How would you feel if the language you are used to speaking goes on extinction or is rendered an extremely lower level of significance? Of course, you are thinking that ‘oh! But I would always speak my home language no matter what. Such thought may not hold for a long time since the world now turns to accept things on concepts of unanimous acceptance or approval.
Language is a crucial element to human civilisation because of its usage that is indispensable in all aspects of life. Given that, even the earliest stage of human evolution which comprised of homo-habilis, homo-erectus and others had to create quite forcefully various mediums of communication out of which many language sources had evolved including; tool making source, ‘pooh-pooh’ theory, bow-wow theory, social interactionism and many others.
Though there been very substantial rebuttals against these sources. However, this article is not geared towards explaining the sources or making any critical arguments against those sources but, to emphasize the track records on language extinction and the way other languages influence the extinction of the others. But, to start with, it might do us some good to know how individuals can learn languages faster and perhaps have numerous languages at a figure tip.
I stand to be very positive that if parents or prospective fathers and mothers had known about The Critical Period in language acquisition, they would have done quite much in their capacity to help their children acquire as many languages as they would want, in this world that has become much influenced by business minds and language acquisition levels that would help secure preferred jobs in the near future. It should be noticed that this article is not geared towards devaluing any language at all, whether the language is ranked amongst the world’s most common languages or not.
The critical period in language acquisition, better still, The Critical period Hypothesis (CPH) states that ‘The first few years of life constitute the time during which language develops readily and after which (sometimes between 5 years and puberty) language acquisition is much more difficult and ultimately less successful. (Critical period- Wikipedia). Simply put, when one grows beyond the period between 5 years and puberty, it becomes a daunting task for them to acquire any new language. The insight here is that for one’s ward to acquire many languages, the child must be exposed to those languages between 5 years and puberty stage.
More often than not, children who live in compound homes with inhabitants of varied languages turn to speak many of those languages as a result.
In as much as there many languages spoken in the world, many also are on the verge of extincting. The total number of languages in the world is not known because it varies over time as a result of extinction. Many languages are on the verge of extincting because either their native speakers are dying out or they are shifting to speaking other languages. Moreover, a dead or extinct language still may be studied through writing or audios though they may ultimately have less native or fluent speakers.
According to some statistics, consensus shows that there are between 6,000 and 7,000 languages currently spoken, out of which between 50% and 90% would have gone extinct by the year 2100, though some stats predict 2050. Furthermore, there is a list of the 20 most common languages in the world, in which each of these languages holds more than 50 million speakers and all makes a 50% of the world’s population, whereas most of the other languages are spoken by extremely fewer than 10,000 people. Therefore clearly, the ultimately larger percentage of the world’s population speaks a very small percentage of the world’s many languages. And that causes the extinction of others.
The very first cause of extinction, quite unimaginably is school. School has been one of the major catalyst for language extinction in spite of its numerous advantages. Very often than not, schools have created the environment for studying only the major languages in the world. As a result, learners begin to render other languages insignificant. In most cases, schools draw policies that deem students punishable when they speak other native languages. Especially in Africa, many schools stressed that students speak only English in school. Therefore there is little or no room for other languages deemed minor to evolve by time and as a result speakers turn to lose interest.
Moreover, Urbanisation is one factor. Urbanization has caused people to move from villages too much more developed cities. In such a situation where a city comprises inhabitants with diverse cultural and language backgrounds, a common language is mostly preferred. By choosing a common language which usually would be among the 20 most common languages in the world, including; Chinese, French, English, German, Russian, Arabic Spanish, and others, and spoken by a larger portion of the world’s population, there would be a gradual decrease in proficiency or fluency in speaking other native languages, hence causing a gradual extinction.
Even if the people in the urban areas are able to continue speaking their respective native languages, they would not speak without lacing it with one of the 20 most common languages since they may be losing some native vocabularies in order to express themselves. Another cause is Migration for the purpose of Education. Factually, many of the countries from which the world’s most common languages are drawn, have set boundaries that require prospective migrants on basis of furthering their education to be able to speak to a certain level, their respective languages before applying to or gaining admission into their various institutions.
Since most of these countries are very developed and are regarded as dream countries and places for lucrative job opportunities, there is traffic in terms of people doing everything possible to move into those countries and as a result vast number of new language acquisition of the common languages are seen year after year. For instance, a current survey by Germany’s Federal Office, the Goethe Institut, Deutsche Welle, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Central Agency of Schools Abroad (ZFA) published in June 2020 that the number of schools with German lessons have risen from 95,000 in 2015 to about 106,000 in 2020.
However, the figures do not include those learning the language on their own. The number is steadily increasing in spite of the numerous complaints about its difficult grammar and tongue-twisting sounds. Meanwhile, German is just the world’s fourth most popular language. German is not the only language growing at a faster pace, French, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and many other popular ones are increasingly holding a vast number of learners across the globe. Mainly, these languages have become much more popular and highly in demand because of economic factors and international organizations. Some businesses and international organizations demand a set of the most common language acquisitions in the world before accepting people to work for them.
All these put pressure on other native languages as they are not given much regard to enhancing their prevalence.
For languages to remain prevented from extinction, there would have to be a revision of policies regarding languages in various institutions as well as stressing that all languages be treated with equal regard in order to make room for other languages to stand out and be explored. There should quite the stress on the importance of varieties regarding languages in the world. Individual language learners must be made to understand that they can learn as many other languages they want but need to keep up with their native ones.
More importantly, if they’re strictly are rules from the developed countries demanding a certain level of language acquisition of their respective languages, it would be to the world’s advantage for other countries to apply those rules to their languages in order to maintain balance and equity amongst all languages.
Article by: Collins S.K Tordzro.