an entire tradition of a communitythat is being lost. Applying it at the level of a foreigner moving to a newcountry where there is no community that he can identify with.
Because is notbeing exposed to his native language and moreover to his community, over thetime the person will start to not using his native language anymore and won’tcarry on his legacy because of a lack of exposure. The impact of language lostand the pressure for language shift in order to integrate majority communityshows that for the most part social identity is preserved but involves suddenloss of tradition. Language loss appears to be an unavoidable consequence ofprogress, globalization and develops understanding among groups.
But this goalcan be reached by the learning of second and third languages, not by the lossof native languages. Irealized that our native language it’s a treasure that makes who we are, how weconduct our personal and professional life. This documentary helps me torealize the importance of language diversity and that we should care and bemore involve to keep this diversity alive. Unfortunately, if we keep devaluingsome languages we won’t stop the number of languages death and maybe one-dayfuture generation will leave in one language use world.