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Endangered Languages - Languages That Are About To Fall Off The Face Of The Earth

By Edited Jul 6, 2015 3 2

Endangered is something people most often hear in terms regarding animals, however this time it involves languages. There were once hundreds of thousands of languages used throughout the world. Some combined and molded into the common languages we hear and read today, however others just plain died out.

The death of a language does not seem like such a huge deal when you look at it, but preserving the knowledge of the past is something people hardily believe in these days. In not for the legendary Rosetta Stone, we could not have been able to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics which transformed our ability to study the ancient world. Who knows what great discover humanity could discover next only to find the language needed to decipher it had leisurely died out long ago.

Today languages the have become endangered are diligently monitored by an association known as the Catalogue of Endangered Languages, or ELCat for short. Using this catalogue, I have compiled a list of the most endangered languages around the world.

However, for those that have browsed the ELCat, you will know that these are merely a handful of rice in comparison to the barrel that is the amount of severely endangered languages. Many of the languages are African, South American, or Native American / Canadian. It does not take a lot of thought to figure out why that is. Many cultures are crushed under the wheel of civilization.



Apiaka is one of many languages spoken by the indigenous people of the South American rain forest. More specifically it is a language spoken by the near extinct Apiaka people who dwelled in the northern state of Mato Grosso Brazil. Overall, this language falls within the language group called the Tupi. Historically, these people were a very large and aggressive tribe discovered during the Amazonian rubber boom. Skirmishing and assimilation to cause the tribe to be extinct. As of 2007, there is only one native speaker who still fluently knows this language.


The Yaghan who speak the language of the same name are the indigenous people of the southernmost bit of Chile, referred to as the Southern Cone. These people were, and still are, considered the southernmost dwelling people in the world. They were mostly nomad, travelling by canoe to the various islands around southern Chile to gather food. Like the Apiaka, there is only one native speaker of this language as of 2012. However, unlike the Apiaka, the tribe is still relatively around. However, most has switched to speaking Spanish.



The Ainu people where some of the indigenous people that lived in Japan's northern most island of Hokkaido. They also, at some point, branched out into bits of Russia as well. These people, compared to other Japanese people, had lighter skin and grew much more body hair. However, through years of intermarriage with southern Japanese people, it is unknown how many people with Ainu heritage still exist. A pure culture of them has long since been extinct. However, while the people once had many dialects in their language, today there is only one simply referred to as Ainu and only 10 people speak it as of 2007. All of them elders.


Bikya was a language spoken by the tribes of Cameroon, which is one of those African countries you probably do not know. Cameroon is found on the western shores of Africa. This language has long since been thought of as defunct by the people of Cameroon. As of 1986, there was only one fluent speaker of the ancient language. He was a man in his 70's so by now, this language could very well be extinct. However, the language has adapted itself and merged into the large group of Bantoid languages, which is the overall language group of Africa. Many of the Bikya words have appeared in other languages in this group, so in that way, at least it will never truly die.

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Korana is the language of the Griqua people in South Africa and bits of Botswana. These people are not entirely indigenous to South Africa. The group was formed from the children of Dutch men who settled Cape Colony and the local women. Because of colonial laws, these children did not get legal or social status from their fathers in the colonized region, thus making them bastard. So they essentially formed their own group and tongue alongside it. The Korana language is all but dead now with one remaining speaker as of 2012. Many of the surviving people has since assimilated and switched to Afrikaans.



Saami is the native tongue of the indigenous people of the northern bits of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and bits of northern Russia. This language is separated into many different dialects, some of which still have hundreds of native speakers, while others only have less than 10. What is quite interesting, is that these people are still thriving to this day. They are recognized and protected by the international conventions that protect indigenous groups. They have their own laws in which they govern and live their lives. These nomadic people primarily survive on hunting and sheep herding. They also thrive on reindeer herding which is a legal operation only for those of Saami heritage.

Sarcee or Tsuu'ina

Sarcee is a language spoken by the native tribe Tsuu T'ina who were native to Calgary, Alberta in Canada. This is known as both Sarcee and Tsuu'ina. The word Sarcee derives from the word for stubborn in the Blackfoot language, however now most of the Tsuu T'ina who live on their reservation find it offensive as it was birthed during war with the Blackfoot Confederacy. Tsuu'ina translates roughly in 'many people' or 'people among the beavers'. While Wikipedia says there are currently 150 speakers, the ELCat states that there is only one fluent speaker as of 2012. However, it does list that there are a handful of 'somewhat speakers'. Considering this tribe has a long standing tradition of oral history, I find it hard to believe they will let their language die.



Nov 2, 2013 6:53am
Britain has artificially maintained and supported some of its older languages, such as Manx and Cornish.
Nov 8, 2013 8:14pm
Very interesting article. It is something that I personally had not thought a lot about except the different dialects that are spoken with the Aborigines, they have so many.
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