It is estimated that, if nothing is done, half of 6000 plus languages spoken today will disappear by the end of this century. With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only a cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.
However, this process is neither inevitable nor irreversible: well-planned and implemented language policies can bolster the ongoing efforts of speaker communities to maintain or revitalize their mother tongues and pass them on to younger generations.The aim of UNESCO’s Endangered Languages Programme is to support communities, experts and governments by producing, coordinating and disseminating :
- tools for monitoring, advocacy, and assessment of status and trends in linguistic diversity,
- services such as policy advice, technical expertise and training, good practices and a platform for exchange and transfer of skills.
UNESCO's flagship activity in safeguarding endangered languages is the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.