In the 21st century alone, over 50 languages that we know of have gone extinct. Just let that sink in for a moment. 50 languages in 20 years. That’s roughly 2.5 languages per year. So, why? Why do languages die? There are 2 key reasons that The Word for the World is concerned with:
- The community gets assimilated into a larger community within the same country. Examples include rural village communities in Ethiopia being assimilated into the larger, Amharic-speaking population.
- Parents stop teaching children their native language due to some form of shame. Often their language is perceived as inferior and the people who speak it are uneducated country bumpkins.
Languages are more susceptible to extinction if they are strictly oral and lack a writing system. In contrast, a language is much more resistant to extinction if it has a major piece of literature written in said language. The Bible, for example, is a major piece of literature. It is still the best selling book of all time.One of the first things we have to do when we are working in a language that is oral only, is to work with them to create a system of writing, and to teach that community to read their own language. It’s incredible to watch a community transform when they can do something as simple as write!By partnering with us to empower people to translate the Bible into their own language, you are also participating in Language Revitalization. You are empowering people to read in their own language for the first time in their history. To write poetry. To write their history.