Help for Minority Languages
Have you ever asked yourself how many languages there are around the world? ItÕs amazing, they estimate that there are about 6.800 languages, and each one has got its own culture. But, for a tongue itÕs essential to have more than 100.000 native speakers, and thatÕs a bit complicated, as there are just 600 languages out of 6.800 which reach those numbers.
A large amount of languages are in danger of disappearing, studies say that by the end of this century, between 50% and 90% of the languages will be extinct, and thatÕs a serious problem we will have to deal with, because we will also lose our cultures, and habits.
The main reasons for these losses are the wars, the natural disasters, and the main languages which are spreading everywhere at a very high speed, for instance, Russian, and Chinese.
There are lots of tongues that are unknown to us, such as, the Udihe, the Arikapu and the Eyak, because they have very few speakers. These are in extreme circumstances; the Udihe has no more than 100 speakers, and not to mention the Arikapu, that only has a dozen. There are thousands of languages in the same situation, and these are called minority languages. Not all of them are in such a terrible condition, but, they need a lot of help to survive. ThatÕs the case of the Basque.
Basque has 850.000 speakers, and although it is considered a minority language, its situation is quite good compared to others. It’s the only indo European language in the Iberian Peninsula, and it has to fight with the rest of the tongues from there, in order not to become extinct. Besides, itÕs surrounded by strong languages, such as French and Spanish, and as people think that they are more important, they donÕt communicate in Basque. Nowadays, the number of speakers has increased, and thatÕs because a lot of people and associations have worked for it.
The last studies have shown that 60% of the population of the Basque Country understands and speaks Basque. ThatÕs good news, but, this is quite worrying; 459.000 people understand –Basque perfectly, but, then, they donÕt use it. ThatÕs alarming, since the most important part of a language is speech. If a language is not spoken, itÕs going to disappear immediately. Because of that, we encourage people to practise it by organising some events.
The most popular is a marathon called korrika that means run in Basque. It started in 1980 and still keeps on. We celebrate it every two years, and it goes through all the towns in the Basque Country for nine days. This marathon is particular, because since it starts until it finishes, it doesnÕt stop, even at night. A lot of people take part in it; itÕs a good way to help this language, but if you prefer, you can also give financial help by buying some kilometres of it, and then you have the choice to run at the beginning of the marathon, carrying the baton. It`s an exciting event, while you are running you are singing and listening to Basque songs, the atmosphere is very friendly and itÕs incredible how many people run. It’s very rewarding and satisfactory, because, we do it for ourselves; we do it to save our culture and language. I took part this year, I had fun, I helped my language, and now I’m looking forward to the next korrika.
By Nekane Azpiazu (14)
Student at Colegio Jesuitas San Sebastian
San Sebastian – Pais Vasco
ItÕs really good to find people as young as Alejandra interested in her own culture and worried about itÕs preservation. I hope this article helps other students take an interest in events such as the korrika and decide to take steps towards the preservation of their culture.
Keith Appleby (Chief Editor)
The Canary Express