21st February is International Mother Language Day. It celebrates linguistic diversity and multilingualism since 2000.
Some interesting facts:
- There are approximately 7,000 languages spoken in the world.
- 6% of the world’s languages are spoken by 94% of the world’s population
- 94 per cent of the world languages are spoken by only a 6 per cent of the world’s population.
- Some experts predict that by the year 2011 90 per cent of the world’s languages will have disappeared.
- The largest single language by population is Mandarin (845 million speakers) followed by Spanish (329 million speakers) and English (328 million speakers).
- 133 languages are spoken by fewer than 10 people.
- Every 14 days a language dies.
Several university scholars are trying to preserve the 479 most endangered languages and are using video and audio recorders to save memories of minority languages such the Koro or the Yuchi languages.
Here you can find out more about the National Geographic project Enduring Voices. It is absolutely stunning to discover how many unknown languages are still being spoken today!
If you want to find out more, you can also listen to Professor David Crystal on language death:
David Crystal’s excellent book on Language Death is available here as a pdf.
Do you still complain about having to study English, German or French? 🙂