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What Language has the Fewest Speakers?
Home Reference & Education Language
By: Charlene Lacandazo Email Article
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It is true that languages are all unique, and thus interesting to learn. Learning a foreign language takes time and passion. Thus, sometimes it can be annoying to some, while it be enjoyable to others.

There are an estimated 6,912 living and spoken languages in the world, and interestingly, there are languages that are spoken by a very small numbers of people. One of the most spoken languages in the world is Mandarin Chinese that has an estimated 845 million native speakers, followed by the Spanish or Castilian language that has over 300 million native speakers. On the other hand, there are still several endangered languages in the world that need to be saved and preserved.

But, what are the factors that need to be considered before calling a language endangered anyway? And, why is it important to save an endangered language?

For judging if a language is endangered, the number of speakers is less important than their age distribution. There are several indigenous languages in the world that were reported with as many as two million speakers alive, but there is no significant transmission of these languages to the young.

So, what is the most endangered and less spoken language in the world?

Indonesian indigenous languages are very much in the line of being endangered with having small numbers of speakers and a lack of transmission to the younger generation. Similarly, the Hawaiian language had only about 1,000 speakers, but due to the alarming negative impact of this to the cultural identity of the Hawaiian people, the government itself has now included Hawaiian as a part of their school curriculum; thus, it has to be believed that the number of speakers of the Hawaiian language is being stabilized nowadays.

In addition, according to a survey conducted by experts few years ago, Swahili is one of the most endangered languages despite having eight hundred thousand speakers; however, due to the growing population of countries that speak Swahili, the language status was being recovered.

Swahili or Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by various ethnic groups. Interestingly, today, there are only 5 million native speakers of the Swahili language; it is still used as a lingua franca in much of East Africa.

Swahili is still considered as one of the endangered languages; experts believe that there is a slow transmission of this language, due to the significant migration of native speakers to other countries and some of these native speakers being very aged or already dead.

Saving endangered languages is essential in preserving the cultural heritage of every people. Although it is not that easy, the effect or impact of preserving endangered languages is huge. Thus, it should be noted that both society and authorities are responsible for saving and keeping endangered languages as a treasure of their ancestors.

Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta Translation, a global provider of language services including German legal translations and Italian technical translations.

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