When Ouma Aenki Kassie an elderly woman passed away in Upington, South Africa, it was also noted that a very rare language was on the brink of extinction. Kassie was one of the last living people who spoke the Nuu language, which the UNESCO lists as being a critically endangered language. Currently, there are perhaps only seven known speakers of the Nuu language in the whole world.
And this is a growing problem, scientists and researchers believed that as many as half of the world’s 7,000 languages will be extinct by the end of the century. It is believed that every 14 days one language dies out completely. Much like endangered species or animals, when the UNESCO marks down an endangered language it means that is on the brink of extinction.
Following the criteria they use for spotting an endangered language, it is defined by parents no longer teaching it to their children because there is no need to use it in everyday life – in fact, it has stopped seeing use in everyday life. And when a language is marked down as extinct this means there are only a few elderly native speakers left.
Language professors and linguistic specialists feel it is an immense loss every time a language is wiped out. This is because a language is a true definition of a culture or a society, and once it is gone, then there is no going back. Language holds a whole world of knowledge, which means when a language dies out we truly do lose a connection to the land.
Think of all the generation of songs, stories, words, and expressions that are suddenly lost. Many researchers like to describe language as a unique way of talking to and about the world. English, Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic have hundreds of millions of speakers, but some languages do only have a small handful left.
Countries with the greatest linguistic diversity, such as having many regional languages, are usually the ones that face the most endangered languages. This is because communities are increasingly switching to languages that improve their economic future or have more political power.