Languages are vital for communities and people around the world . They have implications for cultural identity, communication, social integration, development, education and access to information. The history of people, cultural heritage and traditions are transmitted in an intergenerational way through languages.
There are around 7000 languages spoken worldwide, many of which are indigenous . This rich linguistic diversity contributes to the preservation of cultural identity and indigenous knowledge. But despite their importance and value, nearly 2,700 of the indigenous languages are at risk of disappearing, according to United Nations officials.
To raise awareness on this issue, the United Nations declared 2019 the year of indigenous languages and asked the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) to be the leading organization.
UNESCO worked with governments, indigenous peoples organizations, researchers and other stakeholders to develop an action plan to promote and protect indigenous languages and improve the lives of those who speak them.
In this action plan we can read that:
The loss of an indigenous language can (…) mean the loss of vital knowledge that could be exploited for human improvement and sustainable development. As a result, the disappearance of a language implies a huge negative impact on the indigenous culture concerned, as well as on global cultural diversity.
Thematic areas in the action plan
The initiative will take the form of an annual series of activities grouped around three key terms: support, access and promotion of indigenous languages .
- Support for the revitalization and maintenance of indigenous languages , using, where appropriate, linguistic and communication technologies, in order to improve the daily use of indigenous languages ;
- Access to education, information and knowledge in and on indigenous languages for indigenous children, young people and adults;
- Promotion of the areas and values of knowledge of indigenous peoples and cultures, application of relevant methods of communication and information, as well as of cultural practices (e.g. sports and traditional games) that can provide empowerment to speakers of the indigenous language.
Member States, indigenous peoples, civil society, public institutions and the private sector are expected to make a concrete commitment to support and promote indigenous languages . This includes offering financial support. The overall impact should include:
- Global attention and respect for linguistic diversity and indigenous languages;
- Responsibility of indigenous peoples and tribes to ensure better transmission of indigenous languages to future generations ;
- Adoption of policy frameworks, legislation and other benchmarks that reduce disparities and lessen discrimination against speakers of indigenous languages;
providing adequate tools, such as traditional sports, games and other initiatives that help in the transmission of indigenous languages.
From organizations to individuals, everyone is invited to participate in the success of IYIL 2019. Throughout the year, different stakeholders take actions and participate in events to promote and protect the right of indigenous peoples to preserve and develop their languages .
You can register by filling out a form. Once confirmed, you can take actions such as: developing a project; create a community; suggest tools and solutions; establish partnerships; perform webinars; offer training; or provide financial support.