The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has said that more than 6,000 languages spoken in the world stand the risk of extinction by the end of the century.
This was contained in her message to mark the ‘International Mother Tongue Day’ made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.
She said that UNESCO’s atlas of world languages in dangers “provides a map to understand this struggle.”
Ms. Bokova said that “language loss impoverishes humanity” adding that “the languages of some indigenous peoples carry unique knowledge on biodiversity and management of ecosystems.”
The director-general said that this “linguistic potential is an asset for sustainable development and must be shared for the benefit of all.”
Ms. Bokova said that the vitality of languages depend on all those who spoke them and rally round to protect them.
She said the use of the mother tongue at schools is a powerful remedy against illiteracy.
“The challenge remains, however, to ensure this truth is actually acted on in the classroom.
“Excluded population groups, such as indigenous peoples, are often those whose mother tongues are ignored by education systems.
“Allowing them to learn from a very early age in their mother tongue, and then in national, official or other languages, promote equality and social inclusion.”
Ms. Bokova said that “multilingualism was an ally in ensuring quality education for all, in promoting inclusion and in combating discrimination” noting that building genuine dialogue must start with respect for languages.
“Each representation of a better life, every development goal is expressed in a language, with specific words to bring it to life and communicate it.
“Languages are who we are. By protecting them, we protect ourselves.”
See the Atlas of languages in danger here.