Revitalizing Indigenous Languages Is Critical

Being fluent in a world language is a desirable skill in modern day society. However, some languages are suffering and in danger of extinction — namely those of the indigenous peoples.

“There are between 6,000 and 7,000 world languages in the world today,” Brian Keane, rapporteur of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues said in his keynote speech last week, revealing that half of them are expected to go extinct by 2100. As a result, more than 50% of the worlds indigenous peoples are in danger of losing their language.

“You can’t preserve or protect or revitalize indigenous languages in a vacuum- they’re related to all of the other rights of indigenous peoples, principally the right to self-determination,” Keane told IPS, adding that the Permanent Forum tries to highlight all of these rights, citing several branches to assist indigenous rights.

Asked what role the Forum will play, he said: “Our role is trying to move countries forward when implementing rights and outlining declarations.” Keane said, stressing that only when indigenous peoples are able to practice self-determination, and be able to live on their ancestral territories, “can we truly protect the languages”.

The annual commemoration of World Indigenous Peoples Day took place August 9 and was organized by the Indigenous Peoples and Development Branch of the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The event featured two panels, guest speakers, and performances.

Today, there are about 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, making up about 5% of the population. However, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has predicted that, by the end of this century, between 50-90% of indigenous languages will perish.

Read more: IPS News Agency

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