The Consequences of Language Loss Are More Dire Than You Think

 

If you think language loss is no big deal, unimportant to you, or that it doesn’t really effect anything, it’s time to think again.

Around the world exist several “hotspots” for vanishing languages including Southeast Asia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Siberia, but the direct, immediate effects that language loss has on speaker populations can be seen very prominently in North America and Australia.

I’ve drawn up this infographic for you in order to help illustrate the actual effects that language extinction can wreak on individuals and -perhaps more devastating- entire communities whose identities are being taken away at an alarming rate.

**Update** It should be noted that language loss is by far not the only factor that leads to the results listed in these graphics. Marginalized indigenous people living  on reservations are sometimes subject to extreme poverty. Language loss can be a significant factor in this poverty and social marginalization, but I do not wish to imply at all that it is the sole factor at play here.

  

 

Conclusion

It’s time we stopped thinking about endangered languages as someone else’s problem and awoke to the fact that this isn’t just some sob story about some indigenous legends and linguists’ careers, but a truly tragic crisis that directly contributes to poverty, crime, and shattered families.

What can we do about it? Sadly it doesn’t make sense for most of us to grab our notebooks and pith helmets and trudge off into the bush. What this issue really needs from people like you and I is awareness. The more that people know about endangered languages and their speakers, the more likely linguists’ efforts to slow the losses are to make a difference.

You can help out by tweeting or sharing this infographic on Facebook. Help spread awareness of a global problem that disintegrates communities and ruins lives.

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  • Sarah

    these infographics don’t look nearly as professional as most of the ones I see – a more limited colour scheme and maybe only 2 fonts used would help it to look a bit more consistent.

  • catdownunder

    And when we lose a language we also lose a way of thinking. That can be the first step towards solving a problem important to the well being of all people.

  • Indeed! Thanks for your comment.

  • David Cooper

    In cases where it seems hopeless, it isn’t – the vital task is to collect as much of the language as possible. Record conversations and stories, and get transtations of as much as you can. Discuss as many subjects as possible in order to capture as many words as you can, because there is knowledge and wisdom tied up in so many words and expressions. Also collect recordings from many speakers, so that you have a good range of samples of the variety of accents. Artificial intelligence will some day be able to revive any dead language, just so long as it’s properly recorded, and it will be able to bring up children as native speakers of those languages just as if they never died out. Collect the data and you can save a langauge even if the last speakers are about to croak.