2,700 indigenous languages dying: UN

• There’s Ojibwe in Canada, Ami in Australia and Ayapanec in Mexico: these are among the world’s nearly 2,700 indigenous languages at risk of disappearing unless new initiatives are taken to revive them, UN officials say.

• The United Nations is hoping to raise awareness of the cultural loss with the launch this week of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, a yearlong project to help protect these ancient mother tongues.

• 2019 must serve as a turning point in our collective determination to save indigenous languages and those who speak them.

Key highlights

• Out of the roughly 7,600 languages spoken worldwide, 2,680 indigenous languages are in danger and many are disappearing at an alarming rate, according to UN officials.

• “Every two weeks, there is an indigenous language that disappears, so it is a pretty large toll indeed,” said Ernesto Ottone-Ramirez, an assistant director at the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO.

• In 2003, the last fluent speaker of Akkala Saami, spoken in Russia’s northern Kola peninsula, died, a few years before Tefvic Esenc Eyak disappeared in 2008 with the death of Marie Smith Jones in Alaska.

• At a ceremony in Paris this week, eight-year-old Odeskkun Thusky spoke in his native Algonquin from Canada’s First Nation regions in Quebec and Ontario.

• “It’s important to speak this language because our language here is dying and we want more people to speak it so our language doesn’t die,” Thusky told AFP.

• Canada, home to around 630 First Nation tribes comprising 1.4 million people, has promised funds to help revitalize several languages.

• In Australia, more than 250 aboriginal languages were spoken when the British first started to settle in 1788, but only around 120 are still spoken today.

• In a bid to hold on to them, some Northern Territory schools now provide education in both English and an aboriginal language.


Mains Paper 2: International Relations

Prelims level: Indigenous languages

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