There are now 7.7 billion people on earth. Out of these 7.7 billion, 1.5 billion people speak English. 300 million people speak French.
Of course, in today’s society, more and more people are at least bilingual, it has become a necessity. But how much space does this leave for languages that are not used for Trade, for example?
Do we even know how many languages are spoken in the world?
Yes, we do. Well, kind of. Scientists have reached a consensus around 7,000 languages, to which are added thousands of dialects. Those languages are then classified into families. The best-known family, probably because it was the most studied, is the indo-european family, to which belong French and English.
But this is not the most fascinating to me. You see, there are more than 7,000 different languages in the world, and yet 80% of the global population only use 80 languages, which leaves thousands of others to only 20% of the world. Unfortunately, this leads to the loss of many languages. It is now considered that 40% of them are disappearing. This amounts to roughly 2,800 languages worldwide.
2,800 languages are doomed to join Latin and fall into the pits of oblivion.
That’s a lot, isn’t it? And, you have probably guessed, that it is not only a language that disappears, it is a whole culture.
You might be wondering how can a language die, or why does a language die, or even why do we let it disappear?
The truth is, there are many reasons why a language disappears. Those are sometimes economic reasons, to facilitate communication between two people when they trade, or it might be for political reasons, for which Breton nearly paid the price during the 20th Century. As for the why, the answer is very simple; it only takes one generation. If children do not learn a dialect or a language, all the knowledge stays with their parents’ generation, or even their grandparents’, and it will disappear with them.
This is especially true when the culture which accompanies said language is based first and foremost on verbal tradition.
But what can we do against that? We can care. About others, yes, but also about their culture. And learn. After all, there have been cases when a dead language, or a disappearing one, has risen from its ashes! This is what happened, for example, with Hebrew, or Breton. And with today’s tools at our disposal, it is even easier to communicate with people from different backgrounds, so why not take this opportunity?
For example, with the Leeve app, you can meet people from different cultures, who are living around you! With them, you can learn new languages, and teach them yours… And why not talk about your culture? Your background? And even learn some words from a dialect, so that it keeps on living through you.
By Marie Kerhervé
Pin, Rémi, “Combien de langues sont parlées dans le monde”, Marie-Fraçoise Rombi, linguist, research director at the Museum of Man. http://lhommeenquestions.museedelhomme.fr/fr/combien-langues-sont-parlees-monde
Anderson, Stephan R., “How many languages are there in the world?”, Linguistic Society of America. https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/how-many-languages-are-there-world