When most of us set out to learn a new language, our biggest concerns are often how to conjugate verbs and construct a proper sentence. The last worry on our mind is that the language will be completely gone!
However, perhaps that concern should be a bit higher on our priority list. Thanks to digitization, some once-common languages are fast disappearing. Here are ten foreign languages that could be extinct in a few decades if we don’t act fast to save them.
Related: 10 Extraordinary Languages That Don’t Involve Speaking
10 Te Reo Maori
Te Reo Māori is the language spoken by the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. The Maori people are of Polynesian descent and migrated to New Zealand a thousand years ago, sometime between 1200 and 1300.
However, despite being the first to arrive in Aotearoa, these people have suffered discrimination for years. In fact, until the 1980s, the Te Reo language, along with almost everything to do with Maori culture, was prohibited. Speaking the language could get you into serious trouble, and since this was around the time that change was allowed in school, suffice it to say that most people avoided speaking it.
The result is that the language has begun to disappear, and some experts say that if we don’t act fast, the language could be extinct by the year 2100. Fortunately, New Zealand lawmakers have made an effort in recent years to restore the language, introducing it into the school curriculum and normalizing its use to preserve the nation’s unique indigenous culture.
9 nam trik
Nam Trik may be a bit darker than Te Reo Māori, but that doesn’t mean it’s less of a risk of extinction! This language is spoken by the Misak indigenous people in the Colombian Andes and is sometimes also called Guambiano.
This language is a Barbecuan language, which is a group of six different languages spoken in southern Colombia and northern Ecuador.
Unfortunately, today there are only a few thousand speakers of the language, and Spanish has been named the national language of both countries, replacing the indigenous Nam Trik. This is partly due to a lack of government efforts to preserve the language, but also due to a lack of generational heritage of the language.
Since most Misak youth understand Nam Trik but do not speak it, it is likely that this language will disappear in this lifetime. 
Probably one of the most shocking languages on this list is Yiddish, a language that originated in Israel and is mainly spoken in Jewish communities. This language also incorporates a rich culture that preserves the Jewish way of life.
However, despite the unique culture that surrounds Yiddish, this language is in rapid decline. The main reason behind this decline stemmed from the Holocaust during World War II, which involved the genocide of millions of Jews in Europe. Widespread use of the language declined with the loss of many of its speakers.
Despite the fact that the language all but disappeared during this dark time in Europe, Yiddish still hangs by a thread. Jewish communities in places like New York and Israel are starting to see a comeback of the language, and are making an effort to teach it to the young. Hopefully these efforts can get this language off the endangered list and back into good standing.
Icelandic is a language that has been fighting extinction for years. Thanks to the digital age, many young Icelanders grow up learning English from TV shows, internet forums and video games. On top of that, many of them are incorporating more and more English words into their speech, completely eliminating the use of once popular Icelandic words.
On top of that, as the modern era brings new words like “computer” or “cell phone” to the rise, Icelanders are incorporating these English words into their everyday dialects instead of using their Icelandic equivalents.
Now, although there is an Icelandic Language Committee that helps create new Icelandic words for modern words that come up, the problem is that people just don’t use them. On top of that, the immigrant population in Iceland has increased five times more than in 2008, which means that there are more people who speak little or no Icelandic.
Only time will tell if the government’s efforts to prevent the language from disappearing will work or if the country’s roughly 350,000 people will slowly switch to speaking English full-time.
There are several different dialects spoken in Germany, but perhaps one of the best known is Bavarian. Bavarian is a language spoken in the Bavarian region of Germany, which is home to major cities such as Munich, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Ingolstadt, and Augsburg.
Despite constituting all of those cities and being home to approximately 12 million residents, perhaps only half of them speak the language.
Instead, the language that most young Germans in Bavaria are learning is “Hochdeutsch,” or standard German. This is largely due to schools and television, which use standard German as their language of choice.
However, as with many indigenous languages and local dialects, local Bavarians are beginning to oppose this policy. Hopefully families will continue to use Bavarian at home to help preserve this language and prevent it from going extinct.
Although Irish was added to the official language of Ireland in 2007, Irish, also called Gaeilge, is dying out. Today, it is estimated that there are only between 20,000 and 40,000 Gaelic speakers, which is not much when you consider the size of Ireland’s population.
As with many dying languages, much of this has to do with legislation in place in years gone by. As early as the 1300s, the United Kingdom banned the use of Irish among English settlers in the area or among native Irishmen who interact with the English. Later, in the 1500s, the United Kingdom went a step further and outlawed the Irish language in parliament.
In fact, it wasn’t until the late 20th and early 21st centuries that the Irish language began to make a comeback. Today, it is taught in schools as part of the government’s 20-year plan to reclaim this key part of Irish heritage.
Like Irish Gaelic, Welsh is another language in the UK that is in rapid decline and could disappear entirely if we are not careful. And, once again, it is thanks to the legislation of Great Britain that this language is becoming extinct.
Although the UK did not start limiting the use of Welsh as soon as it did Irish, by 1500 the government was already enacting laws preventing Welsh from being spoken in Parliament. Just 200 years later, they took things one step further and put an end to any language except English in the courts of law.
Fortunately, in 1967, the government recognized the language through the Welsh Language Act, which was later amended to add more support for Welsh in 1993. Today about 19% of the Welsh population can speak the language. However, with the language once again in decline, this unique speech could be gone in a couple of decades.
If Icelandic is on the decline, it’s no surprise that Greenlandic is too. This language is actually a mixture of 20 different dialects, although Kalaallisut is the main one.
Despite what many may think, Greenlandic is spoken in some places. This is because it constitutes one of the languages of the Inuit Eskimo tribes, which can be found in Alaska, Canada, and Denmark.
Even though the language is a bit more widespread than just Greenland, that’s not to say that this language isn’t safe from extinction. With only about 57,000 people living in Greenland and not all of them speaking the language, Greenlandic could soon disappear if we don’t work to preserve the language.
Coptic is sometimes considered a dead language, but in reality it only has one foot in the grave. That’s pretty amazing, considering that this language is the closest thing we have to ancient Egyptian.
You see, although Coptic is not widely spoken in the communities, Coptic is still the official language of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt.
Church services in these denominations are conducted in Coptic, which means that parishioners must have a general understanding to follow them. Also, churches have started offering Coptic courses to help revive the language. It may not become anyone’s native language, but there are several fluent speakers in Egypt today.
Jeju Island is often called the Hawaii of Korea. It is a small island off the southern coast of South Korea and is often used as a honeymoon destination.
While most Koreans who live and visit the island speak Korean, the island actually has its own language: Jejueo. As you might guess, this language is not widely spoken and it is estimated that only about 5,000 speak it.
The interesting thing about Jeju is that it uses the same alphabet as standard Korean, but you can’t really understand it if you speak Korean. Speaking of confusion!
This language is in decline for a number of reasons, largely due to the Jeju uprising and the Korean Wars in the mid-20th century. Since then, it is estimated that only a small percentage of the elderly population on Jeju Island and a small community in Japan speak the language. However, with the revitalization efforts currently underway, we have to wait and see if this language makes a comeback.
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