Response to “World’s Languages Dying Off Rapidly”
In the article, “World’s Languages Dying off Rapidly,” John Noble Wilford states that a significant number of languages around the world are in danger of being extinct and this is manifesting in a rapid rate. Wilford claims that “endangered languages vanish in an instant, at the death of the sole surviving speaker” (n.p.). Also, he claims that in a bilingual culture, native languages can be easily overpowered by a dominant language such as English when used regularly by the society. Based on the article, I think that indigenous languages should be properly documented in order for future generation to appreciate the culture and tradition of a particular group.
Across the globe, there are many languages that are quickly dissipating and Wilford suggests that this was caused by the neglect of native speakers to pass down their oral tradition to the younger generation. Furthermore, most of the aboriginal people were not able to generate any tangible materials that could have recorded the history and culture of their tribe or group. Because of this, the scientific community experienced a great challenge in the “documentation, revitalization and maintenance of the languages” that are in the brink of disappearance (n.p). Though Wilford did not pointed directly that the native speakers have in a way contributed to the problem of preserving their own language, I think that they play a major role in endangering their own oral tradition. The initiative to preserve one’s culture should start from within the group. External actors such as anthropologists and linguists can only do so much for cultural conservation given that they have enough data to understand a foreign culture. In order to reduce the number of language deaths, both the natives and outsiders should work together to successfully pass on a distinctive oral tradition from one generation to another.
On the other hand, Wilford also suggests that the presence of a bilingual culture have negatively affected the growth of indigenous languages. In response to this statement, I think that in the age of globalization, it is very much necessary to speak the language that everyone can understand in order to thrive in your chosen field. But success that can be achieved by embracing the dominant language comes with a price. It can dramatically affect the growth of a culture. Since this is the case, people particularly those with indigenous ancestry have a dilemma of whether saving their old tradition or going with the flow to be able to prosper in the modern world.
Wilford also mentioned that “that speakers and writers of the 83 languages with ‘global’ influence now account for 80 percent of the world population” (n.p.). This means that out of the thousands of languages formed in history of man, only a small percentage is acknowledged and used by the public. In my community, there is a diverse group of people. There are Arabic, Latinos, Asians and Americans. Even though we have different cultural backgrounds, almost everyone in the community speaks English rather than their native tongues because that is the language that is spoken and comprehended by the majority. If we try to profess the individuality of our cultures, we would not be able to communicate which can lead to further problems. So there should be a balance between our native and dominant languages to prevent loss and conflict in a bilingual society.
In line with this, a conscious effort from everyone should be developed to ensure that the remaining indigenous languages to be preserved and studied so that a group’s culture and tradition can live on forever. More so, all of us should have a deeper appreciation for our respective cultures whether we have indigenous roots or not in order to fully understand our own personal identity.
Wilford, J.N. (2007). World’s Languages Dying Off Rapidly. The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/world/18cnd-language.html?ex=1347768000&en=faaeb910e26d6ba8&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss