Fast Facts

Factoids + FAQs

What is lost when a language disappears?

Most cultures in the world remain entirely oral. Language is the storehouse and often the only window onto the collective history of a community. When these languages disappear, so too does a wealth of knowledge about a community, the environment its speakers live in, etc. pass out of existence forever.

Why shouldn’t everyone just speak English?

Everyone should be free to choose what language[s] they speak. Socio-economic forces drive communities to shift from one language to another.

It is easy to imagine a future in which even English is no longer seen as useful. Many more people speak Mandarin Chinese than English. Why shouldn’t everyone in America be forbidden from speaking English in favor of Chinese? More countries have Spanish or Arabic as their official or majority language. How would you feel if you were forced to give up English in favor of those languages?

Recent studies have shown that bilingual brains process information more quickly than monolingual ones. Thus, in a very real sense, bilingual people are smarter than monolingual ones, on average. The brain is flexible and can retain more than one language at little or no effort (a number of people in the Northern Australia Language Hotspot can speak 14 or 15!). Another study shows that bilingual brains function longer than monolingual ones, and that the onset of dementia is typically delayed in bilingual brains in comparison with monolingual ones.

Religious practices in many parts of the world involve veneration of ancestors. If a community shifts from their heritage language to another, intrusive one, how do you pray to your gods or ancestors, if you use a language they didn’t speak? Many things simply do not translate well. Puns and jokes for example are often lost in translation. Songs lose their rhythm or cadence and so on.

Isn’t it too expensive to maintain all these languages?

Not every language is written and many never will be. Electronic storage is not particularly expensive so languages that forever will remain oral can still be documented and archived. New digital media and on -demand publication means that very small print runs for those that are written is increasingly cost -effective.

Wouldn’t it help people economically to speak the majority language?

The answer is obviously yes, but since bilingualism is normal around the world and has been proven to be beneficial, speaking the language of business in an area does not mean you have to give up your ancestral language in favor of it.

Isn't it bad for the speakers to keep using ‘old’ languages?

Getting people to give up prejudice and discrimination is difficult in any area. A large part of prejudice is fear and misunderstanding. The more people come to realize that there is strength in diversity in social as well as ecological systems, through educating themselves by means of sources such as this website, the more people will come to value that people speaking multiple languages is good, and not something worthy of fear, scorn, or oppression.

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