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Language preservation is an effort to rescue the increasing number of languages that are declining in use around the world. In addition, some aspects of language preservation might focus on preemptive action to counter the effects of the global spread of English in business, the media and education. It is widely acknowledged that with the loss of a language, vital parts of the culture’s heritage and knowledge are also lost. An emphasis on retaining cultural diversity through the retention of mother tongues is at the core of the language preservation movement. Many strategies are in place that attempt to reverse the rapid loss of languages around the globe.
Numerous languages are declining for a variety of reasons, with experts worried that half of the languages existing today may be gone by the end of the century. The movement of people to new regions is frequently accompanied by the eventual loss of their mother tongue. Sometimes languages are lost as certain social classes strive to learn the language of the more prosperous classes, abandoning their mother language. English is the primary language of the business world, and an economic advantage is seen in learning this language. It is the most frequently used second language around the world.
As the number of speakers of a language declines, a language may become endangered. If children are not learning and using the language, it eventually dies as the elders die. Hundreds of languages around the globe are fluently spoken only by the elders of a culture. Language preservation enthusiasts encourage schools to teach in the students’ native language. This helps ensure the language and cultural heritage pass from generation to generation.
Native language preservation attempts to save indigenous languages from extinction by a variety of methods. Audio and visual recordings of a language are used by former speakers of all ages to relearn the language. Teaching the language to the next generation at a young age also helps keep it alive. Using the language during meetings, for street signs, and in books encourages its widespread use. Many indigenous people were forced to abandon their native tongue during childhood, and these methods attempt to reverse the decline.
In an effort to slow the adulteration and decline of a language, some preservationists are mandating policies to counter the effects of the spread of English. The loss of a language is an important issue in areas of the world where few people speak the language as well as in countries with large numbers of speakers. French language preservation advocates have succeeded in passing laws aimed at preserving the language in France. Efforts to safeguard the unique forms of French in the Americas are also underway in parts of Canada and Louisiana.
Modern technology plays a dual role in language preservation, both helping with preservation and hastening the decline of the number of languages in use. With the increased globalization of various forms of the media, English and other western European languages dominate. Well over half of Internet content available worldwide is in English. At the same time, technology is being used to preserve languages. Everything from books to podcasts are used to record, share and archive endangered languages.