"Your word is precious": Why do languages die and how does it affect you?

By: MAYU NODA


posted on: November 5th, 2017

Language is very important for humans to communicate. You use language to talk to your friends and family. You use language to show others what you think and feel. Language is what you use to tell your children you love them, to scold them when they are being naughty, and to teach them what is right and wrong. You use language to shape the way your children see the world.

A WORLD WHERE YOUR CHILD DOES NOT SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE AS YOU

Now, imagine a world where your children or grandchildren cannot speak the same language as you. As strange it may be, it is possible that this could happen to you in the near future.

Every month, about two languages die somewhere in the world. A language is ‘dead’ when no one uses it anymore. A language can die when all the people who use it die. A language can also die when someone who speaks many languages only uses the socially dominant one. A socially dominant language is a language that is used by many people. The Bodo is a language of the Bantu family in the Central African Republic. It only had 15 speakers left in 1996, so it is dying. English is a socially dominant language because it is the third most spoken language in the world. People sometimes choose to only use the socially dominant language. They think that it is the only way they can get respect or a good job. They do not teach it to their children, and so the language dies.

LANGUAGE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR IDENTITY – LANGUAGE MAKES US BELONG

It is understandable that people may choose to stop using a language if they feel that it is not improving their social and financial position. However, remember that a language is often lost forever after it dies, especially if it is not written.

Language is an important part of your identity. Speaking a certain language shows that you belong to a certain group. Speaking the same language as someone else shows that you share a common cultural background. The death of a language symbolises the death of an important part of a culture’s identity. It is the death of something that expresses the cultural bonds of a community. Language shows that your community is unique. Language shows how special your group is.

AFRICA’S MANY LANGUAGES HAVE MANY WONDERFUL AND UNIQUE EXPRESSIONS

The African continent is home to a wide range of languages. About 1800 languages are spoken in Africa. It is exciting that there are so many unique groups in Africa. It is something to be proud of. Protecting the languages that makes Africa so special shows a sense of cultural pride.

Each language has words or proverbs that express a unique object or idea. These words and proverbs may not exist in other languages. When language dies, its unique words and ideas die too. Languages also influence how we see the world. Languages affect how we think and behave. You may have very different ideas and values from people who speak other languages. You may think differently from people in other tribes or countries because you speak different languages. If a language dies, an entire way of thinking may disappear with it.

However, it is also unfair to force unwilling speakers of an endangered language to keep using the language. People should be allowed to decide their identity. What language they speak is a personal choice.

YOU CAN CHOOSE THE LANGUAGE THAT YOU SPEAK – IT IS WHO YOU ARE

Some people believe that society does not stay still and so people should accept change in language. They believe that the death of a language is a part of a natural process. Ultimately, what is important is to make sure that each person is able to choose what languages to speak. People should not be forced to use or to stop using a language. Language is a part of your identity. You should be able to choose the languages you speak. Your language is a part of what makes you special.

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