The world is facing the loss of about half its languages in the next 100 years or so.
That’s about 3,500 distinct languages that will be gone forever in this coming generation’s lifetime.
Many say the only way to really learn about a culture is to know their language. Reading something in English that was originally written in Farsi just won’t capture the author’s original intention and meaning. When I’m reading a translation, I am very aware that the text in my hand does not include the original words the author had actually written. It’s a translator’s interpretation of the words. A lot can get lost in translation, and that’s the danger of losing most of the world’s languages.
Languages just do not translate perfectly. You can still say what you want to say in any language, but because they are so different, it’s almost impossible to truly get across an author’s original meaning as intended.
Locally, Assiniboine is classified as severely endangered, with less than 150 native speakers and an ethnic population of 3,500. The listing for Assiniboine on www.endangeredlanguages.com states there are no speakers under 40 years of age.
Learning about these stats, it’s a little sad to see a part of this region’s culture is likely soon to be lost. I certainly have no interest or expectation of learning the language in order to help keep it around, but it should help us look at some of the larger situations we deal with in regards to Canadian culture.
Canada has a language problem, and I often hear Quebecers being derided by many English-speaking Canadians. Maybe it’s seeing other cultures in our backyard lose something as personal as their own tongue that will help us understand that languages die, and when they do, so does a large piece of someone’s culture.
I’ve come to terms that someday the entire population will speak either a Chinese dialect or Hindi. They’re our planet’s two largest populations, and last I heard, they were growing and spreading throughout the world. So eventually we’ll all be combined as one, large, super-race.
Anyway, with my cultural-hybrid population, I also expect there to be only one language eventually — something that allows everyone to communicate. And I don’t really see anything wrong with that.
I liked learning French in high school and university. And I really like English, which I speak the best (though not necessarily clearly). So I’d be sad to see either of these languages go, especially English. But I don’t get my identity from my language, though I’ve heard that argument made before. I get my identity from my family and my heritage. Yes, English is a part of that, but so is having blue eyes, a tendency toward red hair and a bunch of other things that came from generations of Marrs/Mores in the British Isles and then Canada.
One thing that greatly benefited my family, and continues to today, is that we’re English speaking. Because most of Canada is English speaking, especially in this direction of the country, being able to communicate well with others was undoubtedly an awesome thing when trying to find a place to settle in a big, wide, terrifying country.
I guess I’m saying that I don’t see a point in protecting languages. They’re dying out because they aren’t used frequently by enough people. Either grow your population and keep them around, or watch them fade. It’s unfortunate, I guess, but being able to communicate with more people can’t be a bad thing.