Did you know that there are over 7,000 languages and that half of them will be extinct by the turn of the century?

The number of endangered languages, like the total number of languages, is constantly changing.

When can we say that a language is on the verge of extinction? It occurs when its users begin to teach and speak another dominant language to their children, relegating and ostracizing it.

Because of the nature of endangered languages, there are often few speakers left, and information about them can be difficult to come by. It is even possible that the last known speaker of a language dies without leaving public records, forever condemning a language considered a minority due to its small number of speakers.

More than a dozen languages are spoken by only a few people. As a result, thousands of them are in danger, with over 500 in critical condition. As previously stated, the latter are only spoken by older people and are no longer passed down to younger generations.

Today, I’ll show you the current languages of the world that are in danger of extinction, and for which, unfortunately, we risk losing not only a language, but also everything related to its cultural wealth, knowledge, unique identity, and ideas… so keep in mind that, while it’s great that all citizens of the world can understand each other.

Linguistic diversity is dwindling, and unless a concerted effort is made to protect and pass on these languages to future generations, they will perish. The extinction of a language represents a massive loss of scientific and cultural knowledge. Something that affects us all in the same way. As a result, they are just as important as The Endangered Languages Project, a collaborative initiative aimed at facilitating the documentation and revitalization of at-risk languages around the world.

The Endangered Languages Project

This initiative began in June 2012, and its website is constantly updated. The languages included, as well as the information displayed about them, are provided by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat), which strives to have the most up-to-date and accurate data on our planet’s endangered languages. There are now over 7,000 information sources about endangered languages, including presentations, academic publications, and research.

How many languages are on the verge of extinction?

More than 3,000 languages are endangered, and 500 are critically endangered, out of the 7,139 languages currently spoken (data from Ethnologue 2021). Institutional languages, on the other hand, are less likely to be endangered because they have been adopted by governments, schools, the media, and other organizations, and many of them are used as second languages. According to the UN, learning languages can help promote peace.

  • Resígaro

This Amazonian language is threatened with extinction. She was born in Peru and had only one surviving speaker, Rosa Andrade Ocagane, who died in 2016 at the age of 67. One of the most endangered languages is Resgaro, which is spoken by the last woman in the Peruvian Amazon. It was always a very limited language.

  • Puelche

The puelche, also known as gününa kna, is an extinct language. It was spoken by the Gününa-kna, a nomadic people from present-day Argentina’s Patagonia and southern Chile’s mountain valleys. It is intriguing because it is unrelated to other languages, making a simple reconstruction from knowledge of other languages impossible. It’s already a defunct language. The majority of people in this region are fluent in Spanish.

  • Minderico

Minde, Portugal’s textile producers and merchants speak this Portuguese Romance language. It is in grave danger of extinction because there are only about 150 native speakers worldwide, with only 23 speaking fluently. There are approximately 1,000 passive speakers or semi-speakers.

  • Chinuk

Chinook, also known as chinuk slang, has fewer than 600 native speakers. In the Pacific Northwest, it is a pidgin language. Its application ranges from Alaska to northern California. Because this simplified language is especially useful for trade, travelers and traders in the region, both English-speaking and indigenous, spoke Chinook extensively. They used it to trade goods, services, and ideas. It was a business language used in industries such as fishing, logging, and livestock. The language was declared extinct until it was resurrected in the 2000s, but it is now critically endangered once more.

  • Ngan’gikurunggurr

Ngan’gikurunggurr is an indigenous Australian language that is facing extinction. Only 200 speakers have been discovered by researchers. However, according to the 2016 official census, there are only 26 native speakers left. Spoken in the Daly River region of Australia’s Northern Territory.

  • Kawésqar

The Kawésqar or Alacalufes, an indigenous people of southern Chile, speak this language. It is a language on the verge of extinction, with only 7 native speakers worldwide. Because there are so few remaining speakers, they tend to speak Spanish because it is much easier to communicate with tourists; the language has been described as “almost extinct.” There are over 200 descendants of Kawésqar who speak Spanish as their first language.

  • Tariana

This language is spoken by approximately 90 native speakers along the Vaupés River in Amazonas, Brazil. Although Brazil has 217 indigenous languages, only about 40,000 people speak some of them. Despite the fact that approximately 1,600 people identify as Tarians, only about 100 speak the language. Many have switched to the Tucano language, which is more widely spoken in the area.

  • Chamicuro

The Chamicuro language, a Peruvian language of an ethnic group that lives on the banks of the Huallaga River in the district of Lagunas, is also on the list of endangered languages. There are only 8 native speakers, according to the data. It is most likely too late to save this language.

  • Tanema

It is the language of the island of Vanikoro, which is located in the Solomon Islands’ easternmost province. The majority of the people who used to speak the language changed their names to Pijjn or Teanu. These are the “more popular” languages. It is currently on the verge of extinction due to the fact that there are only four native speakers worldwide, possibly fewer.




Gerardo Franco is a science communicator, with studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Gerardo Franco

Gerardo Franco

Gerardo Franco is a science communicator, with studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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