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February 21st was an International mother language day.
The purpose of this day is to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural differences and multilingualism.
Having that in mind, today, there are more than 7.000 different languages all around the world, from the wildest west to the farthest east and from the coldest north to the warmest south.
But here’s one devastating fact: every day one language in the world dies, along with its latest speaker.
Even though we cannot help and save every language worldwide to die, we should at least try and give our best efforts to have some resources about the dying language.
Today’s post is about the 20 most endangered languages in Europe. By mentioning them and talking about them, we want to show you that there are some ways to save them from an awful fate.
Let’s get started.
Learning the languages from native speakers is one of the most efficient ways to learn a foreign language. Some languages don’t have that luck because, every day, the number of their native speakers is smaller.
Here are the 10 worldwide-known endangered languages in Europe.
Even knowing what those languages are can help them from forgetting.
Number of speakers: around 2.500
Cappadocian Greek is the language linguists thought that had died during the 1960s. But, some researchers accidentally came across around 2.500 descendants of Cappadocian Greeks who still speak the language.
Today, it is spoken in Greece.
The language comes from Cappadocian Greeks who lived in Turkey but were forced to go back to Greece during the 1920s.
It was originally spoken in central Turkey, Cappadocia, by the Greek people.
In the middle centuries, when Turks started to migrate from Central Asia, they cut off Cappadocians from the rest of the Greek-speaking places. Over time, the Turkish language influenced a lot, which resulted in Cappadocian Greek, today a mix of Greek and Turkish.
Today, Cappadocians mainly live in Central and northern Greece.
Number of speakers: around 3.500
The Cornish language is spoken in Cornwall. It is a member of Celtic languages but it was declared extinct in the late 18th century due to English pressure.
Luckily, thanks to the scholars, it was revived in the early 20th century and recognized as the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages.
The number of speakers slowly started to grow and parents who speak Cornish started teaching their children the language of their culture and heritage.
Number of speakers: 1.000
Coming from the Eastern Aramaic language, Hértein is spoken in Turkey by Chaldean Catholics. Unfortunately, most of them migrated to the west, and now they are isolated from one another because only a few of them stayed in Turkey.
All speakers are bilingual, speaking Kurdish, but many also speak other major languages fluently.
Number of speakers: up to 80
The Karaim language is spoken in several different counties, in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Crimea.
The language belongs to the Turkish languages influenced by Hebrew, the same way Yiddish influenced Judaeo-Spanish.
The most spoken number of speakers lives in Lithuania, in the town of Trakai, and it is hoped that at least over there the language will survive due to the big support the community gets.
Number of speakers: around 100
The Manx language, also known as Manx Gaelic, is spoken in the Isle of Man. It is one of the Celtic languages whose last native speaker died in 1974. Despite that, luckily the language remained alive as part of the island’s culture and heritage because around 100 speakers on the island have some knowledge of the language.
In the late 20th century, Manx became more used thanks to primary school and radio broadcasts.
Even if the language dies, it can easily be revived because there are many recordings about it.
Number of speakers: around 50
With so few speakers, Pite Sami is seriously endangered.
The language is spoken in Sweden and Norway, near the border, near the Pite River.
Since the last speakers from the Norway side of the border died, it is spoken only in Sweden.
Until 2008, the language was the only one among its language family without an official written language.
Numbers of speakers: up to 2.000
Also known as Saterland Frisian, the language is spoken in the Saterland region. It is the last living dialect of the East Frisian language and very similar to West Frisian, spoken in Friesland and North Frisian, spoken in Germany.
The language is seriously endangered so younger generations decided not to let the extinction of it, therefore, they started learning the language and teaching their children, too.
So, there is hope for the language to stay alive for many decades.
Number of speakers: up to 1.000
The Tsakonian language is spoken in today’s Greece, in the Tsakonian region, of the Peloponnese. This language is the only living descendant of Doric Greek, which is a western branch of Ancient Greek.
Even though it is considered a Greek dialect, linguistically, it is different from modern Greek.
Native speakers are mainly older people. Their children don’t speak the language, so it is estimated that the language will die in less than 100 years.
Number of speakers: up to 20
This is the first Sami language to be written. It is spoken in Sweden and Norway, along the Ume River. Today, unfortunately, it is spoken only by elder people in Sweden.
Its close relative is Pite Sami, which we've already mentioned in the previous lines.
Number of speakers: 70
Wymysorys, also known as Vilamovian, is spoken in Poland, in a town called Wilamowice. It belongs to the Germanic language family, with an influence of Low German, Dutch, Polish, Old English, and Frisian.
The language is seriously endangered especially because most of the speakers are older people.
It is known as the language of the poetry of Florian Biesik in the 19th century.
At the beginning of the 21st century, some efforts were started, such as giving private lessons of the language, to revive it.
Unfortunately, there are many more than 10 languages that are seriously endangered that they will die in the following decades, some of them even years. Here they are:
Champenois is spoken in the Champagne, Reims regions, and Wallonia in Belgium where it is a regionally protected language.
Corfiot Italkian, with less than 10 speakers is pretty much extinct, spoken on Corfu.
Gagauz, with around 100 speakers, this Bulgarian dialect is spoken along the borders to Turkey, Moldova, Russia to Ukraine.
Gardiol is spoken in France, northern Italy, and Calabria in the south of Italy and has only 340 speakers.
Guernésiais and Jèrriais are languages with around 1.300 speakers spoken in two tiny islands Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel.
Livonian, there are no native speakers but it is taught in several universities in Latvia, Estonia, and Finland.
Molise Croatian, also known as Slavomolisano, with around 1.000 Italian Croat speakers, is spoken in Molise and Abruzzo regions in southern Italy.
Mount Ucka, with around 300 speakers, this language is spoken in the city of Trieste after the migration of people from Transylvania.
Töitschu, with around 200 speakers, spoken in Switzerland, Austria, Lichtenstein, and Italy.
Votic, with only 20 speakers, today, is spoken in northwestern Russia to the border with Estonia.
No language deserves to die. They are our treasure and living proof of how languages differ from each other, that is, how similar they are.
They are also an essential part of our cultural awareness and heritage, something that shows the amazing advantage of languages as a communication tool among people all around the world.
So, if you or your friends and family members speak some of the languages that are vulnerable or endangered to die, make sure to give all your efforts to pass the knowledge into other people around you or pass that heritage and legacy to other generations. Besides the social benefits of learning a language, the language will be thankful for that.
If you want to learn a foreign language and to make sure the language has one more speaker, book a 1-on-1 lesson with Justlearn tutors. Who knows, maybe they are speakers of some of the endangered languages as well.
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