Context

Across the globe, linguistic diversity is shrinking as fast as biodiversity, to the detriment of our environment, traditional knowledge, and human cultural health and wealth. Linguists estimate that there are still 5,000-6,000 languages being spoken in the world today. By 2050, about half of these will have become extinct. By 2100, as many as 90% will be gone. Out of some 300 languages spoken in North America at the time of European contact, about half remain today. Of these, most are only spoken by elderly adults and only 34 are spoken by children. In Canada, of the 53 Indigenous languages still spoken today, only 3 (Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut) are predicted to survive this century. Most are classified as “obsolete” on the basis of having few speakers relative to their associated ethnic population; of fluency stopping at a certain age and most speakers being bilingual in a majority language such as English or French; of not being taught to children; and of not adapting to new situations. The rapid decline of languages as projected over the next century is catastrophic and forms the context behind initiatives like CILLDI.