Disappearing Languages: Endangered Civilizations

Posted on January 15, 2010 in Education

Sharon Panackal

“Change your language and you change your thoughts.” These are the words of Karl Albrecht, one of the richest men in the world. It is a widely known idea that if a language is lost, all the cultures and traditions of that community will be lost. Especially in a nation like India, where there are more than a thousand-six hundred dialects being spoken and many are nearing death. This would continue until it results in the existence of a monolingual system, where everyone around the globe uses only one language.

In the twenty-first century, communication between people from all over the world is extremely important. A lower number of languages indicate a greater number of people speaking a common language, which will ultimately facilitate global partnership and trade. Looking away from the area of trade to literature, we see a lot of book publishers all over the world, spending a lot of money on translating each popular manuscript from one language to other, which results in the expenditure of millions of dollars per year. Considering these facts, however, usage of a single language might result in economic benefits through better trade, job opportunities and savings.

These all would have been possible if the world used only one language from the very beginning. Now, as each of our local languages are being used by all the existing generations of our society, either teaching the elder ones a new language or discouraging the younger ones to study their local language will never be a way for achieving a better present.

In case of a low income country, a development procedure based on languages can certainly increase the citizens’ finances and resources. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals that includes eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and so forth could be achieved considerably only if the information is presented to the people in their local languages.

There are a lot of poor people around us who are vulnerable to deadly diseases; and it is found that making them aware about hygiene, nutrition, prevention and treatment of diseases in their local language is truly an efficient way to make them stay healthy. And these all together would increase the economy of a family and the nation through less usage of medicines, better quality of life and more productivity.

Another adverse consequence is that the intermixing of foreign languages with the native ones is resulting in loss of local culture and traditions too. In the near future, many small sects of civilizations whose identity largely depends on these languages, may get endangered and eventually disappear. Unlike the inhabitants of the Tohoku region in one of the Japanese Islands, and the residents of The Andaman Nicobar Islands of India, who have faced the demise of a number of their native languages, let us not push our languages in to an endless sleep.