We are on the brink of losing Indigenous languages in Australia—could schools save them?

Of the world’s 7,000 languages, it is estimated 50% to 90% will no longer be spoken in the next 50 to 100 years. The majority under threat are languages spoken by Indigenous peoples around the world: one is lost every two weeks.

One of the world’s fastest rates of language loss is in Australia. Indigenous languages in Australia comprise only 2% of languages spoken in the world, but represent 9% of the world’s critically endangered languages.

More than 250 Indigenous languages and over 750 dialects were originally spoken. However, as some experts estimate, only 40 languages are still spoken, with just 12 being learned by children.

First Nations educator Jacquie Hunter, who contributed to this article, has worked at One Arm Point Remote Community School in Ardiyooloon in Australia’s northwest for 17 years. She told us “kids know words, but not sentences” of their Bardi language. She estimates within the next few years, “we won’t have any more fluent speakers around to teach us those full sentences in our language”.

This is a pattern repeated in Indigenous communities nationwide.

Linguists have long recognised this urgency and policy-makers have recently begun to take action. Most notably, this year marks the start of the United Nations’ International Decade of Indigenous Languages (following on from 2019’s International Year of Indigenous Languages).

It aims to draw global attention to the critical endangerment of indigenous languages, and engage stakeholders and resources for their preservation, revitalisation, and promotion.

Read more: Phys.org

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