What is an endangered language?

One third of the world’s languages are in danger of disappearing in the next few decades. Speakers of some languages are beginning to use a language other than the one they spoke when they were growing up, causing their mother tongue to die out.

Often education is only available in the more dominant languages of a region. Parents may then begin to use only the more dominant language with their children to help them learn the language of education to succeed in school. When the mother tongue is not used in the home, the transmission of the heritage language from the older generations to the younger one is reduced or stopped. As a consequence, there are fewer speakers who use the language as their first or primary language and eventually the language may no longer be used at all.