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Language Loss: Native American Languages Essay

2516 words - 10 pages

If one walks through one of the large cities’ streets in our country. They will hear and experience a variety of languages. Our history and tradition of being a land of immigrants is reflected in the languages we speak. This means that the USA is home to a vast number of languages, one would be hard pressed to find a language that is not spoken in the U.S. The official list as the number of languages spoken in the United States go as high as 322. The most spoken and prominent languages in the country being English, Spanish, and French. English has the highest number of speakers with 215 million. Spanish is the second most spoken language with 28 million speaker. The French language is the third most spoken language with a million and a half speakers in the U.S (Many Languages).
If one goes through the list of languages that are spoken in the U.S. They would recognize familiar languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, or Greek. Each of these languages have their own large number of speakers. But if one is continuing through the list they would begin to see less familiar languages each with dwindling number of speakers. The numbers for these languages dwindle from the millions to the hundred thousands, continuing to the tens of thousands, to the hundreds and even down to the tens (Many Languages).
Among this long list of languages there is a group of Native American languages. These are the languages that are spoken by the Native American population. The most prominent Native American language being the Navajo language with 178 thousand speakers. The number of speakers continually decrease until we reach the bottom of the list. At the bottom of the list is the Kalispel language with a mere four speakers. This is a tremendous gap of speakers when comparing these two languages. Sadly, with such a few number of speakers it is unlikely that Kalispel language will ever be spoken again (Many Languages). But the case of the Kalispel language is not even the most extreme example.
The Native American people, which lived in what it is now the state of Oregon, spoke the language of Siletz Dee-ni. While the language once thrived in that part of the country, now there may be only one fluent speaker. A man by the name of Alfred Lane could be the last remaining speaker of Siletz Dee-ni (Moskowitz). This is the most extreme case of an endangered language with the life of the language hinging on the life of its last speaker.
In this way, the Native American languages can be compared to an endangered species. As with endangered species unless something is done, the species in question is unlikely to remain on the planet. These endangered languages are the same way, with such a few number of speakers unless something is done, the language will disappear from the earth. This is a situation that Native Americans face today.
In all cases, language is a part of their culture, something that binds the speakers of that language together. Speaking the same language identifies...

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