Usually, when you hear the word “endangered” you will think about an animal species. However, languages are also prone to dying out on occasion. Despite the fact there are over 6,000 languages out there, many are at risk of simply going extinct. The number of languages is declining more and more these days. If the decline continues at its current rate, it is likely that half of the languages in the world could get wiped out by the century’s end. Despite some languages having descendants trying to keep them living, other languages have become so small that they count only 1–2 villages, and sometimes even 1–2 people.
Today, we are diving into the top 5 of these languages and taking an inquisitive look at these relics of a different time.
1. Irish Gaelic
Today, Irish Gaelic has around 40,000 speakers. Despite the fact that there are a variety of communities in Ireland, referred to as Gaelatchts, where it is the native language, the government of Ireland has been pouring in resources for more people to learn it. Despite this, the ELCat still classifies it as a vulnerable language.
Ts’ixa is also known as Ts’exa, and it is a language spoken in Botswana, related to the main language of central Botswana – Shua. Ts’ixa is only spoken in the village of Mababe and only has 200 native speakers. Today, only the adults of the village are actually fluent in the language. The children speak English or Setswana much better than the native tongue of their parents.
Ainu is a language only present in its native group, the Ainu people of Japan. There are currently only 10 native speakers, and all of them are currently elderly. This makes the language be considered critically endangered by the ELCat. With that being said, currently, there are efforts being made to get the younger generation of Ainu to learn the language. However, it is a ticking clock, as it is impossible to sustain a language with no native speakers.
4. Rapa Nui
Many languages in the world are considered endangered because their native populations are simply found on islands and are highly isolated. Despite the fact that Rapa Nui has 3390 native speakers, it is slowly dying out. It is considered a threatened language because slowly, Spanish seems to be overtaking it, with fewer and fewer new generations learning their native tongue.
Yagan is arguably the rarest language in the world. Yagan has only one native speaker in its indigenous country – Chile. While there are other people that are vaguely familiar with the language, they do not possess fluency in it and speak it quite rarely. This is why Yagan is quite liable to die out extremely soon. Despite the ELCat’s efforts to preserve the language, and the fact they have documented a woman demonstrating the language, it is unlikely it will be able to stand the test of time.