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Fwd: AFRICA: Local languages under threat

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  • Kristen Cheney
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    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 23 11:14 AM
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      >U N I T E D N A T I O N S
      >Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
      >Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
      >
      >AFRICA: Local languages under threat
      >
      >ADDIS ABABA, 21 February (IRIN) - Almost half the languages spoken in the world are under threat, with Africa one of the hardest-hit continents, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
      >(UNESCO).
      >
      >Africa ?linguistically the least known continent - is one of most affected, where 250 languages could be lost for ever. And of the 1,400 languages ?used by the continent�s 700 million-strong population - at least 500 are on the decline.
      >
      >According to UNESCO, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan face the most serious problems, and have been designated "crisis areas". "They are crisis areas which have the most moribund or seriously endangered tongues," a spokesman for UNESCO said in a statement released in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday.
      >
      >UNESCO argues that some African countries encourage major languages like Swahili, or even colonial languages like French and English, which then threaten local tongues. A community�s language is defined by experts to be endangered when at least 30 percent of its children no longer speak it.
      >
      >Often economic and social factors can threaten local languages as people leave their communities to look for work. Their environments can also be threatened, so villagers and their language are dispersed. Linguists argue that a native language helps preserve the culture of communities, as well as providing the building blocks of life.
      >
      >"At least 3,000 tongues are endangered, seriously endangered or dying in many parts of the world," the UNESCO spokesman stressed. "About half of the 6,000 or so languages spoken in the
      >world are under threat. Over the past three centuries, languages have died out and disappeared at a dramatic and steadily increasing pace, especially in the Americas and Australia."
      >
      >"But an endangered, moribund or even extinct language can be saved through a determined language policy," he added. "Sometimes languages that have actually died out have been 'raised from the dead', such as Cornish, in England, which became extinct in 1777, but has been revived in recent years, with nearly 1,000 people now speaking it as a second language."
      >
      >UNESCO has released an atlas highlighting the "World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing". The maps have been launched to coincide with International Mother Language Day ?marked on 21 February.
      >
      >
      >[ENDS]
      >
      >[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN
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      >
      >Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2002
      >
      >
      >
      >Subscriber: kcheney@...
      >Keyword: AFRICA
      >


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