Lost in translation: saving Europe's endangered languages 


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Mind your language - experts call for the preservation of Europe's linguistic diversity © BELGA_Berliner Verlag_S.Steinach  

Dozens of languages in Europe are not much lost for words as short of speakers with some 120 believed to be dying out. The EP's culture committee discussed the problem with experts on 20 March. However, MEP François Alfonsi believes the final word on these languages has yet to be said. The French member of the Green group is drafting a report on what can be done to support them. Is there still time to save languages such as Lombard, Polesian and Saterlandic?

Mr Alfonsi wants Parliament to play a key role in protecting and promoting endangered languages. "Linguistic diversity is the soul of the European construction," he explained. "There are hundreds of languages in the European Union and each is a part of the European identity."

His report will include examples of best practice such as in Finland, where there are seven endangered languages. Mr Alfonsi believes that communities that want to implement best practices should be supported. "Without concrete support at European, national and local level, we will see a further decline in linguistic diversity over the next decades," he said. "This will leave all of us culturally, socially and economically impoverished."

His concerns were echoed by Dr Christopher Moseley, an UNESCO expert on languages. He told the culture committee on 20 March that a language becomes endangered when children no longer learn it and its speakers stop using it. Worldwide one language dies every few weeks.