The Language Conservancy Celebrates the Year of Indigenous Languages

A Global Crisis

We live in a richly diverse world. But, over the last 100 years, one transformation has fundamentally changed the way the people of the world exist, and it will eventually impact the way nearly every community on earth lives and interacts on a daily basis.

At the current rates, more than 90% of the world’s languages will cease to be spoken and passed on within the next 40 years. An overwhelming majority of the world’s languages will no longer be used to share stories, songs, prayers, jokes, poems, wisdom, knowledge, ideals, and aesthetics that have been passed on for thousands of years. When these languages die, the cultures that they express will also be extinguished.

Though the collapse of the world’s languages generally began in the areas most impacted by colonialism, the pace of colonial languages taking over smaller, indigenous languages has accelerated all over the world. The Language Conservancy and it’s partners have been working diligently over the past twenty-five years to stem the tide of language collapse through the use of new materials, methods, and technologies. However, the monumental task of preventing mass language extinction has not been adequately addressed by governmental resources and public outcry.

A Global Solution

To address the lack of public awareness of mass international language extinction, the United Nations has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages, featuring events all over the world. The Language Conservancy is thrilled to be collaborating with the United Nations to develop an immersive multimedia exhibit to tell the story of the world’s indigenous languages over one hundred years. The exhibit will consist of eight video panels representing language loss on every continent on Earth, featuring personal stories told by speakers in their own language. Following its opening at the United Nations in New York, the exhibit will travel to numerous venues around the world.

The exhibit will explore the scale and scope of the loss of indigenous languages, and will focus on articulating the unique cultural and linguistic value of indigenous languages. It is crucial that language loss is understood through the context of protecting the world’s cultural heritage. Our hope is that this exhibit will raise awareness and stimulate action to address this potentially devastating global crisis.