UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger

The following information from the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage website is relevant for most of the Chadic languages we are dealing with:

Half of the 6,700 languages spoken today are in danger of disappearing before the century ends, a process that can be slowed only if urgent action is taken by governments and speaker communities.

The UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, freely available, aims to provide speaker communities, policy-makers and the general public with state-of-the-art knowledge, continually updated by a growing network of experts and community members.

The online edition of the Atlas includes all of the information in the print edition (soon to be released) and much more.

More information in English, French and Spanish can be found here:


International Year of Languages

Most of you probably know that the UN have declared 2008 the “International Year of Languages”. In a message by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, we can read the following:

The Organization is fully aware of the crucial importance of languages when seen against the many challenges that humanity will have to face over the next few decades. Languages are indeed essential to the identity of groups and individuals and to their peaceful coexistence. They constitute a strategic factor of progress towards sustainable development and a harmonious relationship between the global and the local context. (…)

However, within the space of a few generations, more than 50% of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world may disappear. Less than a quarter of those languages are currently used in schools and in cyberspace, and most are used only sporadically. Thousands of languages — though mastered by those populations for whom it is the daily means of expression — are absent from education systems, the media, publishing and the public domain in general. (…)

UNESCO therefore invites governments, United Nations organizations, civil society organizations, educational institutions, professional associations and all other stakeholders to increase their own activities to foster respect for, and the promotion and protection of all languages, particularly endangered languages, in all individual and collective contexts. (…) Our common goal is to ensure that the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism in educational, administrative and legal systems, cultural expressions and the media, cyberspace and trade, is recognized at the national, regional and international levels.

This message by the Director-General of UNESCO is also available in other languages, including:

You can learn more about the “International Year of Languages” on the internet portal of UNESCO and on the Eurolang website.

My question to all you Chadicists: What is our role in the preservation of linguistic diversity? What can we do to protect endangered languages — which includes most of the Chadic languages? Is teaching and research enough? What else should we do? Are you planning any activities connected to the “International Year of Languages” ?

You can use the comment function to share any ideas you have on this topic.

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