Did you know that every two weeks, a language dies? This might seem hard to believe, but that is the truth; at least a report published in the National Geographic magazine says that!
And the facts do not end here:
Language is the essence of one’s culture and represents the core of one’s identity. There is a complex relationship between a language and a culture since the two are intertwined.
You might agree that a specific language native to a region, even a home, is passed on culturally; that is, it is learned. To be more precise, parents teach the first language when they encourage their children to communicate, correct their mistakes, and enhance their vocabulary. However, first language acquisition extensively takes place from exposure to the random collection of expressions and statements they experience through culture.
Simply put, if language transmission is a part of the culture, it won’t be wrong to mention that culture as a whole is transmitted extensively through language since it is explicitly taught.
Generally, children develop and interact through their native language within a specific social group to which their family belongs. They learn the communication manner, tone, and dialect along with the other behavioural and subculture characteristics that are part of that social group.
In that case, when a language is on the verge of extinction or completely extinct, it would become challenging for the upcoming generations to adopt the same cultural traits of the culture they belong to.
Therefore, losing a language doesn’t mean being deprived of a communication medium; it could be way more than that — losing cultural values and heritage!
Language helps imitate the real picture of a culture. When a language becomes extinct, a part of the culture dies with it, too.
In an article published in the anthropology magazine ‘Sapiens’, Anastasia Riehl, director of the Strathy Language Unit at Queen’s University, Canada, mentioned that “Language is the cultural glue that binds communities together.” She further described that the loss of language is the loss of community heritage. In many instances, ancestral lineage, culture, and history are conveyed only through oral storytelling. In fact, the knowledge of plants, or some cultural practices, was transmitted through untranslated and unwritten words.
One of the instances in Riehl’s article clearly depicts the worry of native people regarding the loss of their cultural practices as their language became endangered. Lulamogi speakers in Uganda were distressed since many of their people had already forgotten several terms spoken in their native language. For example, terminologies used to describe the procedure of trapping and eating white ants, like okukunia, okutegerera, and okubuutira, were no longer in use. Since these words are exclusive and no terms are used in other languages to describe such methods, the significance of such practices would also be lost.
Some scholars also believe that the increasing rate of endangered languages might lead to an imbalance of power on a global level. According to H. Ekkehard Wolff, Emeritus Professor of African Linguistics at the University of Leipzig, maintaining the status quo in the education system with excessive use of major languages like English, French, Arabic, and Portuguese may only serve the interests of the previous imperialistic powers. “It will also perpetuate post-colonial political and cultural dominance,” mentions Wolff in an article for ‘The Conversation.’
One thing that you must understand is that conservation is not only associated with the environment and wildlife species. Global languages are also on the verge of extinction, and we must preserve them as well, not just for social or cultural dignity but for the sake of political and economic significance.
Although a language’s extinction impacts a social group the most, its repercussions can be observed at a much greater level. Therefore, political inclusion is crucial in dealing with this issue. Governments of individual nations can impose necessary measures to conserve many languages from becoming extinct.
Besides this, individual communities can also follow some easier measures to protect their native language locally. Below are some ways to contribute to saving a dying language:
Language serves as more than just a means of communication. As native speakers of their respective languages, people have particular ways of thinking that help develops their mindsets. Therefore, it becomes essential to create printed records and language resources containing the context and history of a specific culture and region.
Every indigenous language has its own terminologies and phrases that signify a specific meaning and idea. Moreover, languages also involve technical aspects, such as correct punctuation, syllables, syntax, etc. All these things must be kept in mind while curating and recording language resources.
Developing detailed documentation is one of the most crucial steps in conserving an endangered language. These resources create a powerful record and assist the new generations in culturally adapting to their respective native language without investing time and effort in deciphering them.
One of the primary reasons native speakers avoid speaking in their languages is miscommunication. It majorly happens when a very small group of people talk in a particular language, making it challenging for the listeners to understand what they want to convey.
Globalisation is also a major reason why people rely more on widespread languages, like English and Spanish, as these languages have somewhat become a standard in almost all business sectors and nations. In order to conduct business operations or go for further studies, speakers of indigenous languages also adopt the globally-used languages. Although that makes it easier for those around them, it drives the native languages on the road to extinction.
To change this scenario, good and proficient interpreting and translation services can significantly help. Despite shifting to the popular global languages, a professional interpreter will assist you in understanding everything in your native language, be it related to a business trip or any other crucial event in your life.
Moreover, when the listeners understand what an indigenous speaker wants to convey, they would not feel troubled learning and understanding their languages.
Technological advancements might have presented a massive setback for indigenous languages by promoting global-level languages. However, at some level, they have also contributed to their safety.
Many people have made their channels and pages on the most popular social media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook, where they promote their content in their languages. Here users can build communities to promote their native languages and talk about their cultural aspects through the same.
In fact, to ensure convenience, voice-over artists and audio-video translation services could be the best options to promote your content in multiple languages. This way, you can maintain originality and help the non-speakers of your speech to understand what’s there in your content.
Since social media is active globally and connects people worldwide, it could be one of the best ways to promote an indigenous language.
As individuals, speakers of indigenous languages must consistently participate in learning and teaching their language classes in order to keep their essence alive. For this, the role of elders in a particular community is significant.
Since elders are the powerhouse of cultural and linguistic knowledge of a social group, they could be the best sources for learning an endangered language. In fact, in several communities, the younger generation pays stipends to the elders as a token of respect for transmitting knowledge about their culture and language significance to them.
Besides this, using the indigenous language in social gatherings and events can also emphasise its importance among the natives.
Another way to keep an endangered language alive is to participate in language swap programs where individuals from different linguistic backgrounds come together to learn each other’s languages. This way, you don’t only promote your native language but learn about the differences and similarities in multiple cultures.
It’s important to understand that a language represents the culture and vice-versa, and this, indeed, recapitulates the need to protect endangered languages. One more thing that highlights here is that losing a language does not only impact cultural aspects but can also influence the business space.
Many business owners still communicate in their native languages and prefer doing business in the same. Having no knowledge about the cultural relevance of such native languages can make it challenging to communicate with them, even when you have your own translators to interpret. In that case, you need professional interpreting and localisation services to do that job.
At Into23, our translators and interpreters are more than mere linguistics. Since they are native speakers with proficient translation skills, they are well-versed in the cultural significance of the locals.
The best thing about our translation and interpreting services is that we help you talk like a local. Our translating professionals are naturally aware of the complexities and cultural relevance of the language natives speak.
Therefore, we help you adapt to culture and strengthen your business operations by leading the communication in a relevant language. This enhances your client’s trust in you and promotes smooth communication.
Contact our translators at any time – day or night. We are available for your service 24/7! Get in touch through email or visit our website to have a look at all our services.