internet and languages

Languages and

The Internet



linguist aware of widespread
extinct heritage speak/spoke/spoken
localize estimate endangered
arise arena (2) dominate
trend disappear globalization
evolve major (2) drive/drove/driven (2)
notable medium accelerate
hope effective opportunity
enable minority innovative
proud drop (2) approximately
tedious grueling present (3)
revive motivate willingness
rare preserve indigenous
variety common platform (2)


Seven Thousand Languages

Most people may be are aware of widespread languages such as English, Spanish and Chinese. But linguists estimate that around seven thousand (7,000) are spoken worldwide. Most of these are localized with relatively few speakers.

In the modern era, almost 40% of the 7,000 languages spoken worldwide are endangered, according to the United Nations. More are going extinct every year.

This is nothing new. Since the dawn of humanity, languages have arisen, evolved and gone extinct. This has largely been driven by environmental and generational changes, and cultural and political forces.

Globalization and the Internet

Now the trend is accelerating due to globalization, and in particularly the rise of the internet. In this arena “major” languages, most notably English, dominate the medium.

However this also presents opportunity. There is hope for minority languages, provided that the tech industry invest in supporting them by integrating.

The Irish Language

Noah Higgs of Dublin is proud of the Irish language and feels that more people should be learning it. At its height in the 18th century, there were approximately four million Irish speakers. Today that figure has dropped to 1.2 million.

Unfortunately for Higgs, Irish at his school was taught in a tedious and grueling manner. The lessons were overly formal and disconnected from people’s ordinary, daily conversations.

Worst of all, the learning experiences were not only ineffective, but demotivate the students’ willingness to use the language.


But Higgs never lost hope for the revival of Irish.

He joined educators and activists in redefining how minority languages are taught and preserved online by using modern technology.

Language Learning Platform

To that end, he had begun using italki, a language-learning platform to study other languages, in this case French.
At the time in early 2009, there were five languages on italki: English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Italian, the smallest with estimated 67.9 million speakers worldwide.

But as time went by, more languages were included, including uncommon ones such as Irish. And with a greater variety of choices, more people of all nationalities became interested in learning other languages, including some rare and endangered ones.


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1. Most people can name all the languages spoken in the world. True or false?

2. Is the status of all languages the same? What are happening to languages?

3. More smaller languages are endangered due to US military intervention. Is this right or wrong?

4. Noah Higgs is not interested in learning Irish because he doesn’t care about the language. Is this correct or incorrect?

5. Has the number of Irish speakers increased, decreased or remained the same?

6. Is the internet only causing language extinction?

7. Is there hope that some languages can make a comeback?


A. What is the official or main language of your country? Are there other, minority languages spoken?

B. What is the history of your language? Has the language scene changed over the years, centuries or millennia?

C. Should people only learn and speak the world’s “major” languages, or should smaller languages be preserved?

D. What are the advantages and disadvantages of monolingualism and multilingualism?

E. What might happen in the future?

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