2,895 languages are endangered today. Still, many endangered cross-border languages manage to thrive, promoting peace. Image: Unsplash/Andrew Stutesman
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- Most of the world speaks one of 20 languages.
- Two-fifths of the world’s languages are poised to die out.
- The UN says learning languages could help promote peace.
Of the more than 7,000 different languages in use around the world today, 41% are endangered. Some languages still thrive, however, when given the right conditions.
Endangered languages are those that are’t being taught or used by children in a community, according to Ethnologue, a research center for language intelligence that produces a regular index of the most and least spoken languages.
Indigenous languages, spoken by the fewest people, are often among the most endangered. Some might have just 1,000 speakers.
Still, along borders, some endangered languages find ways to thrive, according to UNESCO. Some of these languages include Kiswahili across sub-Saharan Africa and Quechua in South America.
People in cross-border communities continue to use their languages daily through trade and communication. As a result, says UNESCO, regional traditions often remain intact, and local bonds can remain strong, promoting empathy and understanding.
Multi-lingual mother tongue-based education can foster further understanding. Currently, according to the UNESCO data, 40% of the world’s population cannot access education in a language they understand.
Progress in that area is being made. According to UNESCO, there’s a growing recognition of the importance of mother tongue-based multilingual education, especially in early schooling.
UNESCO says efforts in multi-lingual education can preserve indigenous heritage as well as "promote peaceful dialogue.”
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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