We are now well into 2019 which is, officially, the year of Indigenous Languages. Every year, February 21st marks International Mother Languages Day. So it’s timely to discuss the value of language preservation, bilingualism, multilingualism and te reo Māori.
There is no question that a connection to and understanding of your own history and heritage, particularly (but by no means exclusively) for marginalised communities, is fundamental to wellbeing. The argument that the extinction of language is inevitable and that preservation is a waste of time and resource completely disregards the reasons for the loss of language in the first place. Can the language extinction as a result of colonisation and marginalisation be justified?
According to UNESCO, every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.
There are some 6.000-7.000 languages in the world today. About 97% of the world’s population speaks only 4 % of these languages, while only 3 % of the world speak 96% of all remaining languages. A great majority of those languages, spoken mainly by indigenous peoples, will continue to disappear at an alarming rate. Without appropriate measure to address this issue, the further loss of languages and their associated history, traditions and memory would considerably reduce the rich tapestry of linguistic diversity worldwide.
Not only is it important to acknowledge the implications of language extinction, it’s worth noting the benefits of learning multiple languages. Lateral thinking and increased empathy are associated with multilingualism, as well as the obvious benefit of increased communication opportunities.
On that note, if you haven't had the opportunity to a-a-akona te reo, here are some free courses: