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Dying Languages

UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger spells out in graphic detail the state of the world’s languages.

Every two or three weeks one of them dies, and when a language dies a small part of humanity dies with it.  Imagine a Parthenon or a Palmyra disappearing twice a month. Unthinkable.  Yet, a language can die unmourned.

2019 is the UN/UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages outlines the rationale behind the Year and describes the action which is being taken.

On Thursday 21 February 2019, UNESCO is celebrating a related activity: International Mother Language Day. This link provides the background to the annual event https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/motherlanguageday

The UN and UNESCO links list activities across the world, so many of which are simple things that can make a difference.  English is the usual language of our ICOM international meetings.  The advantages are obvious.  But there is a cost – we are heading for a monoglot world.  Why not invite an international meeting to include a few words spoken in a native language, or written in a conference brochure?  That may seem pointless, but it can help to raise awareness, and awareness can lead to positive action.  At least, let’s not stand by and do nothing. Language, after all, is our greatest intangible heritage.

Ian Jones

ianhjones27@gmail.com

ICOM UK