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2019: UN International Year of Indigenous Languages

Attempting to draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages, the UN has proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Indigenous woman wearing traditional clothing.

Inuits speak indigenous languages.

Eskimo–Aleut languages are just one of the many indigenous language families around the world.


Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 December 2016, the year 2019 was proclaimed as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Around 7000 Languages

Ethnologue states that a little over 7000 languages are spoken in the world today. Around a third of these are endangered, with less than 1000 remaining speakers. More than half of the world's population speak only 23 languages.

One Disappears Every Two Weeks

According to UNESCO, approximately 600 languages have disappeared in the last century, and they continue to disappear at a rate of one language every two weeks. Up to 90 percent of the world’s languages are likely to disappear before the end of this century if current trends are allowed to continue.

Urgency Needed

The aim is to “draw attention to the critical loss of indigenous languages and the urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages and to take further urgent steps at the national and international levels.”

In the same document, the UN expresses “deep concern about the vast number of endangered languages, in particular, indigenous languages, and stressing that, despite the continuing efforts, there is an urgent need to preserve, promote and revitalize endangered languages.”

In the resolution, the UN stresses the need to strengthen the commitment of the UN's Member States to mainstream the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples into development policies and programmes at the national, regional and international levels.

Topics: UN Year


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