Some Languages Are Close to Extinction, Study Says

December 14, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. dialect /ˈdīəˌlekt/ (n.) – a kind of language spoken in a specific area
Example: He quickly learned the dialect in the province despite his short stay.

2. at risk /æt rɪsk/ (idiom) – being in a bad situation or status
Example: Some traditions are at risk of being forgotten because of globalization.

3. rapid /ˈræp ɪd/ (adj.) – happening in a fast and sudden way
Example: Authorities were surprised with the rapid decline in the city’s population.

4. conserve /kənˈsərv/ (v.) – to protect or prevent from being completely gone
Example: Organizations launched programs to conserve vanishing languages.

5. linguistic /lɪŋˈgwɪs tɪk/ (adj.) – relating to language
ExampleLinguistic differences can slow down the communication process.


Read the text below.
Many dialects are at risk of vanishing because of economic and social factors, according to a study.

Lead author Tatsuya Amano of the University of Cambridge believes that the extinction of some languages, particularly in smaller regions, needs attention. Researchers emphasized the importance of preserving cultural diversity through language varieties. The study states that about 25 percent of the languages worldwide are endangered.

The researchers introduced three risk factors for language extinction—the location where the dialect is used, the speaker population size, and the decrease in the speaking population number. The research shows that the rapid growth among developed countries is connected with language declines. 

Amano said that economically successful countries tend to have higher rate of language decline. In North America, the Upper Tanana dialect of Alaska is near to extinction with less than 25 native speakers left. Scandinavia’s Ume Sami and Japan’s Ainu are also threatened with both languages spoken only by about 10 speakers. Other languages at risk include Nepal’s Bahing, Australia’s Rembarunga, and France’s Auvergnat [OH-vur-nawt].

Based on the findings, researchers observed that speakers of the declining language adapt the more dominant language as part of a nation’s development. He mentioned that developed countries with varied languages like the United States and Australia need to have programs aimed at conserving its dialects. The United Nations and the Worldwide Fund for Nature also took note of the issue and will create programs to promote linguistic diversity.

Amano suggested that promoting bilingualism or using two languages in educational institutions will help with the preservation.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Why do you think preserving endangered languages is important?
·         What do you recommend to help save dialects close to extinction?

Discussion B

·         Do you think English is the most dominant language? Why or why not?
·         Is learning the English language necessary to be successful? Why do you say so? 

December 14, 2014