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"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men."

Col 3:23

How many North American native languages are endangered?

According to a recent survey, out of hundreds of languages that were once spoken in North America, only 194 remain. Of these, 33 are spoken by both adults and children; another 34 are spoken by adults, but by few children; 73 are spoken almost entirely by adults over 50; 49 are spoken only by a few people, mostly over 70; and 5 may have already become extinct.

The languages that are not being transmitted to children, or that are being learned by few children, are endangered and likely to become extinct. In fact, only the 33 languages in the first group seem 'safe.' But most of these are threatened as well because their speakers live near other communities where the children speak English.

And all native North American groups are under pressure to give up their native languages and use English instead. The younger generation feels the pressure especially strongly; television and movies often send a message that discourages the maintenance of community values, inviting young viewers to join a more glamorous and more commercialized world that has no apparent connection to their native community and its elders and traditions.

Nonetheless, although a great deal of linguistic heritage is clearly in danger, the fact that so many Native American languages have survived into the 21st century is evidence of the strength of these communities and of the fundamental value of language to human beings.

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