I am always intrigued by the things that inspire me. The articles that I write are generally inspired by something such as a news article, a book, another blog or article, or a show. Many times, I go looking for the inspiration. Sometimes, a follower or friend turns me on to an issue. On occasion, a film or television show inspires me to research something that becomes an article. Tonight, I found inspiration in a most unexpected place. I was watching a National Geographic show on Netflix titled: The Lord of the Rings. This show chronicled the foundations of the Lord of the Rings films and books. Among the vast amount of information provided, I came across one piece of information that intrigued me. We have lost, and are expected to lose, many of our forms of language. In fact, we are quickly headed towards a dramatic loss in the number of languages spoken in our world.
When I heard this on the documentary, I immediately did an internet search to confirm this disturbing information. What I found was terribly distressing. The single most compelling piece of information that I found was a BBC article titled The death of language? This article discusses how many languages are dying around the world. Some of the most interesting statistics in the article are that only 6% of the worlds languages are spoken by 94% of the population. Conversely, 94% of the languages are spoken by only 6% of the population, including 133 languages that are only spoken by less than 10 people.
It’s not the loss of the languages themselves that bother me. It’s the fact that the loss of language is changing the cultures of many societies that I find disturbing. The history, humor, and culture of these societies can be changed and/or lost as their acceptance of alternate languages increases. The intricacies of these cultures can be lost in translation as these communities begin to speak the commonly spoken languages. While I’m all for the ease of fewer languages in social relations and business, it disturbs me that any culture may be lost simply to make communication easier.
While this isn’t the most pressing issue in society, I feel that it is a symptom of a larger problem. Having multiple cultures and perspectives adds to the diversity of our world. As anyone trained in basic business knows, diversity adds unique perspectives to an orgnaiztion. These perspectives can improve the interaction and function of the organization. I believe the same concept can be applied to the world as an organization. If, as a prominent U.S. linguist suggested, 90% of the world languages have been lost by the year 2100, we may also lose much of the culture associated with these languages. If that happens, we may lost many of the insights into our history, as well as new perspectives on our future.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Some languages that are on the verge of extinction can be revived, such as the rebirth of Welsh in the U.K. The trend is reversible, but I’m not sure that there are enough people dedicated to the preservation of these languages and cultures to make a real difference. I mourn for the loss of ancient and diverse culture that we are, and will be, experiencing. With all of the benefits of increased communication, it is easy to overlook the losses that we experience in our smaller world.