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Five Colombian Indigenous Languages ‘Nearly Extinct'

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In a study released February 21, the Ministry of Culture said that five Colombian indigenous languages are “nearly extinct” because each language has less than 60 speakers. The languages include Totoro, with four active and 50 passive speakers; Pisamira, which has about 25 speakers; Carijona, with about 30 speakers; Tonuya, which has three speakers; and Tinigua, with only one speaker.

The study labeled 19 other Colombian languages as being in “serious danger.”

It also said that 34, which is half of the languages spoken in Colombia, are spoken by groups of less than a thousand.

The Ministry of Culture pointed out the importance of language to culture by saying, languages are the “result of a long history, a highly complex cultural creation, a symbolic system of cohesion and collective identity.”

The study was released in conjunction with International Mother Language Day which, according to the website, was created by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 to, as the resolution states “promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”

The Mother Language Day site also touched on the importance of language to culture: “Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.”