Some may question why it is important to preserve our world’s languages. They may hold the opinion that it would be easier if everyone just spoke the same language such as English. Perhaps they have not considered that when we lose a language we lose:
Cultural heritage - Language is one of the things that defines a culture, both through who speaks it and what it allows speakers to say. Words that describe a particular cultural practice or idea can never be translated exactly into another language. Many endangered languages have rich oral cultures, with stories, songs, and histories passed on to younger generations, but no written form of the language. Without speakers of these languages, an entire culture is lost.
Knowledge about the natural world - Most endangered languages are spoken by indigenous groups that have interacted closely with the natural world for thousands of years. These languages have developed words that hold huge amounts of information about the natural world, with information about species or natural phenomena that has not been recorded by scientists. Learning from these groups may be key to preserving species and ecosystems.
Knowledge about the human brain - Each human language teaches us about how the human brain can work. Without studying each language spoken in the world, we will never understand all the ways humans can communicate and store knowledge. Every time a language dies, we lose part of the picture of what our brains can do.
Personal reasons to learn a second/foreign language:
Why are languages going extinct so rapidly?
Languages are abandoned when speakers come to think of them as socially inferior, tied to the past, traditional/backward, or economically stagnant. The current rapid decline of approximately one every two weeks appears to be unprecedented in human history.
Although the languages being mentioned above are not usually the ones taught in Western schools, one must ask if this trend continues, what that will mean for the longevity of all languages not held in the highest prestige in today's globalizing world.
- Opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries (actfl).
- Second language education significantly strengthens first language skills in areas of reading, English vocabulary, grammar and communication skills ( Alberta Education).
- Students fluent in two language score higher in both verbal and non-verbal intelligence (Alberta Education).
- Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset (actfl).